Experiential marketing can appear in all different shapes and sizes. From big-budget, star-studded events to new, in-aisle, interactive tech enhancements to commercial campaigns that break down the fourth wall between the screen and the social-sharing customer to billboards that pack a larger-than-life surprise, marketing with an experiential element can appear and succeed anywhere—as long as the right kind of imagination goes into it.
So what highly imaginative concepts have been wowing both customers and the industry lately? Let’s take a look at three big experiential advertising-award-winners from recent years and go deep into the creative thought process behind them. Understanding the ins and outs of what these campaigns have managed to achieve and how they did it can be a hugely helpful step in boosting your own brainstorming and could plant the seed of your own award-winning experiential campaign.
Campaign: Old Spice – Make a Smellmitment
Award: Ex Silver Winner, Best Buzz Marketing/Influencer
What do social media users love? Among other things, absurd humor, character crossovers, and new words created by combinations of other words. This is an observation that Old Spice hit on with its “Make a Smellmitment” campaign. Old Spice had already staked out outrageous territory with its advertising, with two separate series of commercials—one featuring Isaiah Mustafa, the other featuring Terry Crews.
After years of Mustafa starring in tongue-in-cheek spots painting him as the quintessential smooth operator and Crews starring in a separate string of advertisements that were surreal and explosive, this yin and yang of comic masculinity finally met in a series of ads during NFL games.
The crossover spots between the two spokesmen’s universes asked viewers to commit—or “smellmit”—to a particular deodorant scent, a concept that, like the commercials themselves, was so bizarre that it actually worked.
The campaign’s receiving an Ex Silver Award for Best Buzz Marketing/Influencer just goes to show how an immersive commercial campaign can be an experiential event in and of itself, making customers feel like they’re a part of an unfolding story while generating a ton of brand buzz (and the sales that come with it).
Image: YouTube | Old Spice
Campaign: GE – BBQ Research Center
Award: Ex Award Winner, Best Consumer Environment
On television and online, entertainment that approaches hard science with a pop-culture sensibility is wildly popular. So it’s not hard to see how GE was able to bring a fun but scientific viewpoint to the local foodie culture of Austin, TX during the city’s music and brand showcase, South by Southwest (SXSW). The company’s BBQ Research Center explored the city’s most famous delicacy from all different angles, featuring a barbecue-sauce chemical lab, panel discussions about topics like the science of high-temperature cooking, and even a specially built brisket smoker fitted with data-collection devices to gather information on the barbecuing process (and tie the experience back to the GE brand).
Perceiving and playing on this intersection of the SXSW crowd’s interests is no doubt one huge reason that the campaign got an award—but all science aside, one can’t forget the other factor that made this a surefire crowd-pleaser: a ton of free food and free beer.
Image: GE Global Research
Campaign: Google – Pay with a Photo
Award: Ex Award Winner, Best Use of Guerrilla/Street Marketing
Food trucks have become a vital part of Millennial urban living in recent years, and so has Google. So when the tech giant went looking for an experiential way to sell potential users on its new tool, they went for the stomach.
Google’s “Pay with a Photo” promotion invited customers at a Google-run food truck to engage in a timed micro-scavenger hunt for a particular photo on their smartphones. The reward: free food if they could find the photo in less than 20 seconds (and some smaller prizes if they took longer).
The experience was an advertisement for a Google app that organizes media files, and so was a perfect marriage of Millennial lifestyle marketing and demonstrating functionality. In the pursuit of free food, customers saw exactly how they could use the tool that Google was promoting. Therein lies the takeaway for creatives: An experience can show a customer both a need he or she didn’t know he or she had and a way to fill it.