By Jeff Snyder – Chief Inspiration Officer & Founder, Inspira Marketing.
At the recent TED2015 conference, Delta Air Lines gave consumers an experience far more valuable than in-flight snacks or first-class seating. The airline created an exhibit called “Stillness in Motion,” inspired by Pico Iyer’s book “The Art of Stillness,” that was designed to teach serenity.
Delta’s exhibit featured a peaceful, spa-like enclosure and a chair with biometric sensors that measured users’ heart rates. When visitors’ heart rates were high, the lights around the room pulsed chaotically. But as participants learned to slow their heart rates, the room’s lights responded in kind, making the experience clearer, calmer, and more pleasant. At the end of the experience, visitors were given a glowing orb, programmed to pulse with their lowest recorded heartbeat. The experience was such a hit that among the exhibit’s approximately 800 participants, an incredible 95 percent tweeted about the experience.
Technology, as Delta showed, can leave customers with experiences they won’t soon forget. But when used poorly, it can have some serious unintended consequences.
Here’s how to incorporate technology into your brand events to attract the right kinds of attention:
Today, nearly all brand events incorporate some sort of technology to amplify the experience and take it from one to many participants. But be wary of complicating the event — you want people engaging with the experience, not fumbling with an online form.
International nonprofit MISEREOR’s “The Social Swipe” campaign provides a masterful example of elegant but simple event technology. The campaign placed dual screen monitors, bisected by a card reader, in public places like malls and train stations. When passersby used the card reader, the screens showed the card slicing a loaf of bread or cutting rope from a pair of bound wrists, illustrating the good that could come from the donations. The event made donating 2 euros to children in need an incredibly easy, rewarding experience.
The key to successfully implementing technology in an experiential activation is the KISS approach: Keep it super simple. If your brand ambassadors can’t explain how to use the technology in a single sign or verbally in five seconds, it’s time to rethink how you’re having consumers engage with the tech.
In his eponymous autobiography, Mark Twain remarked, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope.”
Twain knew the importance of fresh spins on what already exists, and the same holds true for incorporating technology into consumer experiences.
Recently, for instance, my company crafted a two-month tailgate tour to promote GEICO’s alumni discount program. The tour stopped at 13 NCAA football match-ups and 32 college campuses to give participants a different kind of tailgate experience. Sure, there was plenty of grilling, football, and good fun, but we paired those tailgate classics with fun technologies such as virtual reality and a touch-screen trivia kiosk. Participants, who could easily register using RFID tags, also enjoyed an animated GIF booth, on-site insurance quote stations, and a fun football-themed photo booth.
Are any of these concepts new? No. GIF booths aren’t new, but they sure bring the fun, and football trivia is as old as the sport itself. But by really thinking through the kinds of activities the various attendees — from young college students to longtime alums in town for the big game — we created a memorable brand impression for GEICO across the board.
Using tried-and-true ideas and technologies, the campaign was a smashing success. We achieved more than 6,800 engagements, captured a ton of consumer data, and generated a healthy number of on-site quotes for insurance.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your event needs “new” ideas to succeed. Take a page from Twain, and create an exciting event by weaving together technologies and experiences consumers are sure to love.
Sometimes clients come to us wanting to use the latest, greatest technology in their upcoming campaigns. We love when clients co-create with us, but many fall prey to “shiny object syndrome.” Instead, consider how brand and technology complement and reflect one another.
Renault, in 2013, did a masterful job of pairing its brand with exciting technology. To promote a new line of vehicles, the French automaker released a video of its life-sized Scalextric cars racing through some of London’s most famous streets. Two of the brand’s electric cards were connected to a track and supposedly controlled by two lucky Facebook fans in a helicopter following the race from mid-air and governing the car’s movement through Renault’s own remote-control iPhone app.
Of course, the stunt was only possible with the help of computer graphics, but Renault did a wonderful job pairing technologies in a way that made sense with its brand. The electric vehicles jived with Renault’s status as the European automaker with the lowest average carbon dioxide emissions, while the race simulation harkened back to Renault’s racing history.
Don’t use a new technology like virtual reality “just because.” Technology should be a spice, and its flavor must meld with the event’s main dish: your brand.
If there’s a particularly innovative technology that complements your brand, designing an experience around that technology can pay big dividends. New technology is fun and fascinating, and sometimes, giving consumers the mere opportunity to play with it can create a hit experience.
Hotel brand Marriott has created incredible experiences with its “VRoom Service,” the travel industry’s first-ever virtual reality experience. Select Marriott hotels enable guests to order a Samsung Gear VR headset and accompanying headphones and have them hand-delivered to the room. The VR headset transports patrons to far-off destinations ranging from Beijing to the Chilean Andes, encouraging them to book a trip to get the real experience.
VR is exciting, and it’s an experience consumers want to share online. New technologies can make for excellent experiential marketing, but don’t forget — consumers must leave the event able to connect technology to brand.
Technology is an incredible tool for event marketers, but it can also prove a disastrous diversion when used incorrectly. So the next time your brand is prepping for an event, ask yourself, “Does the technology involved engage consumers, or does it distract?”
Are there any other ways you ensure the technology you use in your brand events attracts the right kinds of attention? Let me know in the comments!
By Jeff Snyder – Chief Inspiration Officer & Founder, Inspira Marketing
Jeff Snyder is the Chief Inspiration Officer and Founder of Inspira Marketing, an experiential marketing agency based in Norwalk, Connecticut. Jeff has more than 20 years of marketing experience and has previously worked at GMR Marketing and RedPeg Marketing. He is passionate about finding a cure for pediatric spinal cancer, and Inspira donates a portion of its profits to fund cancer research.