One of the biggest advantages of creating live experiences is that you aren’t limited to the boxy confines of indoor spaces. Audiences are savvy to most common marketing and promotional practices, so reaching them in places and ways they don’t expect can make a lasting impact.
And because our memories are so tied to emotions — we better recall events that are linked to strong mental states — these events often succeed because they elicit surprise, excitement, whimsy, joy, curiosity, even awe.
TARGET’S GIANT BOOMBOX
Could you resist the temptation to plug in a 10-foot tall, bright red boombox in the middle of Manhattan’s South Street Seaport? Target teamed up with the prankster crew Improv Everywhere to bring Christmas cheer in a quirky and innovative way this past winter.
The Giang Boombox blinked “low power” while a massive power cord sat tantalizingly close to an equally oversized power socket. New Yorkers that took the bait had to work together to plug in the device, and when they did, two ships docked at the seaport sprang to life with a light show, 100 dancers emerged seemingly out of nowhere, and a shower of artificial snow magically fell from the sky.
It’s hard to figure out just what makes an image go viral. Sometimes there is an interesting backstory, but often the internet just collectively decides it loves something and wants everyone else to love it too. Such is the case with a screencap of a shirtless Jeff Goldblum lying in repose from the 1993 blockbuster “Jurassic Park.”
Regardless, British TV network Now TV knows how to properly piggyback on a trend. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of everyone’s favorite dinosaur flick, they commissioned a way bigger than life-sized statue of Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, baring his manly physique to gawking crowds along the banks of the Thames by London’s Tower Bridge.
DOMINO’S PAVING FOR PIZZA
Street marketing has never been employed quite so literally as in Domino’s pothole-paving promotion in 2018. Claiming that they “…don’t want to lose any great-tasting pizza to a pothole,” the pizza chain partnered with a number of municipalities across the U.S. to pay for road repairs.
All that Domino’s asked for in return was the right to adorn each filled pothole with a spray-painted stencil of their logo so everyone would know who to thank. After the initial pilot program started trending online, Paving for Pizza was expanded nationwide, and Domino’s claims they won’t stop until their name is on streets in every state.
GOOD SHIP IKEA
Can you still call it a street activation when it takes place on water? Semantics aside, this charming idea from the Swedish furniture giant was the perfect way to announce the opening of the brand’s most sustainably designed store ever. Their Greenwich location in London includes a wildlife park, roof gardens, and learning centers devoted to educating customers about the lifecycle of the products they buy.
In keeping with the location’s mission, Ikea produced a scaled-up version of their best-selling bath toy, the SMÅKRYP, a colorful plastic boat. This one, however, is designed for choppier waters and has onboard technology that picks up trash and debris from polluted waterways. Two of the adorable and green-friendly crafts were launched to great fanfare in London’s Deptford Creek.
THE PURE EXPERIENCE
Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, a new organic, low-calorie beer from Anheuser-Busch InBev, announced itself in a big, but quiet fashion during the 2019 Super Bowl. Cutting through the noise with an ASMR ad that has racked up over 14 million views on YouTube, Zoë Kravitz tickled eardrums with the soothing sounds of her whispering voice, the light percussion of her nails tapping a bottle of Ultra Pure Gold and the effervescent fizzling of a perfect pour.
While some beer brands court a brash and thrill-seeking crowd, Michelob is clearly going for a more thoughtful and earthy cohort. Bookending their digital experience on YouTube, Michelob partnered with The Big Quiet at this year’s SXSW festival to lead the Pure Golden Hour, a guided mindfulness experience held at sunset and backed by a special performance by R&B star Miguel. Ronnie Yoked and the team at Michelob Ultra clearly understand how to leverage the power of shared experience in an authentic way to create meaningful connections and increase brand affinity.
In an age when attention is in short supply and the real world has stiff competition for our eyeballs from online experiences, creative minds have to work extra hard to find ways to get people to look up from their smartphones.
But if you can spark an emotional reaction, defy expectations, and spread awareness about interesting and worthy topics, the hurried crowds will stop in their tracks to see something special.