This year, countless brands from Planters to Prime threw their hats into the experiential marketing ring, incorporating digital and social media innovation to real-world events. Despite the expanding number of examples, marketers still found niches to deliver memorable moments to content-saturated consumers.
As KFC’s hidden tiny pop-up shop in Portland proves earlier this week, these activations still have plenty of space to shine, innovate and delight.
Louis XIII Cognac and Pharrell Williams: “100 Years”
To highlight Louis XIII Cognac’s century-long decanting process, the importance of protecting the environment and the traditions of the brand, the luxury alcohol distillery partnered with Pharrell Williams to produce an exclusive single, which they recorded on a clay disk and locked away in a water-soluble safe with a bottle of cognac and a time-lock set to open in 2117.
If water levels rise too much, both the safe and song will be destroyed, though presumably, the cognac will be fine.
If there are boxes to be checked with marketing campaigns, Louis XIII’s partnership with Pharrell Williams checks just about all of them. Celebrity endorsement? Check. Cause-marketing message? Check. Cutting-edge technology, an exclusive party and ties to a fundamental brand value? Check, check and check.
Style publication Refinery29’s 29Rooms activation—an annual even described as a “funhouse of style, culture and technology“—has become a mainstay example of experiential marketing. Other brands have begun to piggyback off of the event’s popularity with sponsored exhibits.
The Instagram-friendly exhibition has become so popular that it’s inspired other, completely unaffiliated pop-up experiences, such as Happy Place in Los Angeles.
Misereor: The Social Swipe
Credit cards have long made material purchases simpler, but less so for charitable donations. German charity Misereor sought to make helping the needy as easy as swiping a credit card.
Set up in airports, digital posters displayed scenes of strife, urging travelers to slice a loaf of bread or cut rope bonds (and also donate two euros) with just a swipe of a credit card.
Visually representing the effect of even a small donation empowered the donors and gave the experience the sort of feel-good ending that most calls for charity simply can’t.
Better Call Saul: Los Pollos Hermanos
To promote the third season of its Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul, AMC put its stars to work on a multi-city tour, drawing in not just fans of Bob Odenkirk, but fried chicken as well.
To fans of the shows, Los Pollos Hermanos is as much of a character as Walter White or Saul Goodman are, and the intentionally generic-looking fast food restaurant pop-ups drew in methamphetamine enthusiasts in droves in several cities, including Austin for SXSW, Los Angeles and New York City.
Unfortunately, the location didn’t sell any fried chicken, but fans got the chance to score autographs, branded soda cups, curly fries and the chance to share stories of a snack at a fictional fast-food restaurant.
The Last Jedi: Lightsaber Battles
The lightsaber is easily one of Star Wars’ most iconic images, inspiring people of all ages to try their best to whack each other with light-up plastic sticks. Generally, it leads to well-meaning, if less than graceful attempts to replicate the battles they see on screen, though some fans pull out all the stops.
To market The Last Jedi in the UK, Disney flipped the script on conventional experiential-campaign wisdom. Rather than attempt to make the fantastical elements of the film more accessible, stunt fighters Shania West and Anton Simpson-Tidy showed off the potential when professionals get the chance to make it exciting.
“From day one of our shoot here in the UK, the feeling of excitement and love for Star Wars has been palpable, and if you grew up loving Star Wars, you grew up loving lightsabers,” said The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson.