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Authentic, personal, shareable, memorable - these descriptors typify consumers' ideal brand interaction. And it is just that - an interaction, often with a real incentive - which consumers appreciate. A conversational interaction with multiple touch points gives brands a deeper and extended relationship with the consumer, ultimately leading to brand advocacy. Experiential marketing is the ideal platform to deepen those relationships, and consumers are getting on board.
Authentic. Consumers are wary before they become brand evangelists. To stand out among the vast expanse of brand noise, experiential marketing may deliver a "wow-factor," but it must also demonstrate relevant brand DNA in the process in order to connect on an emotional level. Tim Horton's "Dark Experiment" was a bit unsettling with its dark rooms within a foreboding house. Though the dark experiment made the obvious connection to the brand's new dark roast promotion, the feel of the experience fell too far from their community-friendly, inviting image. Communicating brand authenticity is the conceptual underpinning to all successful experiential interactions.
Personal. The cornerstones of experiential brand marketing are intimacy and immediacy. On the surface, reach of digital experiences is limited to the event locations. But, all participants are immersed in an extended interaction with the brand, and when social media, earned media and relevant brand incentives are organically integrated, the experience is at once disruptive, personal and lasting. According to a survey by Crossmark, 91% of consumers are likely to share a positive brand experience while 88% are likely to purchase a product following a positive brand experience. This level of brand efficacy usually leads to brand advocacy.
Shareable. It's one thing to leave an event and rave about an experience with your friends. It's another to share a brand experience with your entire social network - especially when accompanied by user-generated content. Word of mouth carries more weight than nearly any other marketing platform (agency of the year: The Consumer), but when coupled with user generated content that expresses both the brand and the consumer's sensibility, that's a matched passion point. An experience like GEICO Karaoke elevated an ordinary karaoke scenario by giving consumers a branded music video of their performance to keep and share on various platforms, including YouTube. This shareable element delivers not just a tangible memory, but provides a clear ROI based on the additional impressions generated.
Memorable. Regardless of how authentic, personal and shareable an interactive brand experience is staged, memorability is the core component. Not every experience can communicate on a scale like Bud Light and Heineken. However, every interactive experience that incorporates the four quadrant attributes has the elements for success.
Needless to say, quality and consistency of a brand's product or service is most important. In a constantly changing landscape though, it's the consumer interaction with a brand that will tip the scale. Give your consumer something they'll remember. Give them an experience.
Large festivals and sporting events are unique opportunities for brands to reach consumers through digital and experiential marketing. That’s why mega brands like Pepsi invest in Bonnaroo, and Reebok sponsors the CrossFit Games. The challenge is creating value-add for the fan in ways that are brand-centric. Here are five best practices for experiential marketing and fan engagement at iconic, place based events.
1. Keep It Relevant
In 2013, Chevrolet created an interactive, digital Home Run Derby for fans at the World Series in St. Louis. Chevy gave fans the opportunity to hit home runs in front of Busch Stadium, their bragging rights photo placed on a baseball card then shared in social media. That activation was the ultimate baseball experience for tens of thousands of fans resulting in an extraordinary share rate for a total of 69,000 total online impressions, great buzz and earned media. Key takeaway: consumers have an insatiable interest in creative technology when connected to the brand and the event.
AT&T created a competitive, digital fan experience at the 2014 Final Four in Dallas. Fans swiped a touch screen toward the basket and were immersed in a simple yet fast-paced basketball game for consumers of all ages. Key takeaway: a single-minded idea can have great impact when expressed with a clear benefit.
3. Integrate Social Media
This past September, AAA asked us to create an interactive vending machine for a Nationwide Series NASCAR event. Passionate NASCAR fans lined up at the touch screen kiosk and answered trivia questions in exchange for a valuable incentive—in this case, NASCAR pit passes, the ultimate thrill for racing fans. This activation generated 2,300 email addresses over one weekend. AAA continues to tour the kiosk around the country because of its high share rate. Key takeaway: tap into brand evangelists' willingness to engage with their passion and share accordingly.
4. Make It Interactive
In 2013, Sprint toured an interactive broadcasting booth to several NBA markets allowing fans to announce their favorite team’s highlights on camera. In a week, "Sprint's NBA You Make The Call" broadcast booth brought over 1,500 consumers closer to their team's, and Sprint's, brand DNA. Key takeaway: allow consumers an interactive experience that connects the brand DNA with a sharable immersive experience.
5. Fan Generated Content
Last February, Doritos created an animated interaction that allowed fans at the Super Bowl to star in their own television commercial. "Doritos Star In Your Own Super Bowl Commercial" featured a touch screen display with a built-in webcam that photographed users, cropped their heads, and transposed them onto a character in one of three Doritos Super Bowl Commercials. Doritos fan-generated analytics was a self-fulfilling prophecy of strong viral contagion. Key takeaway: consumer generated content is still a huge consumer motivator.
Just in time for the holidays, Brightline Interactive brings the interactive children's book, A Very Special Snowflake, to iTunes. Having restored Don Hoffman's best-selling title with a series of interactive features, Brightline is attracting a new generation of readers and broadening the initial paperback's success. Since its original release by Scholastic, this holiday treasure has sold more than one million copies in paperback worldwide. In its first week, the new interactive experience has already reached the top fifty in paid iPad book sales. It's available for purchase on iTunes for $2.99, exclusively for the iPad (www.averyspecialsnowflake.com).
To differentiate this eBook from traditional titles, Brightline infused creative technology into a series of in-app games to complement the beautiful illustrations and animations. Among these is "Create Your Own Scene" which offers readers a chance to craft their own snow-filled landscapes, and "Hide-and-Seek" which allows readers' to insert and search for their own face within the illustrations. Brightline also incorporated the use of the iPad's accelerometer, giving readers the ability to change the direction of the snowfall by tilting the iPad in either direction.
"A Very Special Snowflake was the perfect book for interactive development because it had so many existing elements that we were able to creatively reimagine," said Brightline CEO and CCO, Erik Muendel. "We've worked tirelessly to create a literary experience that children can engage and immerse themselves in and I believe this app absolutely delivers."
Don Hoffman has been pleased with the results and is excited about its prospects. "What Brightline has done with A Very Special Snowflake truly qualifies as a literary experience," began Hoffman. "They've added depth to the story and its characters without compromising the original version's integrity and given the story a life of its own."
Fans have been flocking to Victory Lane all season at NASCAR events, but not to join in the confetti-filled celebrations. They came to win something of their own at the AAA social powered vending machine, developed by Brightline Interactive in partnership with Aquarius Sports and Entertainment. Fans were tasked with answering three racing-related trivia questions and submitting their answers along with their email address via a tablet touchscreen. Each submission triggered the vending machine to dispense a random prize, leaving all participants winners. The vending machine held 200 prizes at capacity, ranging from AAA flags, lanyards, and tire pressure gauges to the grand prize of exclusive pit passes to the race.
The digital experiences have been a resounding success, distributing prizes to more than 2,000 participants at each of the four activations. "The vending machine showed fans something they had never seen before and really caused them to stop and take notice," said Matthew Haas, Director of Marketing and Advertising for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "It's such a simple concept, but one that really elevates fan engagement to another level. Rather than just distributing free gear to fans, the vending machine urged participation within a completely branded environment."
"NASCAR fans are some of the most passionate fans in sports," said Brightline CEO and CCO, Erik Muendel. "The social vending machine really tapped into their passion for racing by challenging them with racing trivia, but in doing so, rewarding them with fun prizes. It created a unique experience for them to share, and in the process, amplified AAA's brand exposure."
Brightline Interactive continues to reinvent the way consumers and fans use everyday objects by twisting creative technology in new ways. By incorporating the use of sensors, touchscreens and social media, these experiences enhance the quality of fan interaction with brands.
The stage is set for Brightline Interactive’s upcoming November 19th tech meetup, hosted at their studio, the Digital Exchange. Brightline will be hosting the Washington Area Unity3D User Group (WAUUG) as well as their own DC Experiential group to build a strong, expanded audience. Highlighting the night’s speakers are Gregg Wilkes and Rod Haxton, Interim CEO and Lead Software Engineer of VisiSonics, who will touch on their new partnership with Oculus Rift and show off a demo done by Bully! Entertainment. VisiSonics’ use of 3D audio in partnership with Oculus appeals to both audiences, providing insight into new experiential marketing possibilities.
The event has served as an excellent educational experience and a prime space for idea generation and sharing in the past. “Partnering with DC Experiential provides a unique forum for Washington Area Unity3D User Group members to gain perspective from other professionals outside their space while sharing ideas from their own,” said Andrew Eiche, organizer of WAUUG. “Brightline’s venue fosters an environment of creativity and innovation – I’m excited to hear the ideas generated from the event.”
“Unity has become an integral part of several Brightline projects,” added Brightline Chief Creative Technologist, Jason Powers. “Welcoming WAUUG to this event gives us a chance to learn from them and gain inspiration for future projects.”
The meetup begins at 6:30PM with some light food and drinks and time to network, followed by an hour for featured speakers and personal demos. The Digital Exchange is located across the street from the office’s headquarters in Old Town Alexandria. The location is a 10-minute walk from Braddock Road metro, and ample parking is available on-site.
Brightline Interactive, a leader in creating place-based digital experiences for major brands, has ventured into a new category. In partnership with celebrated children’s book author Don Hoffman, Brightline created an immersive literary experience for children. A Very Special Snowflake, which to date has sold more than one million paperback copies worldwide, is being brought to life, creating an interactive digital version that features motion graphics, animations, and sound design for a new reader experience. The eBook will be available through iTunes stores in early November.
Consistent with Brightline’s mission to create one-of-a-kind technology-based experiences, the company incorporated several unique features to give A Very Special Snowflake readers a memorable iPad experience. Among the features are hidden animations and sound effects, “Hide and Seek Your Face” which enables the reader to insert their image into the story, and a “Create-Your-Own-Scene” component where readers can digitally design their own winter wonderland. Also included is “Where’s Snowflake?” where readers search the snow-filled scenery for the white puppy, tapping the screen to bring him to life.
Giving readers control over their reading experience is something Brightline highlighted in this eBook creation. By utilizing the iPad’s accelerometer, readers can control the movement of the snowfall, characters and other scenery by tilting the iPad from side to side. “By adding these unique features, readers can enjoy the story and prolong their experience with the book. It’s something children can get involved in and continue to come back to,” said Brightline Interactive, CEO and CCO, Erik Muendel.
Since 1999, Author Don Hoffman, has penned more than two dozen children’s books for publishers such as Scholastic, Imagine, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dalmatian Press & Popcorn Press. Hoffman drew national acclaim for A Very Special Snowflake, after this title sold more than one million paperback copies. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be partnering with Brightline Interactive – the industry’s leader for one-of-kind digital experiences,” said Hoffman. “I waited for the right creative technology company to come along before I would allow any of my titles to be put into eBook or App form. My hope is that this partnership presents an opportunity for my loyal readers to re-experience my books, both past and future, in a completely new exciting way.”
“By working with such a well-known and successful children’s book author such as Don Hoffman, we have set the bar extremely high,” Muendel added. “This is a unique opportunity to take a children’s book title that is amazingly successful, and recreate the user experience. As a company we’ve been doing that with consumer brands for years, and doing that to enhance children’s reading involvement is awesome.”
This October marks Brightline Interactive’s 10-year anniversary as an agency in the experiential, place-based marketing arena. The milestone is fitting, as Brightline looks to finish up what has been its most expansive year to date. Highlighted by the opening of the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. in Times Square, New York, 2014 has also seen Brightline install in-venue fan experiences at Super Bowl XLVIII, the NCAA Final Four, and permanent NCAA Athletics installations with the University of Wisconsin and University of Tennessee.
What began as a small interactive shop with an emphasis on DoD strategic communication and BIO tech conferences has evolved into a national leader in place-based experiential marketing, producing digital experiences for a long list of Fortune 100 brands. Now a team of 30, Brightline expanded their office in July to accommodate for the growth and maintains a multipurpose studio called the “Digital Exchange,” used for staging, community events, and as a gallery.
Brightline shows no signs of slowing down, maintaining a full workload – found in tier 1 NFL stadiums and major markets – through the rest of 2014 and continuing on into 2015. CEO and CCO, Erik Muendel, couldn’t be more pleased with the growth and development he’s seen over the years, but particularly the last 12 months. “We’ve made tremendous strides as a company over the past year,” Erik said. “We’ve added internal structure, taken on larger installations, and expanded into even bigger venues and activations.”
Brightline’s work has taken home its fair share of hardware, winning seven awards alone in 2014, including Communicator, ADDY and Telly awards. They were also selected by InTheCapital as one of DC’s 50 on Fire.
Erik Muendel has seen his share of accolades in the past year as well, including a feature in Biz Bash’s 2014 Event Innovators while garnering speaking engagements at several high-profile conferences including EVENTtech, ad:tech and the CSE Sports Marketing Symposium. “It’s an exciting time to be at Brightline,” Erik added. “We’re doing things no one else has done and having a lot of fun in the process. We love that we can participate in major national events but maintain our identity in Alexandria. That’s what makes Brightline great!”
by Erik Muendel for MediaPost
At this week’s Sports Marketing Symposium in New York, where I was a speaker, there were lots of discussions about enhancing fan engagement. How we turn fans into evangelists. How fans can go deeper into the team’s or sponsor’s DNA. How social media can become more impactful for fan and brand value. Cool videos were shown, case histories presented and a panel headlined by Tiki Barber, former New York Giants all-time rushing leader and correspondent for NBC Sports, discussed the integration of pop culture and sports. However, even if attendees spent half their time checking their smart phones, they couldn’t help but connect to a single overarching theme: analytics.
At the conclusion of the two-day event, it was clear: in the world of sports marketing, metrics is the new creative.
I know we’ve heard many industry variations on that cliché. Account Planning is the new leadership, Media is the new Creative and so on. Based on presentations from a number of industry thought leaders, including Eric Hirschorn from Burger King, Frank Wheeler from SAP and Chris Thorne from EA, a compelling case was made solidifying a mighty trend.
Here are a few statistics that contextualize their collective point of view. According to the recent Accenture CMO Study, 78% believe marketing is going through its most radical change in history, partially catalyzed by the demand for measurable digital marketing; over 50% expect digital to grow to 75% of marketing budgets in 2015; 52% believe metrics to be a “bigger competency over creative.” A seismic shift to be sure.
Hirschorn, in partnership with Horizon Media CEO Bill Koenigsberg, made a compelling case that “analysis, more than creative, is our primary focus.” He pointed out the importance of granular detail of every Burger King consumer engagement. “Audience analytics is our sweet spot.” Dynamically, he added: “It’s about matching passions. Passion for the team, the sport, the brand, resulting in a passion for the overall consumer experience.”
This passion matrix, experienced through digital consumer interactivity, can be a critical driver of metrics & analytics and deserves similar examination. According to Event Marketing Institute: 98% of fans exposed to a brand experience at an event speak positively about that experience; 2/3 of that group will mention that brand experience in conversation and/or social media; 80% believe that experiential marketing is more likely to lead to a sale than other brand-to-consumer touch points.
Connecting consumers with brands through place-based interactivity – stadiums, events, subways and storefronts - is another growing trend. Increasingly, connecting brands with professional sports franchises, on location through the season and engaging fans with a value-add interactive experience, is now part of the consideration set. These experiences need to be dynamic, intuitive, brief and involving, while offering a clear incentive. The brand and team’s reward for that incentive? Richer analytics.
That emotional and experiential factor, implemented within the brand platform, inspires fans to participate and share critical data whether it’s a Home Run Derby for Chevrolet at the World Series or a Karaoke Booth for Pepsi at Super Bowl.
Often, I’m asked if we can create something super cool, or can we re-create Minority Report or a Tupac-like holograph. More often, I’m asked how deep we can go in capturing audience metrics. Sharing an interactive experience in various social media channels is the cost of entry. The demand for analytics forces digital creators to be savvier in the broader cultural context, reminding us that metrics don’t end with a post to Facebook or Instagram. For digital marketers across the spectrum, metrics is the end game, interactive technology the means.
If not the “new creative,” to me it sounds like the new digital imperative.
Erik Muendel, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Brightline Interactive, will take the stage October 15th at 4:00 PM at the CSE Sports Marketing Symposium to speak about in-venue digital experiences and their impact on fan engagement. Having created custom, place-based interactive experiences at the Super Bowl, World Series and NCAA Final Four, Muendel has successfully reimagined technology for fan experiences and is a leader in the growing demand for interactive fan engagement with social and earned media impact.
The conference, in its 13th year, is one of the country’s premier sports marketing events. “We’ve had great success at Brightline Interactive bringing digital experiences to both the collegiate and professional sports domains. This conference is a perfect opportunity to share our unique work with case histories while learning from other leaders in the sports marketing world,” said Muendel.
The presentation will highlight how Brightline connects fans with venues, brands and social media for longer-term engagement and maximum ROI. The World Series installation, through an accelerometer, allowed hundreds of consumers to simulate a live home run derby, ending the interaction with their photo on a baseball card for social media sharing. The Super Bowl experience brought karaoke to the next level, simulating a half-time performance for fans in front of a live-keyed green screen that became instantly shareable YouTube videos.
“The Home Run Derby and Social Karaoke experiences express the future of in-venue, value-add capabilities. Inventive, venue-based interactive technology enhances the fan experience by providing active opportunities that further connects them to the team, as well as sponsors and partners,” added Muendel. “This forum is an opportunity to share and discuss how we can evolve that disruption.”
Brightline Interactive, in partnership with Blaine Construction, has brought two new interactive experiences to the University of Tennessee’s Anderson Training Center. The experiences live in the lobby of the newly constructed Anderson Training Center, providing a layer of interaction with all visitors immediately upon entry. The experiences serve to strengthen the university’s recruiting efforts, in addition to acting as a resource for supporters of the UT Football team.
To enhance the training center lobby, Brightline has created and installed both a self-service touchscreen kiosk and a 30’ LED video display ribbon. The kiosk delivers inspiration and information about the football program for potential recruits and fans, with touch-activated media about Tennessee All-Americans, NFL alumni, as well as UT Football traditions and highlights. The large, overhead LED ribbon features customizable content that is updated periodically by the university to highlight relevant news, announcements, and standout moments about the football team.
“By adding high-tech digital experiences to our new training facility, Brightline Interactive and our graphics partner, Ze Design, have taken the Training Center lobby to a new level,” says Chis Spognardi, Director of Football Operations. “The LED ribbon and interactive kiosks not only make the lobby sizzle, they offer a fascinating way for our visitors – potential students, alumni and donors – to engage with the history of our program and stay informed on current activity.”
Brightline Interactive continues to expand their reach into collegiate athletics, building a foundation on which unique interactive experiences can live. Partnering with a school the caliber of University of Tennessee only serves to enhance the credibility of their work. “The University of Tennessee’s new experiences combine Brightline’s creative strengths – integrating technology and sports in an educational environment – to deliver information in a memorable, fun way,” stated Erik Muendel, CEO and CCO of Brightline Interactive. “These experiences are attractive to both potential football recruits as well as existing supporters of the program because they leave a lasting impression about the far-reaching legacy of the university’s football team.”