Traditional Ads Alone Just Won’t Cut It.

Our world is positively drenched in advertising. Before you fall asleep tonight, you’ll have likely seen upwards of 5,000 ads today alone. But even in today’s over-saturated ad landscape, reaching the right consumers (and convincing them not to ignore you) can be tough.

One in four of us adblock online. We’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click a banner ad. Many of us stream instead of watching cable. And Gen Z apparently “hates our ads.

The landscape of advertising today is challenging. But that challenge is also a killer opportunity for us to build something our audience actually wants — to create real value.

 

Enter: The Integrated Experiential Campaign.

Experiential activations provide next-level value for their audiences. Whether it’s a Van Gogh AirBnb, the beloved faux-knockoff Deisel store, or ISL’s own poutine popup for Air Canada, successful brand experiences delight audiences by letting us see, feel, and touch the brand in ways that would be impossible with traditional advertising.

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No matter the brand, its mission, vision and values can be brought into the real world. Made concrete. Transformed into a story. Bottled into a feeling. Experiential doesn’t just touch a customer at a “touchpoint in the funnel.” It grabs us, hugs us, gives us a giant high five — sears a lasting memory of the brand into our minds.

But as experiential explodes across the advertising industry, we’ll find successes alongside plenty of room for improvement. As an experiential shop from day one, we’ve discovered a few keys to success that take an experiential activation from cool-for-an-industry-publication to knocking the client’s KPIs out of the water.

 

How We Used Experiential to Drive Business Results

Experiential skeptics ask how we’ll measure ROI, and why in the world we’d want to limit ourselves to a reach of thousands, instead of millions with a TVC or digital?

A smart experiential campaign, strategically planned and thoughtfully executed, can deliver return on investment that will make a traditional campaign look as effective as a tiny sidebar banner ad.

 

Start with Research, and Start Early.

We recently created a popup brand experience for Air Canada — a custom-designed restaurant that served only one item: Canada’s world-famous comfort food, poutine.

When we began planning, we started with research months before we went live. Our research partner, IPSOS, did a survey before our campaign concept was even conceived to learn about brand awareness and perceptions in our target market.

 

Set Clear, Measurable Goals.

Our goal for the project was to raise awareness about Air Canada’s flights from Denver to destinations in Asia and Australia. It was little surprise to our team that initial research showed that unaided awareness of these routes sat at a low 2% — it makes logical sense that Denverites would primarily consider Air Canada for flights to, well, Canada. So we set out to expand their view.

Create a Killer Concept

We built a popup restaurant in the middle of downtown Denver that served one item, and one item only: Canada’s world-famous comfort food, poutine. Entitled “The Poutinerie,” our popup lasted a single week but made waves across the city.

Why poutine? It’s the food version of Air Canada as a brand — poutine embodies the values that the brand holds dear, so that with every bite, our audience felt like they were tasting the brand itself. Beyond the dish itself, the Poutinerie was warm and comfortable, upscale but didn’t take itself too seriously, and full of Canadian heart.

Designed like an upscale airport lounge and built from scratch inside an old abandoned hookah bar, every inch of our activation contained the class, care, and sophistication of Air Canada. The neighbors loved us from the very start for turning a local blight into a beautiful destination. The media loved our dedication to Canada’s best export — ten different flavors of poutine, one for each destination city we wanted to highlight. And everyone loved the cause: every single dollar collected at The Poutinerie was donated directly to The Adoption Exchange, a beloved local charity.

 

Deploy the Brand Strategically.

The easiest way to fail at experiential is to make it 100% about the brand. If it’s too explicitly branded or feels inauthentic, people will ignore it — and that’s a death sentence for experiential campaigns that thrive on audience excitement and participant shares.

With The Poutinerie, we didn’t just build a popup restaurant. We built a way for Denver to taste an airline. To step inside the brand, feel the warmth and spirit of Canada, and enjoy themselves while absorbing our brand message in the form of crispy fries and warm gravy.

The city loved it! One crucial element to driving excitement on social was a daily sweepstakes. One lucky person won two tickets to any Air Canada destination, every single day. That’s way better than lottery odds! And the city went crazy for The Poutinerie on social.

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You could say they only posted to win…but just look how stoked they are. I’m pretty sure they loved it.

 

And, Don’t Forget the Message.

Experiential can get messy — creatively, it’s so much fun that it can be hard to remember the goal: don’t forget, this is advertising, folks! The message comes first!

To ensure our audience would remember our message, our integrated campaign also contained out of home, radio, pre-roll, and digital ads throughout Denver. And all together, it was a smashing success.

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Our largest placement was a huge wall buy in downtown LoDo with local-focused copy.

 

Measuring ROI of An Experience.

The Poutinerie wasn’t just delicious — it worked. We had a hunch that we’d succeeded after the first day, with lines around the block and guests’ faces full of excitement. There’s nothing quite like seeing the delight on someone’s face as they sit in your brand activation, devouring poutine while absorbing your brand message.

But as data-driven marketers, we were still skeptical. Had our Poutinerie really made a difference? To find out, we turned back to the research. Before, during, and after the activation, we had clear data that showed awareness and perception of every piece of the campaign, letting us measure our impact at every turn.

And we were right. Following the campaign, unaided awareness soared 350%. Previous fliers were 4 times more likely to consider Air Canada for flights to Asia and Australia. And literally 100% of business travelers reported enjoying their experience at The Poutinerie. It was covered by CBS, NBC, Fox and The Denver Post. And social posts by local Denverites netted over 1.1 million potential impressions.

And now, as we plan the next location of The Poutinerie, we’re able to learn from Denver and make improvements for even higher rates of success. So before the end of 2018, you might just see another poutine popup hit your city — come check us out and tell us what you think!