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Experiential Storytelling

All too often, people get fed up of being advertised at – the kind that disjointedly interrupts what you’re doing. On the other hand, experiential marketing at its very best ensures people are immersed in a fun and memorable experience to make them tangibly interact with the brand and help reinforce positive associations.

At Aesop, we believe in the power of a good story, and to our minds the best kind of experiential marketing is where it harnesses just that – involving its participants in a compelling story that will stick in their mind (something that we put into action in our campaign for Birra Moretti). Here we’ve picked out three examples where experiential marketing has been done right… and a couple where it hasn’t.

Lean Cuisine – Weigh This

Brands have garnered a lot of mileage over the years from female self-hatred. Not to be outdone, lo-cal ready meal brand Lean Cuisine attempted a half-turn on this doctrine. Their ‘Weigh This’ campaign set up a barrage of scales at Grand Central station and invited women to ‘weigh in’. The twist: these weren’t actual scales but small blackboards where women could write (well, someone else wrote it for them so it looked pretty) how they wanted to be ‘weighed’ or judged: balancing kids and a job, saving someone’s life, you know the score.

The good thing about this campaign was that it didn’t interrupt – in a place as busy as Grand Central station, a New Yorker probably isn’t going to react too kindly when you offer them a lukewarm forkful of Alfredo pasta when they’re trying to get to work. Instead, it provided a visual spectacle that people actively wanted to stop and engage with, moving the story away from diet and food and towards a wider narrative of how women value themselves. Something to think about as you’re disconsolately stabbing the cellophane shroud of your Fiesta Chicken.

Misereor – The Social Swipe

In order to avoid the accusation of unnecessary interruption, traditional ‘awareness’ channels have also had to embrace a little of the experiential experience. Germany NGO Misereor did just that with their clever and effective use of digital OOH.

Misereor’s campaign addressed two of the biggest causes of present-day monetary alienation: contactless payment and giving to charity. Money is becoming less and less real to us as we move away from lovely fat-filled bank notes to mindlessly waving devices at things. Charity has suffered from this malaise for some time: do we ever really know where our money is going? Is it just being used to buy danishes for the Rotherham office’s away day? This campaign attempted to say that no, it is not being used to buy danishes; your money is being used to buy bread for starving folk and help end slavery. It bridged the gap in the story between you handing over your money and something actually happening.

The campaign took the form of an interactive board featuring images such as a loaf of bread or hands bound in ropes. When people swiped their bank card through the board, the images responded: the bonds were untied; the bread was cut, and a (presumably starving) person takes a slice. This action, through an apparently highly complex technical process, debited two euros from the person’s account, which later appeared on their bank statement with a plea to turn this into a monthly payment.

Carling – Shirt Amnesty

For the last few years, Carling has run a shirt amnesty during the transfer window. As football fans cry beer-flavoured tears over the sale of their favourite player, Carling encourage them to turn up to major clubs across the UK, where they pledge to replace old shirts with new ones.

As a piece of experiential with a really compelling result for the consumer, not only does this reinforce Carling’s status as the beer of the football fan, but it also creates significant brand loyalty.

Carling is not afraid to re-run a successful experiential campaign (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) but they add refreshing elements, like the celebrity endorsement of Jimmy Bullard (fresh from a humiliating stint in I’m a Celeb) in 2016.

And, just for balance, here are two pretty dire examples of experiential advertising:

Jagermeister’s Deadly Pool Party

Ever had one of those cocktails where they pour in liquid nitrogen and it goes all smoky and cool? Jagermeister attempted that with an entire swimming pool. The only problem was that liquid nitrogen has this annoying habit of displacing oxygen – leaving many people asphyxiated, with one party-goer even ending up in a coma.

Snapple’s Giant Popsicle

The classic of all experiential marketing disasters, and yet another example of people not paying enough attention in chemistry class. Snapple erected the world’s largest popsicle in Union Square, New York which then proceeded to melt in the summer heat, leaving people fleeing from the sticky, kiwi-strawberry flavoured liquid. “What was unsettling was that the fluid just kept coming,” one onlooker told the press.

I think that’s all we’ve got time for on experiential marketing today, but let these examples be a salutary lesson to you all: experiential marketing is a powerful device, but use it wisely or you may end up getting covered in goo.