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Class is in Session: The Growing Popularity of Virtual Masterclass

Experiential Marketing

With millions around the world still experiencing the social impact of COVID-19 keeping us from in-person events, brands are hosting at-home virtual masterclasses designed to drive engagement, strengthen brand loyalty, and educate consumers. 

Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, we are still experiencing social distancing and the cancellation of large in-person events. 

But, brands have found a way to pivot, bring meaningful experiential marketing experiences into consumers’ homes, and are even teaching audiences a thing or two. 

Take a look at three brands who are building engagement and loyalty with some clever and helpful virtual masterclasses.

Klarna’s Virtual Festival Experience

Virtual Masterclass

Crying over Coachella? Gutted about Glastonbury? For obvious reasons, music lovers around the world have seen their favorite festivals cancelled throughout the year. But, earlier this month, global payments and shopping platform Klarna hosted a series of virtual events to make up for the disruption to the summertime festival season. 

Broadcast via Instagram and Facebook Live, “Klarnival” featured a variety of artists and bands performing 20-minute, live sets for fans (with a donation made to the charity, “Help Musicians”).

Klarna also wanted to give “virtual attendees” a true festival experience, by hosting themed events, competitions, and masterclasses focused on beauty, fashion, outdoors, and tech. 

From a step-by-step eye make-up masterclass with cosmetic company Morphe, to a masterclass on “festival fashion” with an expert stylist from British fashion retailer New Look, and a masterclass on transforming your backyard into a five-star “glamping” experience, “Klarnival” brought the festival experience straight into viewers’ homes.

So, if you’re in the Bend area, check out this “totally awesome” overnight pop-up experience and “Make it a Blockbuster night!”

BrewDog’s Virtual Open Bar

With limits on capacities or total closures, Scottish brewery BrewDog is bringing the pub experience to virtuals patrons. 

Across the UK, U.S., Australia, and Germany the “BrewDog Online Bar” has created a virtual space for beer lovers to connect, share a beer, and even learn a thing or two about the process of brewing a craft beer. 

Featuring live beer tastings with BrewDog’s founders and beer experts that attendees can take part in, masterclasses that’ll teach you how to brew your own beer, live music and stand-up, virtual pub quizzes, and giveaways, BrewDog is recreating the “bar experience” for the digital age. 

According to BrewDog co-founder James Watt, “Community has always been at the absolute core of what we do. And, the role that community, and great beer play in our society is now more important than ever.”

Kora Organics’ Beauty Secrets from a Supermodel

Apparently, looking like a Victoria’s Secret model is easier than one might think. Former Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr launched her skincare company Kora Organics in 2009 with the belief that “healthy skin is the most beautiful skin.”

With coronavirus keeping people indoors, purchasing more online with a focus on creating home-based routines, the skincare industry has seen significant sales growth in the U.S. 

And, beginning back in April, Kerr treated fans of Kora Organics to virtual masterclasses on Instagram Live featuring her beauty tips and tricks, as well as walkthroughs of her personal morning skincare routine. 

Along with creating an “inside look” at the beauty secrets of an actual supermodel, Kerr’s masterclasses are also smart marketing for Kora Organics. Viewers are also invited to “follow along” by purchasing Kora Organics “Masterclass Kit” containing each of the products Kerr uses in her online tutorials.

Educate Consumers and Elevate Your Brand with Virtual Masterclasses

COVID-19 has changed the experiential marketing landscape and its impact has created changes that will last beyond the end of the pandemic. While face-to-face contact will always have an higher emotional impact on consumers, it’s easier for brands to connect with more people, from all corners of the world, online. 

Virtual masterclasses not only educate and engage, but they also give consumers an exclusive look inside a brand, what makes it special, and how you can replicate what they do from the safety and comfort of your own home. 

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Stay the Night: Inside Exclusive Overnight Pop-Up Experiences

Experiential Marketing

Want to create truly intimate and exclusive moments for your brand’s biggest fans?  Give it a rest and check out these creative, once-in-a-lifetime overnight pop-up experiences. 

Picture winning tickets to the Super Bowl. Or, front-row tickets to the hottest music festival of the year? Or, having the chance to be submerged in a submarine in the Caribbean? 

Sounds cool, right? Now imagine spending the night at these once-in-a-lifetime events.

The overnight pop-up experience has become a rising and wildly popular trend in experiential marketing for brands, giving consumers a heightened level of intimacy and access they’ll never forget. 

It’s no small feat to successfully execute a sleepover activation and requires long-term planning and out-of-the-box creative and strategic thinking. 

But, when done right, the rewards of an “exclusive overnight pop-up” for brands always outweigh the risks. So, let’s go inside a few experiences that created memorable and magical moments for some (very) lucky superfans. 

A “Blockbuster” Sleepover

For anyone who grew up in the ‘90s, it’s impossible to not associate your childhood with a trip to Blockbuster Video (and to always “be kind, please rewind” those VHS tapes). 

Earlier this summer, Sandi Harding, store manager of the world’s last Blockbuster store decided to open her doors to nostalgia-seekers hoping to rewind back to their past. 

In partnership with Airbnb, the Bend, Oregon Blockbuster is opening its doors to the public for a truly retro sleepover experience that’s perfect for movie-lovers. 

Just like those classic movie nights at-home, Blockbuster has recreated a ‘90s-themed living room, complete with decor from the decade, 90s-era big-screen TV, VCR, and access to the store’s entire library of tapes at guests’ disposal. 

Allowing up to four guests per reservation and encouraging groups from the same household, the Blockbuster Airbnb has taken steps to adhere to Airbnb, the CDC, and local/state COVID-19 guidelines. 

When asked how she came up with the idea of hosting an overnight pop-up at her Blockbuster, Harding explained, “With everybody being stuck at home and re-experiencing family time together, we thought it would be fun to enjoy some family time in a throwback ‘90s environment.”

So, if you’re in the Bend area, check out this “totally awesome” overnight pop-up experience and “Make it a Blockbuster night!”

An Overnight Touchdown!

If you’re an NFL fan, there’s no ticket more coveted than a trip to the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, Denise Ammon, an NFL fan and emergency room physician from New Orleans got the experience of a lifetime. 

As the lucky winner of Courtyard By Marriott Hotels’ “Super Bowl Sleepover Contest,” Ammon and three of her friends received a once-in-a-lifetime overnight pop-up experience inside Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, the home of Super Bowl LIV. 

In a stadium suite transformed into a Courtyard guest room with a view of the field and a private bar, Ammon and her friends got to watch the big game front-and-center, along with having access to exclusive Super Bowl weekend events. 

Ammon’s contest submission, which asked entrants to describe their “game-changing friendships,” featured her former fellow co-residents whom she met during her residency at a Level 1 Trauma hospital in Brooklyn, New York. 

According to Janis Milham, Senior Vice President of Marriott Marriott Classic Select Brands, “The story of Denise’s game-changing friendship is the kind of empowerment that we strive to provide our guests in achieving their personal and professional goals.”

An Insta-worthy Sleepover at Coachella

Camping at any festival isn’t the most glamorous experience for attendees. While tens of thousands of music lovers make the annual journey to Indio, California for Coachella, the popular summer music festival, the scorching desert heat and massive crowds can be demanding. 

In 2018, Marriott Rewards gave its members the chance to bid for the opportunity to enjoy a sleepover experience in one of three, luxurious, designer Yurts on the festival’s VIP Safari campgrounds. 

Made to resemble one of Marriott’s W Hotel properties in Bali, Hollywood, and Barcelona, these specially designed Yurts also featured “Sound Suites,” giving guests a truly sonic experience. 

But, this exclusive overnight activation didn’t come cheap for Coachella superfans. According to Forbes, one of the Yurts bid for 80,000 points, which totaled a whopping $38,233. 

Overnight Pop-Up Experiences are More Than a Dream

As the trend continues to grow, so does consumer demand for sleepover experiences that are more exclusive and more unconventional. 

It’s no easy feat to pull-off a magical experience that creates an unprecedented level of brand loyalty and drive the media conversation, but brands that can successfully execute exclusive, overnight pop-up events know these experiences secure a formidable place in their experiential marketing playbooks. 

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Reimagining Live Events with the “Drive-In Experience”

News

Companies are adapting to a social-distanced world by taking a retro experience and reinventing it for a new generation. 

As the U.S. heads into the fall and COVID-19 guidelines tighten, social distancing has kept the experiential marketing landscape virtual, rather than physical. But, brands and agencies have taken a popular pastime of a bygone era and brought it back into the mainstream: “the drive-in experience.”

With the interactiveness of traditional live events, combined with the necessary precautions to help keep people safe, drive-in experiences have been reinvented to create memorable moments for a new generation.

Drive-In Experience

Drive-Ins Assist The Return of Live Sports 

More than four months after being shuttered amid the COVID-19 pandemic, professional sports have started to return. Yet, a growing wave of infections in states where teams are slated to practice and play, as well players themselves, has put public plans for some pro-sports leagues on hold. 

As the sports world continues to navigate the uncharted waters of adapting public spectator events to a world where “keeping six-feet apart” is currently the norm, one professional league has utilized drive-ins as a social distancing-friendly experiential marketing tool.

Last June, to kick off the Credit Bank One Invitational in Charleston, S.C., tournament sponsor Tennis Channel hosted its first live, drive-in viewing event. In partnership with a Charleston-area theater, guests (and their cars) were invited to attend the pop-up activation. 

Prior to the drive-in, Tennis Channel put out a call-to-action on social media to local residents to RSVP for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Tennis fans who gained entry to the event were treated to complimentary snacks, beverages, and even branded swag.

Live Sports Drive In Experience

 

By using the #CreditOneBankInvitational to boost mentions and awareness, Tennis Channel measured the pop-up’s success based on social and earned media coverage.

According to Neil Roberts, Executive Director of Marketing for Tennis Channel, the goal of hosting a live drive-in experience was to offer an alternative way for tennis fans to comfortably (and safely) watch the sport they love. 

“The drive-in experience put like-minded fans in a group setting that was almost as good as being in the stadium.”

Drive-Ins Rock the Live Music Experience

In terms of live events, probably the one that most people miss the most is the “live concert,” the most social of summertime events. Last month, U.S. events promoter Live Nation recreated the experience for current times with it’s first-ever drive-in concert experience, “Live From the Drive-In.” 

With nine shows over the course of three nights in Nashville, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, attendees were treated to performances by Brad Paisley, Nelly, Darius Rucker, and others from the comfort of their cars stationed in private, individual “tailgating zones,” which equaled the size of about a two-car garage, ensuring social distancing measures. 

With nine shows over the course of three nights in Nashville, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, attendees were treated to performances by Brad Paisley, Nelly, Darius Rucker, and others from the comfort of their cars stationed in private, individual “tailgating zones,” which equaled the size of about a two-car garage, ensuring social distancing measures. 

In an effort to truly capture the thrill of the live music experience, the shows were broadcast on theater-style LED screens and speakers. 

Tom See, President of Live Nation Venues – US Concerts, noted that drive-ins are a great way to bring people together, safely and responsibly. “Around the world, we’re seeing a real eagerness from our fans and artists to safely get back to the concert experience,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to connect fans with artists to create those lasting memories, and we have teams around the world exploring unique ways to make that happen.” 

 

Taking Drive-Ins “Beyond the Sea”

As the throwback tradition of drive-in experiences maintain their resurgence in popularity, there are companies looking at new ways to take them even further. 

Australian entertainment and event company, Beyond Cinema revealed plans for an “aquatic movie watching” experience starting next month. Creating a floating cinema docked along the waters across 16 U.S. cities, Beyond Cinema has opened the drive-in experience to an entirely new audience.

Drive-in Movie on the Water

And, you don’t need to bring your own schooner in order to participate. By renting a mini-boat that ensures maximum distance, anyone can enjoy a late-summer evening movie right on the water.  

The company says they’ll offer a mix of classic films and new releases, announcing titles when tickets go on sale. Plus, popcorn is free for all attendees, with other snacks and drinks available for purchase. 

Drive-In Experiences Create Connections in Uncertain Times

Experiential marketing that works best is built on in-person events. In 2020, “virtual” has dominated our lexicon and our societal consciousness, but nothing compares to experiences that take consumers on a personal journey. 

That emotional connection and communication is what fosters successful brand engagement. With the reemergence of drive-ins, companies have taken an activity that reached its zenith in popularity over a half-century ago and reimagined it for the 21st century. 

Executing successful live experiences as our world continues to navigate the restrictions of COVID-19 is no easy task. But, as drive-ins show us, it’s not impossible and they have the ability to take experiential marketing to new and creative heights.

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Trust and Influence: The Power of the Brand Ambassador

Experiential Marketing

Want to build trust and gain influence with consumers that translates into sales and widening your audience. Take a look at why brand ambassadors can help leverage your reach and set your brand up for success. 

It goes without saying that the best way to experience a brand is to engage with it on a personal level and experiential marketing is uniquely designed to create genuine interactions and meaningful moments for consumers. And, brand ambassadors are the human engines that drive the conversations that make those moments possible. 

While they’re the ones on the front lines, the role of a brand ambassador is much more complex. From conveying brand messaging, to creating a direct channel for consumer feedback, and building trust and transparency in real-time, brand ambassadors play a vital role in setting up a brand for success. 

By giving your brand a boost on social media, spreading positive messages about who you are, influencing sales, and more, find out more about who brand ambassadors are, what they do, and how they can help your next experiential marketing campaign. 

Ralph Lauren Brand Ambassador

THE BRAND AMBASSADOR NEXT DOOR

There are two types of brand ambassadors. In the age of social media, “influencers” on Instagram and YouTube have become just as (if not) more recognizable than “traditional celebrities” (i.e. actors, recording artists, athletes, etc…), with their millions or tens of millions of followers, who are active and engaged on a variety of different platforms. 

More simply though, brand ambassadors are anyone hired by a company to represent their brand positively and help market to a new audience, and increase brand awareness and sales. In recent years, brands have leveraged their own employees to become effective brand ambassadors. 

Perhaps there’s no one better to showcase who you are and what you represent than those already working for you. Employees have the best insights into your brand’s culture, essence, products, services, and beyond. 

Twitter Brand Ambassador

And, their effectiveness is notable. In a 2017 survey by earned content platform Olapic, “76% of consumers believe the content that average people share is more honest than advertising from brands.” 

“That should serve as a wake-up call for brands to start exploring the use of authentic content in ads and marketing to build trust and create a more meaningful dialogue with their customers,” said Olapic co-founder Pau Sabria in an interview with Adweek

 

Finding the Right Brand Ambassador

In order to find the right brand ambassador for either your brand and/or your experiential marketing campaign, you first need to determine your objective. Is it your goal to increase social media traffic? Boost sales? Expand your target audience?

Your employees in your sales, marketing, communications, or HR departments can each serve as effective brand ambassadors in their own right, targeting a niche objective that aligns with your goals. 

But, regardless of whom you choose, make sure your brand ambassador has a vibrant network consisting of people outside your organization. Employees in sales, marketing, and management can be a great place to begin your search that’ll help maximize the most optimal bottom-line results for your brand.      

 

The Value of Brand Ambassadors

So, why should your company staff a brand ambassador instead of outsourcing the work to an outside personality? 

The more trust you earn with consumers, the more likely you are to earn their respect (and their business). And, that’s where brand ambassadors come in. The personal relationship they already have as employees of your brand can be leveraged into influencing their own networks and your consumers. That built-in connection will always be stronger than hiring a “celebrity” who’s foremost priority is getting paid. 

When your brand hosts events and activations led by your own team who are enthusiastic and engaged, that creates the perception of authenticity, which translates into credibility with consumers.

Think about it this way. Would you believe a “real person” who recommends a product or service over a paid celebrity or influencer? Having a brand ambassador dedicated to your business allows you to optimize your goals in order to translate them into success. 

 

Build Trust and Gain Influence with Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors are crucial to brands’ success in 2020. As more and more consumers crave genuineness when making purchasing decisions, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on campaigns to project exactly that. The irony is your brand already possesses the capability to promote trustworthiness with those who come to work for you each and every day.    

When you understand what brand ambassadors do, how to find the right one for your business, and why they’re so valuable, you can develop an effective experiential marketing campaign that enhances your brand reputation and turns real feelings as to who you are and what you do into real results.

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