This past week I attended the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Brand Activation conference in Chicago and I have to say, it left me excited about the future of marketing.  There were so many awesome, a-ha moments and light bulbs going off that it was hard to narrow down which ones left me the most inspired.  Throughout the sessions there were several guiding trends in marketing that stood out for me and I think are important for your brand to know.  So with that in mind, I’ll start by sharing a few of my favorite moments and 3 key takeaways from the conference in hopes that they may also inspire you.

Get physical with experiential marketing

As marketers in the post-digital world, we continuously need to find ways to drive experiences and create those wow moments.   During one of the first sessions, Penny Truttman with Caesars Entertainment spoke on the importance of blending the physical, digital and social worlds and gave several examples of the “impossible made possible” in terms of brand activation and experiential marketing.

Google voice activated gumball machine (photo by Adweek)

One of my favorite case studies she spoke to was a joint campaign Caesars did with Google where they managed a giant voice-activated gumball machine to promote the “Hey Google” digital assistant.  Hundreds of participants lined up to ask a question, and in return the machine dispensed a gumball prize ranging from Nest security cameras, to speakers, gift cards and Google branded swag.  What made this campaign so effective was that it blended physical and digital marketing elements into one memorable experience and was able to go viral and create buzz online.

The physical marketing trend was also pointed out by our own CEO, Henrik Johansson, who spoke to the importance of using physical marketing techniques to break through the digital noise.  It is getting harder and harder to reach your target audience in the digital age as ad blocking becomes more common.  In his talk Johansson suggests the use of tangible marketing elements, such as promotional products, in conjunction with digital marketing as an effective way to combat ad blindness and form a connection with your customers.  Physical marketing is a huge trend in 2018 and you can expect smart brands to continue leveraging in the foreseeable future.

Don’t underestimate the power of emotional marketing

In addition to getting physical in your marketing efforts, there was also quite a bit of discussion around how to fully engage with your target audience by inciting emotional responses to campaigns.  One of my favorite examples came from Crayola, whose marketing team was tasked with reigniting excitement around their longtime staple, the original 24 count crayon box.  Josh Kroo, VP of Marketing Communications for Crayola did an amazing job painting the picture (pun intended) for us as he recalled their BHAG (big, hairy, audacious, goal) around brand activation and explained how they crushed it.

Henrik Johansson and Dandelion the Crayola Crayon!

They decided to utilize emotional marketing and nostalgia to generate buzz and landed on retiring the beloved dandelion crayon from their core colors.  The response to their announcement was incredible, customers were deeply impacted and hurt by the decision to retire a color from the pack they used as children themselves.  This was evident by the emotional tweets received and by the visibly distraught Robin Roberts who on Good Morning America couldn’t bring herself to recommend a color to retire.  Despite the emotional toll it was taking on Crayola consumers, Crayola persisted and retired Dandelion as planned.

But the buzz didn’t end there.  In conjunction with Dandelion’s retirement, Crayola announced they were launching a new color that scientists had recently discovered.  It was a new hue of Blue and as part of the launch campaign Crayola invited fans to vote on names for the new addition to the 24 pack box.

For me, what was so interesting about this campaign was the emotional connection they were able to create and sustain throughout the course of the entire campaign.  I found my own emotions flip flopping during the presentation, feeling sad at Dandelion’s retirement, and then excitement around the new color and getting to vote to name it.  If you are able to make a customer emotionally invested in your brand you have essentially found the Holy Grail in marketing. This session served as a great reminder to never underestimate the power of emotional marketing.

Listen to your fans, and be a part of the conversation

Another session that left me creatively inspired came from the Cheetos team.  There was a social media trend on Instagram of people posting pictures of their Cheetos that resembled funny and interesting shapes.  The brilliant marketing team at Cheetos decided to turn this social trend into an awesome and fun campaign.  They launched the Cheetos museum microsite where people could submit ideas for the museum, scroll through others uploads, and vote on their favorites Cheeto shapes.  Their goal was to fuel consumer engagement by “encouraging people to look into a bag of Cheetos and see what shapes they could find”.  The campaign ended up building a ton of buzz, and their microsite received over 1.47M views- incredible!  After the success of the digital campaign, they also launched a pop up exhibit of the Cheeto museum in NYC to display 40 of the most popular submissions from the contest. Rather than standing by on the sidelines, Cheetos was able to facilitate the conversation and bring fans together for a memorable and hilarious interaction with their brand.

Cheetos museum

These are just a few of the incredible examples that surfaced during the ANA conference last week.  It truly was inspiring to see how other companies are approaching brand activation and are pushing boundaries on innovation and creativity.

For me, at Boundless, delivering brand love moments is core to our brand and who we are.  So although we are always thinking about how to deliver emotional connections using physical items, this event inspired me to think more broadly and to be a disrupter.  As a marketer, it can be easy to get hyper focused on your own industry, processes and channels, but I would encourage you to dedicate some time to let yourself be inspired and apply that inspiration to your own daily marketing efforts.

Tiffany Price

Looking for a bit of creative inspiration in your physical marketing? Contact us today!