Drive Brand Activation Success with Mobile Tours
As more and more brand owners are discovering, brand activations are a great way to raise brand awareness and connect firsthand — and memorably — with potential customers.
But while activations are increasingly understood as a marketing must-have, in their traditional form they are also somewhat limited in scope. Boosting your brand’s profile in a particular market is great, and no doubt it will pay off for your bottom line. But for all the time, effort, and money pumped into a brand activation, a standalone activation still only reaches consumers in that one market.
What if you could change that one activation = one market equation? What if you put your activation event on wheels, and took it to multiple markets, whether across the city, around the state, or coast to coast? For many reasons — and for an increasing number of brands — taking brand activations mobile makes a lot of sense. Here are reasons why brands are doing it, steps toward doing it successfully, and case studies of a few brands who’ve successfully taken their activations mobile.
Why Brands Are Launching Mobile Activations
Whether mobile or stationary, a brand activation is live, in-person, face-to-face marketing. It creates a unique experience for the visitor, and that makes your brand more memorable to them. In contrast to advertising campaigns that unfold in print or electronic media, a brand activation is an opportunity for consumers to engage directly with your brand — and, potentially, build a brand-customer relationship that lasts.
Brand activations take many forms, including in-store events, live demonstrations, sampling campaigns, and much more. Activations can also occur just about anywhere — high-traffic areas, trade shows, music festivals, sporting events — and they can also be open to anyone, target specific audiences, or offer an exclusive experience to a select group.
Raising the brand’s profile, generating buzz around the products or services, fostering brand loyalty: It’s easy to see the appeal of launching brand activations. Taking them mobile is one way to maximize the best aspects of brand activations while expanding their reach across and into markets.
Get More Bang for Your Marketing Buck
From the customer’s perspective, an activation is a specific, distinctive event that introduces them to your brand in a unique and compelling way. From the brand owner’s perspective, too, many activations are literally one-offs. The brand and its marketing agency research the location, design and create the visual elements, secure the necessary permits, staff the event, and set it up, run it, and take it down when it’s over. That’s a lot of time, hard work and expense for a one-off event.
“This is exactly why mobile tours are a great method of experiential marketing,” notes the Association of National Advertisers. “One that reuses assets, hits a wide audience, and forms a personal connection with consumers across your route.”
Expand Your Scope
A fixed-location, one-shot activation can only connect with so many consumers. Even in a heavily populated, high-traffic area, an activation confined to a single city is, by necessity, limited in its reach. “Why confine foot — or website or social media — traffic and high-quality leads to a standalone outpost,” asks Shannon Thaler on bizbash.com, “when you could put an event space on wheels and take it anywhere and everywhere?”
A mobile activation creates the opportunity to reach consumers across a much larger geographic area. Your brand can saturate a city with multiple stops in a short period of time, or reach consumers up and down the East Coast, for example, or across the country, over the course of a longer tour.
Give Them (and Yourself) Something to Talk About
A mobile tour is an event — and so is every single stop on that tour. Marketing around the tour itself, and each stop along the way — by announcing it on your social media channels and posting photos and video from each stop — can generate social media buzz. Working with influencers to promote the mobile activation creates both additional buzz and fun, shareable content. And by incorporating hashtags, social media competitions, and other social elements into the activation, you can inspire user-generated content (UGC) to feed your social media channels and keep the conversation going.
Grow Your Knowledge Base
While any activation will yield valuable quantitative and qualitative data about how consumers perceive and interact with your brand, with a traditional, one-shot activation that data is limited to a specific location within one specific market.
Not so with mobile activations. When the activation literally picks up and moves to a new location — even if it’s only a few miles away — the brand gains an opportunity to not only reach more customers but also gather additional data and customer feedback. Considered in combination or compared location to location, information from multiple instances of the same activation can help the brand tweak future activations and make better-informed decisions about marketing its products or services.
Mobile activations create the opportunity to learn on the fly, and to reach consumers in areas that aren’t conducive to activations requiring a larger footprint or specific infrastructure, such as the beach — see our case study on the Sunscoop/Supergoop dual activation, below — campgrounds, music festivals, or sporting events. Because there’s little to no setup time compared to a non-mobile activation, the mobile event can even reach multiple locations within a day, maximizing both the brand’s reach and the potential for gathering data and customer feedback.
How Successful Mobile Activations Happen
While a few big brands, like Oscar Mayer and L.L. Bean, have vehicles that are famous in their own right, brands big and small have taken their activations on the road in the last few years using branded food trucks and similar vehicles.
A branded or “wrapped” vehicle is a food truck, van, trailer or bus that has large vinyl decals affixed to it on top of the underlying paint or metal exterior. Branding a vehicle offers myriad creative options for mobile activations, because these wraps, though durable, can be added quickly and easily, are available in any color or design, and are not permanent like a paint job. Re-wrapping a vehicle is easy and quick, and it affords brands the opportunity to put their name, graphics, and logo in a highly visible, visually compelling place.
Brands can rent wrappable vehicles from various sources, or they can work with a marketing agency that has its own ready-to-brand vehicles, like Promobile Marketing, whose fleet includes not only food trucks and tour buses but also RVs, vintage units, airstreams, carts, and more.
Executing a successful mobile activation requires careful, thorough planning — and, ideally, expert advice from pros who’ve done it all before. Here’s a quick overview of steps in the planning process.
Market research. Before the branded truck drives down even a single city block, it’s important to do the research necessary to determine where your customers are and how best to reach them. This requires first identifying both your ideal customer — the mix of demographics you most want your product to reach — and the events or locations where they congregate. This could be a music festival, a sporting event, or a college campus.
Location procurement and permitting. Navigating individual municipalities’ code and permitting requirements is an essential part of planning your brand’s mobile tour. Sorting out even requirements within a single city can be a hassle, however; this is an area where expert advice can be particularly valuable.
Design/build. Also known as the fun part, this is the point in the process where you and your ad/marketing team interpret your brand — its vibe, personality, reputation, and look — in a way that will grab the attention of your target audience.
Staffing. Depending on the nature of your product or service, you’ll need at least several individuals to work the truck, manage visitors, and evangelize for your brand throughout each stop in the activation tour. In addition to hiring staff, you’ll need to train them, too — another area where the services of an experienced agency can help.
Data collection. An activation isn’t like a website — there is no analytics app for counting visitors to your truck. But it’s still possible to collect excellent data that informs future marketing and product decisions. Have your street team keep a count of interactions with visitors, administer short surveys, or lead taste tests. Actively soliciting feedback from customers can provide valuable insights into how your brand is perceived and how your product is received.
Sunscoop and Supergoop
One recent summer, Promobile helped ice cream brand Sunscoop and sunscreen brand Supergoop form a limited-time partnership to promote both brands. The partnership was a logical fit — ice cream and sunscreen both being heavily associated with summertime — and the choice of vintage-style ice cream trucks for this mobile activation perfected the event’s authentic summertime vibe. At each of the dual activation’s stops, Promobile created an exterior footprint around each truck, complete with music and custom displays. The activation delivered more than 53,000 sunscreen samples and some 16,000 ice cream samples in NYC, the Hamptons, Chicago, and LA.
Promobile and ice cream brand Klondike asked thousands of people that famous question — “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” — as part of the WWYD Road Trip. Launched on the first day of summer and again on National Ice Cream Day, the tour took a specially designed, Klondike-branded ice cream truck to Austin, TX; Pittsburgh, PA; and New York, NY. Stopped in high traffic, public areas for maximum attention, the mobile activation included an interactive “challenge zone” where guests used props to show their Klondike spirit on social media. Visitors completed group challenges and enjoyed free ice cream. All told, the tour covered more than 4,200 miles and gave away some 7,500 ice creams.
When plant-based dairy brand Miyoko’s Creamery wanted to introduce its great-tasting products to consumers on a grand scale, they contacted Promobile to plan an ambitious three-month tour of 23 U.S. cities. Based out of a branded food truck, the Miyoko’s activation gave away nearly 50,000 samples of its non-dairy butter and cheeses — prepared in dishes ranging from street corn to pizza — at food festivals, fashion events, other large gatherings, and retail establishments. The activations gathered more than a million impressions on social media and generated massive buzz for the brand.
Promobile Marketing is a dynamic experiential marketing agency based in New York City. For over a decade, Promobile Marketing has collaborated with a range of brands—from budding startups to major CPG brands—on immersive marketing campaigns. Get in touch to discuss your next project.