My job affords me a luxury. I have tremendous gratitude for the things I have learned over the years as we have led cross-industry brand initiatives for some of the world’s leading organizations. But at times, all it takes is a long walk in the city to observe new ideas. Considering this blog, which was intended to reflect the current culture or a snapshot of contemporary marketing, I’m seeing that there are many varied items of interest emerging lately — perhaps appropriate to the disruptive, seemingly haphazard business and communications climate we live in. I’ll share a brief note here that relates to a compelling trend I’m noticing on the streets of New York.
The User Experience
I don’t think it would be an irresponsible statement to say that a lot of consultants base advice to clients on their own perceptions as a customer. I do it. I’m human. I see advertisements, retail merchandising, integrated marketing, and digital or traditional direct campaigns, and I see and how effective — or at times, how ineffective — a particular practice can be.
Lately, I see great examples of innovation in marketing. Take my stroll down Columbus Avenue last weekend, where I stumbled upon an interactive experience in real estate outside the offices of Halstead, a real estate broker in New York. The touch screen display offers profiles of new properties available to anyone casually passing by. That’s west side Manhattan, but on the east side, the Halstead experience has a counterpart that is perhaps even more novel: The cupcake ATM at Sprinkles. Yes, I wrote cupcakes — available to pedestrians in an automatic, street-facing display. Each cupcake costs $4.25 and buyers can choose from among red velvet, cinnamon sugar, Cuban coffee, and banana dark chocolate. Served in a small pink and brown box, cupcakes are available at the ATM on a 24/7 basis, and replenished throughout the day by bakers inside the store.
What’s driving these types of experiential marketing innovations? Well, one explanation is that technological advancements over the last 25 years have created a mind-numbing, geometric growth in channels to reach the consumer. As a result, it all means less, and along with desensitized consumers comes more noise — or a different kind of noise. In brief, the constant drone of a billion messages across a billion microchannels is pushing marketers to discover to new ways to share their message.
The people who develop and activate brands realized that in order to be heard and seen, they have no choice but to create experiences that are disruptive, ways to engage weary customers with arresting and novel ideas. That provocative headline, offer for “free” or “discounted” product, those reward programs and that daring (is it even legal?) photograph? It’s no longer enough. Now, we need cupcakes dispensed to our waiting, sugar-deprived hands on the street — which, will also create a social buzz and gain lots of earned media to build the brand. In the weeks and months to come, look for this trend to get even greater traction. The digital marketing experience, in my opinion, has failed on many fronts to truly engage and earn loyal customers. Technology presents marketers with a new playing ground and new opportunities, but we have yet to tap the vast possibilities to engage, inform, and inspire consumers. But interactive pictures of houses listed for sale, and cupcakes dispensed on the street? Now, that’s a beginning.
The fall is an inspirational time and I have folders with dozens of clipped articles and saved links to share, so I’ll be updating this blog frequently. We also have a flurry of new prospects and leads in the hopper that are yielding interesting dilemmas and challenges for our clients, and our A-team of professionals. Is it possible to make a compelling print magazine that appeals to that ever-elusive Millennial? Are eBooks a thing of the past, or have they simply not been marketed well enough? What’s the best way to pique the interest of the affluent patriarch, or how can one best engage the corporate attorney? Solving these and other questions is a large part of my job, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
As part-hobby, I’ve also been photographing another trend in what once would have been called guerrilla marketing, and which now I suppose we can call experiential retail: A review of outrageous food trucks, which I’ll share in a future blog.
Tags: cupcake atm, digital experience, innovation in marketing, interactive displays, Sprinkles
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