As brands realise they need to find better ways of cutting through in a crowded media landscape, more are turning budgets towards experiential marketing – and towards ways to amplify those experiences beyond the immediate circle of people physically reached. At the same time, user-generated content continues to be at the forefront of marketers’ minds because it is so highly valued by consumers. Research by Ipsos and Crowtap indicates user-generated content is both 50 percent more trusted, and remembered 35 percent more, by Millennials than traditional media.
Every brand wants its market talking about them on social media, but it’s a difficult thing to coordinate by design. Auckland-based Smile Dealers may have found a way to do just that, by facilitating the creation – and sharing – of branded user-generated content at events and experiential activations.
“Traditionally one of the biggest limitations on experiential marketing has been that you could often only influence consumers at a particular event,” says Nick Ferry, managing director at social photo sharing agency Smile Dealers. “When people share via Smile Dealers at an event, that brand’s message is endorsed and shared with tens of thousands of people who weren’t physically there.
For event organisers or sponsors, branded photos are far more useful than a simple hashtagged selfie. Smile Dealers ensures only high quality photos are taken, monitoring and removing anything inappropriate before it is posted. And content is pushed out to a specific platform, such as Facebook, to ensure a significant, quantifiable burst of social media activity around the event.
“Smile Dealers photos are high quality personal souvenirs of an event for participants, as opposed to simply a photo with a logo slapped on top,” says Ferry.
In his time in the business, Ferry has been able to reliably anticipate the general amount of exposure and engagement a single event can generate.
“If Smile Dealers is at an event and 200 guests share a photo through our platform, we can track that will typically generate around 70,000 Facebook impressions, 4,000 photo likes, and 600 comments,” he says. “We work with our clients pre-event to estimate the amplification our activation will drive, and can give a fairly accurate ROI estimate as part of the planning process.”
“If we are investing in an event or an experience, then it’s a no-brainer to get the guys from Smile Dealers in,” says Shane Evans, head of brand and retail marketing at ASB Bank. The ability to have our guests share a personalized ASB souvenir with a few hundred of their friends drives exponential reach and engagement of our experiential investment.”
The benefit is not just in the amplification of the reach, but the opportunity for real-time engagement and branded conversations. For example at Vodafone Warriors games, where Smile Dealers regularly deploys roaming photographers armed with iPads to snap fans supporting their favourite team, the photos stimulate conversations around the score, the seats, and envy from friends who aren’t in attendance.
“We have focused on using roaming photographers to amplify the magic of being in the stands at a live Warriors game,” says Petrece Kesha, community manager for the Vodafone Warriors. “It’s all about creating FOMO – or fear of missing out. We want to show how much more enjoyable it is being in the atmosphere of a live game rather than watching it on television.”
Over the course of the 12 home games this season, Kesha says photos shared by Warriors fans from their seats are expected to generate close to 700,000 photo impressions, 50,000 photo likes and 6,000 photo comments.
Fit to purpose
Smile Dealers has developed a range of photo sharing solutions to suit any event, including social photo and video booths, roaming social photographers and its ‘brand cam’ iPad app. The company has invested heavily in the development of a content sharing platform that can – and is – customised to the needs of each individual event. Essentially, Ferry says, if brands have a photography or video challenge, then Smile Dealers will work to find a solution.
That was certainly the case when Mini wanted to create a social video application to help promote its Countryman model. Using stop motion video technology, the team at Smile Dealers turned the car into a video booth and toured the country with it, allowing people to create and share their own personalized Mini videos instantly to Facebook, gathering over 10,000 video views altogether.
“We have worked with Smile Dealers on eight different campaigns now, and they approach every campaign with a new lens, bringing new products and strategy to the table to ensure every experiential campaign is bespoke and delivers to our objectives,” says Simonne Mearns, Mini’s marketing manager.
For those looking to get started, Ferry says he’s always up to throw around some ideas with new clients. “We have some very effective solutions that can work for a small one-off event or a sustained national campaign,” he says. “Anyone who’s not sure what works best can just give us a call.”