In praise of the roadshow: Why on-ground vehicle activations work post-pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic drastically altered the way we designed memorable, emotional connections between consumers and brands. From 2020 to early 2022, with lockdowns and social distancing measures in place, traditional in-person marketing methods were overhauled. 

Luckily, it’s all changed again and today, post-pandemic, investing in memorable on-ground brand activations has popular again. But now they incorporate the learnings of the Covid era. 

In 2022, Mango reconnected with audiences we hadn’t been able to reach physically in a very long time. To do this meaningfully, we championed interactive and immersive experiences that ultimately brought brands directly to the people. And for us, vehicle led on-ground brand activations were a great way to facilitate this reconnection. Our experience last year showed that they are still one of the best ways to emotionally connect brands and consumers, especially when geographical spread is a key objective.

When designed well, mobile executions work their socks off as the vehicle encompasses many facets – the transportation method, the activation hub, the asset holder, and they work 24 hours a day – not just when the activation is live. An eye-catching design with clean and clear messaging on the vehicle provides a moving billboard.

Mobile trucks provide the opportunity for one set up, off-site and in one place, meaning a streamlined build process in a controlled environment. Then, they allow you to drive onsite and be ready to go within minutes. If multiple executions are needed, it can be a super-efficient way to save on time and resource for packing in and out. 

Vehicle on-ground brand activations can’t rely entirely on the truck component alone. Consideration and design of the environment sits within is just as important. You want to attract people, hold their attention and increase the dwell time every time.

These activations provide the opportunity to venture outside of the main city centres, where brands traditionally focus their activity, and connect with our audience at festivals, gigs, events and in those hotspots outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, especially in summer they allow us to do multiple executions in quick succession and show up where are audience is, when they have time and brain space to interact. This summer, despite all the terrible weather disruptions, Mango has successfully delivered vehicle roadshows around the country for Steinlager, McDonald’s and Speights

When designing and executing on-ground activations in this new environment, here are five significant changes that should influence your strategy:

  • Scenario planning – The time spent at the front end of the project, planning and designing the execution, and then in the risk assessment and scenario planning stages has been heavily upweighted. After Covid, floods and cyclones, to proceed with confidence there needs to be a Plan B, a pivot or at least a staggered approach to spend and confirmations. The reallocation of hours to the upfront planning part of the project also has had an effect on budgets and the split between fee and hard costs. 
  • People optional – Big, brave, bold ideas are still sexy but often requested alongside more intimate experiences with smaller groups of people or that can even work for the brand without direct interaction. Agility to move between an on-ground activation, to an installation or a content-led campaign is a way we have answered this brief to date – giving us flex to either deliver a truly integrated campaign or to give each a different weighing or level of importance (spend) depending on the situation when the execution goes live. 
  • Shortened timeframes – The time between briefing and execution has significantly shortened. Clients are waiting for the most up-to-date read on the market, consumers’ confidence and the weather forecast! This means briefing happens much closer to the live date than ever before. Where we may have had a six month lead time previously, we are finding this is sitting closer to 8-10 weeks are the moment.
  • Space – Open air and larger spaces, without necessarily more people, are understandably being favoured ensuring everyone has a feeling of space around them and ventilation is sufficient, even as Covid numbers wane Guests lists are also being carefully curated to ensure that numbers are limited but the right people are in attendance – fewer plus ones and more personalised invites only. 
  • Extending reach – while most of us are craving the opportunity to engage and reconnect some still can’t or are hesitant to as they would have done pre-Covid. Ensuring that on-ground activations have greater reach through content, WOM, UGC and complementary touchpoints is now mandatory to ensure the activation works as hard as possible to deliver reach and ROI. We talk now about one activity, many touchpoints.

While all of these factors can help lead safe, more socially responsible activations first and foremost, these considerations have influenced more mature activation design and planning which ultimately has meant better integrated and supported campaigns by the entirety of the marketing mix. 

While factors outside our control dented the experiential climate, it’s safe to say that brand activations that touch consumers are back with renewed energy and engagement.

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