Feel good factor

Airport advertising is attractive to brands. Richard Piper finds out how a new marketing technique is being used to “immerse” passengers in products by giving them an active and enjoyable experience at the terminal

retail-unitEach airport terminal has its own personality and many attract an upmarket audience who are amongst the hardest groups for brands to engage with, particularly men who ironically are often the opinion-formers that can significantly affect the resonance of a marketing campaign.

Airports also provide a powerful communication opportunity. The internet though is changing peoples’ decision making processes. It is rare for customers to arrive at a store, whether physical or online, with only a vague idea of what they want. Increasingly, they have done their research and formed a strong opinion about what they intend to buy. When they arrive at the point of purchase, even complicated products and services can become commoditised. This leaves price, convenience and availability as the only remaining discriminators.

As a consequence, brands are seeking innovative ways to memorably engage with customers long before they are ready to buy. They know that if someone physically interacts with their product or service, they are much more likely to make a purchase.

Experiential marketing has evolved from what was little more than brand signage and sampling in busy areas into a full brand immersion experience where customers dwell and enjoy interacting with knowledgeable brand ambassadors. Social media and smartphones are opening up endless opportunities for deeper interaction. This means customers are increasingly creating content and interaction on their own terms.

Experiential stands in airport departure lounges provide valued entertainment and information for an audience that must wait in the lounges for their flight gates to be called. These campaigns enhance the experience for passengers and can also drive significant non-aviation revenue for airports.

For example, Zurich Insurance set up a HelpPoint as a concierge service where passengers could use the internet, charge their phones, print and scan documents and ask for assistance – all for free. This experiential campaign ended up running for three years.

Brandspace, a company which handles experiential sales for many UK airports, commissioned Dipsticks Research to survey a sample of 124 passengers who had interacted with the HelpPoint. The results found that:

• The average interaction time was 14 minutes

• 69 per cent agreed “It makes me feel Zurich offers better customer service than other insurance providers”

• 62 per cent agreed “It makes me want to find out more about Zurich”

• 70 per cent of UK respondents said they would personally recommend Zurich after visiting the stand

It’s not just about planting seeds for the future. Impulse purchase revenue can be significant. Monster promoted their Beats By Dr Dre headphones in a three-week partnership with Dixons Travel airport outlets. A ‘Listening Booth’ set up in one terminal let passengers try the premium headphone range while listening to their own music.

All Dixons stores had a healthy sales uplift year on year. The sales uplift in the airport with the listening booth significantly outperformed the other stores

Michelle de Young, Managing Director, Brandspace, commented: “Big brands are increasingly willing to invest in airport experiential in response to changing consumer habits. Great insights into the unique consumer dynamics at the airport are the key to success.”

It’s not always about business travellers. Red Stag, Jim Beam’s new cherry flavoured bourbon, wanted to reach 18-24 year-old men heading on holiday from Gatwick. The activity included sampling and an augmented reality ‘Party Terminal’. Participants danced on a giant screen with two virtual Red Stag party girls. They also received three photos ready for Facebook, enabling them to share their experience with friends,. Red Stag’s activity is an example of SoLoMo. (Social Local Mobile) Relying on mobile connectivity, consumers will engage with brands via social media in relation to a specific personal location. It also encompasses social media amplification – expect to see a lot more of these in 2013.

The promotion was so successful that World Duty Free ran out of stock after just a couple of days and had to arrange an emergency delivery to cope with demand.

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