Robbie’s Home on Howe – Experiential Marketing and Social Media

Experiential marketing enables customers to engage and interact with brands, products and services, allowing for personal experiences that aid purchasing decisions. Max Lenderman, Director of OuterActive at agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, mentioned in his best-selling book “Brand New World” that experiential marketing is often used in India, a country in which few families own TVs, and that it is poised to become more prominent on a global basis over the coming years. I agree.

Recently, at an event hosted by the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association, furniture retailer Urban Barn, in conjunction with ad agency and design firm Spring Advertising, PR firm Elevator Communications, and retail consultancy DIG360 presented details of an innovative experiential marketing and social media initiative.

Faced with the prospect of a significant drop in sales at their Howe St location during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, due to street closures and excessive Olympic crowds, they transformed their retail store into an interactive experience. The store became a fully functioning home, inhabited 24/7, by Robbie, the store manager. People had an opportunity to walk through and experience “Robbie’s Home on Howe”, while also enjoying Olympic events on several TVs that were set up.

To support the initiative, a microsite was created, and advertising was placed on the store front as well as inside. Awareness was in part generated via social media, notably via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. At the end of each day, Robbie recorded a video diary.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w42iKtNXwE]

The initiative was also promoted at Urban Barn’s 38 stores across Canada.

Urban Barn did not set a specific sales objective to measure ROI. I believe doing so would have been quite difficult, particularly given the unique nature and circumstance. However, qualitatively speaking, it does seem that “Robbie’s Home on Howe” was an effective brand building exercise. Urban Barn tracked over 2000 people going through on a daily basis, and even had to hire a bouncer to control crowds. The store became a destination.

“We set out to attach Urban Barn’s name to something memorable and unexpected and without a doubt this was achieved,” states Brianna Doolittle, Senior Marketing Coordinator at Urban Barn. “Over the course of 17 days we were able to touch thousands of people with an experience that will stick with them, and we feel confident that next time they need some furniture or accessories for their home they will think of Urban Barn.”

Urban Barn’s effort also received significant PR coverage, both locally and nationally through mainstream press, as well as through social media.

I believe we are truly at new frontier in marketing and advertising, and it is great to see companies like Urban Barn that are willing to take a risk and experiment. Urban Barn has remained active with the connections created with customers through social media, and they are currently working with their partner agencies on follow-up strategies.

I look forward to seeing what they do next!