Aug 23rd 2019

2019: a year of experiential stunts

Stranger Things and New Coke

This partnership came about because Coca-Cola released its infamous New Coke during 1985 when Stranger Things season three is set. New Coke was widely panned by consumers at the time but is unique to that year and so is a great addition to the show and a great marketing ploy from Coca-Cola. The negative publicity around New Coke is something that Coca-Cola embraced, even referencing the failure in their own blog on the topic. Hats off to the Coke marketing team, it has embraced an historic disappointment for the brand and flipped it to make itself synonymous with 1985.

The widely praised return of Stranger Things was one of the big TV moments of the summer and needed a suitably impressive event to launch the third series in the UK.

Coca-Cola officially partnered with Netflix on the new series and together turned a corner of Shoreditch into the pop-up arcade from the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana circa 1985. Stranger Things fans had the chance to play a variety of classic games from the ’80s including Street Fighter and Pac-Man in a retro, neon-soaked arcade. This gave older fans the chance to step back in time with a shot of nostalgia, whilst younger fans could briefly live the lives of their favourite characters on the show.

The arcade also played host to the secret ‘upside-down’ world which features so heavily in the show. The first 800 eagle-eyed fans who were able to find the upside-down were given a limited-edition Coca Cola x Stranger Things can for their efforts. It is also worth noting that the event took place on the eleventh of July as a nod towards one of the shows main characters (who is called Eleven for the uninitiated).

I didn’t get to attend the Coca-Cola/Stranger Things event but consider it proof of an effective partnership and evidence of the popularity of immersive experiences.

Huawei’s Northern Lights in London

The Chinese powerhouse is often in the news for controversial reasons; however, this spring saw Huawei position itself in a more positive light (as well as shining one on the skies of London).

The telco equipment manufacturer partnered with the immersive artist, Dan Archer, to create an incredible laser art installation above the Tower of London designed to mimic the Northern Lights as a way of promoting the launch of its P30 Pro handset.

As you’d imagine, a company of Huawei’s resources did not pick the Northern Lights at random just because it would make for an eye-catching spectacle. Following extensive research, Huawei discovered that 34% of UK millennials placed viewing the Northern Lights at the top of their ‘experiences’ bucket list.

This is a fantastic idea for a PR stunt, as not only is it an attention-grabbing display, but it was also designed to appeal to one of the main target audiences for Huawei: millennials. This combined with the fact the likes of Made in Chelsea’s Oliver Proudlock were invited to the event shows the efforts the company is willing to go to, to try and lure young people away from their competitors.

A great, well executed stunt which also shows how brands can use experiential marketing to manipulate and improve public perception.

Heathrow Express – #FlowerExpress

The final 2019 PR stunt we are going to consider is of the floral variety. To celebrate the start of the RHS 2019 Chelsea Flower Show, the Heathrow Express created the #FlowerExpress to promote the event and by an extension, London as a cultural hub. The #FlowerExpress included more than 3,000 flowers being installed in a 43-seat, 23m long carriage. This display was created by the florist, Jamie Aston. It featured 1,850 hydrangeas, 220 wisterias and 1,000 stems of fresh sea lavender.

The Heathrow Express’ marketing team were aware of the importance of the service as it is often the first and last thing visitors to the UK experience, presenting a fantastic opportunity to make a lasting impression on its passengers. The #FlowerExpress gave a glimpse of what the Chelsea Flower Show is about to those who may not have had the chance to attend. It is also likely to have encouraged a fair few passengers to consider shelling out for a ticket to the show in the future: a win for both brands.

This trend of experiential marketing seems to show no signs of letting up in 2019. In my opinion, brands are going to increase investment in this area to drive earned media stories and exposure, as they seek to grab the attention of content–overloaded consumers.

At Babel, we offer a wide variety of event support from managing launch stunts as part of integrated campaigns, to organising press conference and media briefings. Our event credentials include the likes of BICS, Cobham Wireless and Epson. If you think we could help you manage a launch event, please get in touch at [email protected]


Dan Parris
Dan Parris PR & DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER