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What Is The Cost Of Doing The Bare Minimum?

By James Weber on Sep 15, 2023 4:11:59 PM

8 min read

On the surface the answer seems obvious, you get out what you put in, so a minimal investment will not yield a maximal return. Despite this, it’s all too common for us to only tentatively step towards an option that might help us, despite knowing the potential benefits.

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a common phrase that sums up this problem nicely. Change can be scary, it requires taking a step into the unknown, otherwise known as a leap of faith, and faith requires trust, and trust is not easily given.

I have written many articles expounding on the numerous benefits of promotional vehicle driven experiential marketing campaigns, articles that I know to be accurate. Yet it is sometimes still difficult for clients to really see the bigger picture, so this time, I’m taking a different tack.

Along with helping you understand what you could be gaining from going all in on a promotional vehicle campaign, I’m going to help you understand what you lose if you don’t.



The Bare Minimum Approach

800x589_Piaggio Ape_Joy BolLet’s say you hire a branded Piaggio Ape for your first campaign. It only costs you about £4,000 and you think oh yeah, I’m getting a good deal. Your goal is to hand out free ice cream samples to passers-by, and grab some customer details for your newsletter. Given it’s a particular hot Summer this year, you figure you can’t really go wrong.

However, you quickly realise you have a problem. Although you’ve hired a pretty good space at a bustling location, you don’t seem to be getting the engagement you were banking on. It seems like only those people closest to you even notice your display exists.

So what do you think went wrong? Was it a poor choice of vehicle? Poorly thought out campaign? Poor execution?

No. The problem as you might have guessed, is that the brand only invested in the bare minimum required to hire out and equip a vehicle for the day, instead of committing to a slightly more expensive display that would maximise their ability to generate impact.

So how can I prove that? Let’s dig into the vehicle choice first of all. The Piaggio Ape is a fine choice to serve frozen treats from, but it’s a smaller vehicle, only about the height of an average man, which can make it harder to see in a crowd.

This means that whilst the people closest to you might notice your vehicle, anyone behind that first layer will struggle, especially in a densely packed area. So whilst you may well have a venue full of thousands of people, only a very small percentage might actually notice you.

How do you fix this problem then? Well, you have several options that can enable you to get it right from the outset. You can try and find a better space in a slightly elevated location, you can hire a larger vehicle, or you can modify your existing choice to maximise its disruptive arsenal.

The first option is my least favourite, because it’s the least practical – many times your space options are limited to just a few spots and they may all give you the same or similar levels of visibility.

Scaling up to a larger vehicle can be a good option, but make sure you don’t accidentally change the vibe or look you were going for in the first place.

Number 3 is by far my favourite option. Kitting out your vehicle with all the bells and whistles is a sure-fire method of standing out. You don’t need to worry about your exact location anymore, because all of the sudden, you are the location.

To passers-by your eccentric vehicle has become a cool looking attraction, a curiosity to investigate, a place to grab a selfie, catch a vibe and enjoy tasty free samples.

Suddenly your customers go from "Oh look they are giving out samples, that’s nice", to "Oh my God I cannot miss that! Look how cool that is! Who are they? What are they doing?"

Modifying your vehicle for maximum impact can look a lot of different ways, so let your creativity soar and imagination take flight, just don’t get stuck in a box – remember the whole point is to break out of the norms we are used to and disrupt people around us.

To give you a better idea though, let’s flip this example on its head.


The Maximum Impact Approach

Andrew Donnell_2021-11-04_211746In this scenario the brand is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the Piaggio Ape, but they really like the vehicle and think it would complement the brands Italian roots.

So they don’t give up on it, but they do acknowledge that they could do a little more than just brand the vehicle and hope for the best.

The first thing they do is come up with a plan to boost the Piaggio’s visibility. One of the easiest ways to do that is to simply add a branded roof sign. Suddenly your vehicle is 8ft tall instead of 6, meaning many times more people are able to see it.

They also give more thought to the design of the branded wrap their Piaggio is encased in. This time they go for a bold and contrasted colour scheme designed to jolt customers out of their normal routines and maximise disruption.

But the team don’t stop there, they invest in branded tables chairs and umbrellas, with branded temporary fencing to encircle it. The display becomes a trendy looking free café for people to come and hang out at, encouraging more involved dialogue with brand ambassadors, and enabling their ability to have productive conversations with potential customers and thus build stronger relationships between brand and consumer.

They also opt to create a very Instagrammable photobooth with a custom hashtag to empower brand evangelists and other excited customers to spread the news of the campaign on social media.

The theme of the day was also changed to encourage signups to the brands newsletter. Guessing the flavour of the ice cream became the name of the game, with taste testers submitting their contact details on a landing page accessible via a QR code embedded in the branding of the display.

Those who signed up were given a chance to win a prize if they guessed the correct flavour. Anyone who signed up would also have access to further information about the product, such as where to buy it, new flavour releases, future events and discounts. 

This tasty contest really helped to get customers engaged with the product as they actively tried to guess the flavour, and many of them signed away their details in order to find out if they had guessed correctly or just out of plain curiosity. Even those who did not sign up were unlikely to forget their fun experience engaging with the brand.

Ultimately, the team recorded a far higher number of sampled customers and signups than they initially expected thanks to an eye-catching display and tasty incentives, proving the ROI of a promotional vehicle based experiential marketing campaign.

With great numbers to draw from, they began to plan a more ambitious campaign for next quarter.


So What Is The Difference In Cost?

UntitledThe amount you lose by going with the bare minimum will vary campaign to campaign, but in the hypothetical scenario we gave above, it will be a lot.

Imagine a busy city square with 1000 people passing through per hour. If we break these people into 10 rough layers, then in the bare minimum example only the first layer, or about 100 people per hour can see the display due to the vehicles lower height and minimalist branding. This means that the other 900 people don’t even know you exist.

Of those 100, you now have the hurdle of getting them to actually care.

According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) an estimated 16-20% of attendees will have some level of interest in a booth at an event. This does not represent the number of people who will actually interact with you as it is too difficult to generalise such data.

Even that 16-20% is not necessarily an accurate figure for any event or display as there are many factors that come into it, and the range can be as high as 40% in the right circumstances, but we can use this study as a baseline for our hypothetical example.

This means in the bare minimum example, where not much effort has been put into making the display inviting, maybe 16 people per hour might show some interest in the display, and maybe some of those people might stop to sample the product.

In the maximum impact example, the team went to great lengths to not only optimise visibility, but to also create an intriguing display and an inviting atmosphere.

They ensured their display was visible to everyone in the square, meaning the full 1000 people per hour are exposed to the brand, or 10x as many as in the bare minimum approach. Of this larger pool of potential customers 20% or more will show some level of interest in the product, or about 200 people per hour.

Given the inviting display, seating and intriguing contest, it’s not hard to imagine that a much higher percentage of those 200 are willing to come over and engage with the brand.

Over the course of a 10 hour day, the ‘all in’ team has a chance of impacting 2000 people in a positive way, sampling probably 50% of that number and gaining hundreds of signups for their newsletter. This is more than 10x as many as the bare minimum team who impacted a maximum of 160 people all day.

How many people you sample in a day will obviously vary depending on the scale of your campaign ambitions, location and many other factors, but 1000 people is certainly achievable.

Recent client Aveeno reported the sampling over 1000 per day as part of an extended campaign with Tesco, whilst retail client Hush reported gaining literally hundreds of signups for their newsletter, which also involved a competition.

So how much more did you think our maximum impact team had to spend, to get those results? Well, probably only a couple of grand more. Even if they spent twice as much at £8,000, they impacted 10 times as many customers, so the investment was more than worth it.

Price is certainly important, but if you really want to get the most for your money think value, not cost. The true cost of not maximising your ability to connect with customers is the difference between a dull day out and a rammed activation. The difference between a roaring success and abject failure.


How do I Maximise My Results?

If you’re considering an activation but aren’t sure how to proceed, make your goals known to us when you enquire.

We’ve been helping clients and customers connect for over a decade, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s how to make an impact!

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James Weber

Written by James Weber

Content Manager