Monday, November 19, 2012

WalkaboutNYC: Campfire - Immersive Marketing Experiences

Welcome to Part Three of my personal WalkaboutNYC 2012 Startup Tour! To read more about why exactly startups in the city opened their doors on this day, check out my first post in this series: Walkabout NYC 2012 Recap: Startup-Hopping In the City.

I started out the day at OpenPlans (WalkaboutNYC: OpenPlans - Trip Planning At Its Best), and from there it was only a hop, skip, and a jump to the next stop on my list - Campfire.


First impressions are important, and after sliding yourself into the old-fashioned elevator, you can't help but wonder what this place has in store for you. But the well-appointed office with an open floor plan, an interesting wall full of clocks (just don't try and use them to tell time) and a well-stocked kitchen offering tantalizing snacks and drinks soon set me at ease.

I found this startup particularly intriguing because they do something that I'd never heard about before. When it comes to getting consumers engaged in the stories they tell on behalf of brands, they don't just take a snazzy photo or put together a humorous video. They actually craft real-world, physical experiences, and let fans of the brands play with them (although, of course, digital still forms an important piece of the puzzle)!

Take, for example, the construction of a multi-sensory marketing campaign to support the launch of HBO's Game of Thrones series. Campfire created a site that let users "listen in" on conversations in a virtual tavern, built "smell-kits" that were sent to influencer fans who shared their experiences with the gifts through various types of media, and even had food trucks cook up themed menus. The end product was a campaign that fostered memorable and enjoyable user interactions with the brand, and helped ensure the widespread appeal and success of the show.

Another interesting project discussed during the presentation was the Harley-Davidson Ridebook. In order to gain new customers, while still maintaining the cherished brand image of "this is my dad's ride," Campfire created the Ridebook, a digital environment that showcased modern-day culture, music, clothing, sports, and more, all touching in some way or another on the Harley-Davidson brand. Even the most well-known and well-loved brands sometimes find themselves in need of reinvigoration, and Campfire managed to do so for Harley in a way that seamlessly captured the company's values and voice.

According to Campfire, showcasing and delivering products in a meaningful way is all about trust. People trust the stories of people they know. So Campfire works hard to put interesting stories into the hands of those who can share them the most effectively, empowering them to take ownership over important parts of the experience, and turning them into "cool people" who form the nuclei of new and vibrant user communities. It all just goes to show that the creators of the Blair Witch Project still have plenty of new ideas up their sleeves!

There are a lot of interesting take-aways from this presentation for content providers to keep in mind. Inventing "engaging long-form experiences" is more important in the long run than stringing together a bunch of unrelated pieces of content, no matter how excellent those pieces might be. If you can create a really good story for your clients, and then find multiple ways to share it and collect user feedback in an ever-expanding loop, you'll build something that's worth coming back for again and again. What more could a brand want?

To learn more about Campfire, follow them on Twitter: @CampfireNYC

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