Where Experiential and Direct Marketing Meet

Where Experiential and Direct Marketing Meet
Where Experiential and Direct Marketing Meet

Experiential marketing is all about giving customers a taste of a brand through in-person experiences. Pepsico recently took that literally with PepCity, a three-day celebratory event in Bryant Park in New York leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII that centered on tastings of its food and beverage brands as reinvented by three well-known local chefs. I had a chance to visit the installation and speak with Kristina McCoobery, managing partner at inVNT, the company that produced PepCity for Pepsico. McCoobry explained that everything in the space was designed to be a reflection of the brand, especially the 200 staffers there to serve and interact with guests. “During training we emphasized, ‘You are Pepsico,'” she said.

About 4,000 people visited PepCity each day to taste food and beverages created from Pespico brands by local chefs David Burke , Marc Forgione, and Michael Psilakis. Also on site were several art installations, including a re-creation of the famous Pepsi sign in New York's Long Island City visible to drivers traveling along the FDR in Manhattan. The event included entertainment, as well. There were three concerts—Austin Mahone, Prince Royce, and Ziggy Marley—a rap battle between rappers Yonas and Dylan Owen with New York sports as the theme, and Broadway performers from such shows as Chicago, Mama Mia!, and Rocky.

Because experiential marketing aims to make direct connections with customers and prospects, and direct marketing is about making relevant connections with customers to drive specific actions, I asked McCoobry for her thoughts on where the two met for Pepsico.

What is PepCity and what's behind it?

Pepsico decided that because Super Bowl was in its backyard this year it would give a gift back to the residents of New Jersey and New York with PepCity, a 10,000-square-foot brand activation event space. It's free and open to the public and includes food, entertainment, and art installations, and at the center of it all is Pepsico's products—from Pepsi and Mountain Dew to Fritos and Cheetos. Pepisco has taken its products and brought on celebrity chef such as David Burke and created unbelievable food and beverages using its products. Entertainment includes Broadway performers, a rap battle, the Tony-award winning spoken poet Lemon Anderson, and much more.

Every night there's a free concert. The first night was Austin Mahone; we had about 750 screaming teenage girls in the space. Prince Royce and Ziggy Marley also performed.

How do you take the experience and make a “direct” connection:

One of the strategic goals of Pepsico in creating this, in addition to sharing its world with the public, is to grow the personal relationship it has with its customers. Coming to this space where you can touch and feel and taste and see its products come to life, it's a personal connection between the brands and consumers that, in my opinion, is unmatched. There are social media components, of course.

It's a visceral response that people have as they come in and have an experiential time with these brands. And then when they leave, every time they log on to Facebook or Twitter they'll have that visual and personal memory of having that time here, and that experience. I think it's invaluable for the brand.

How's the social buzz?

The tweeting has been out of control. And it changes with the audience that's here. We've had such a wide breadth of people here, from the young girls coming to see Austin Mahone and sampling Flavor Splash, to the guests coming to see Ziggy Marley, to the general public coming during the day to see the Broadway performers and taste the food.

We've taken the tweets and projected them into the space; we're interacting on Facebook—mostly with older consumer because the teens are interacting with us more on Instagram. It's been great.

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