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How smart brands turned Sydney Vivid into a golden opportunity

  • - By Henry R

Branded experiences and creative thinking meant that 2018’s Sydney Vivid Festival was a special one for companies as well as the public.

The 10th anniversary of Vivid Festival bathed Sydney in light and colour for three weeks. Whilst visitors relished in the bright urban scenography (or lamented at the crowd sizes), brands sought to make the most of the foot traffic and make their presence felt. By participating and aligning their brand with the splendour, companies sought to offer value by deepening the Vivid experience.

As the face of how people interact with and perceive advertising changes, brands need to change too, becoming more creative and more present. This means going further for consumers and being smarter when it comes to taking advantage of resources and opportunities. This year’s Vivid festival came with several examples of brands doing just that.

Heavy Hitters – American Express

Amex was the festival’s biggest participants. As one of Vivid’s major partners, the brand did a great job at being present and adding to the Vivid experience. Their website offered visitors tips, info and a means to organise their festival activities, whilst sharing limited time offers via smaller partnering brands like David Jones and Dimmi.

The centrepiece of the brand’s participation was the American Express Lounge, a branded experience overlooking the harbour at the beginning of the Vivid Light Walk. Cardholders were entertained by a DJ and treated to complimentary food amid amazing views of the Bridge and Opera House. Non-cardholders could also visit, though only from 8pm after filling out a short form online. This element of exclusivity was a subtle way of encouraging conversion to the Amex lifestyle, by giving people a glimpse at the perks that cardholders have access to.

Simple yet Effective – Sydney Ferries

Sydney Ferries were not the only mode of transport to receive a bright facelift as part of the Vivid festivities. Uber got involved in a subtle, yet playful way. On opening night, drivers were given individual lights to make their cars unique whilst adding to the festival flavour. These lights were visible on the app throughout the inner-city. So, Sydney-siders were embraced by the Vivid experience, even on their smartphone screens as they tracked their ride.

Locals Shine – Sparkle Cupcakery & Taronga Zoo

It wasn’t only multinational companies that got involved, demonstrating that you don’t need to be big to play along. Sparkle Cupcakery, an independent cupcake shop in Sydney’s Surry Hills, executed a lovely example of guerrilla marketing at the Botanical Gardens that proved a real hit. Their “Cupcake ATM” – a vending machine with a whimsical pink and white exterior and a choice between either choc banana or red velvet – was a massive success, receiving plenty of press coverage and social media impressions.

Taronga Zoo has participated at Vivid in the past. But this year, they injected new brilliance into their participation by teaming up with Amex. This effective piggyback ride allowed them to double down on their usual showmanship, with impressively intricate, illuminated animal sculptures around the park. The novelty of a nighttime visit to the zoo was accentuated with fantastic installations of luminous creatures from the indigenous to the ferocious. A family favourite, the show was captivating for visitors, highly relevant to the brand and drew a lot of positive attention as one of the festival highlights.

What to Takeaway

So, what can we learn from these brands winning out at Vivid? Just look at the fact that the festival could be capitalised on by brands as disparate (both in offering and scope) as a credit card company, a cupcake bakery, a ridesharing company and a zoo. And this was achieved not simply by throwing cash at the event as sponsors, but from being active and creating a branded experience. This goes to show that with the right approach, any event can be made relevant to your brand so that you can become relevant to a wider audience.

Branded experiences like cupcake ATMs and lounges allow companies to free their themselves from the confines of advertising via billboards or screens or printed pages. The result is positive brand association thanks to offering consumers value beyond any given product or service. A well-executed branded experience provides opportunities for user-generated content on social media. It provides the opportunity for you to do something your competitors don’t, to be something your competitors aren’t –  by coming to the party and thinking outside of the box. If today branded experiences are as simple as a bar with a view, imagine what they’ll look like tomorrow. As brand’s get more creative and the market becomes more competitive, the future of branded experiences looks as bright as the lights of Vivid.

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