It's taken years for Stuart Elliot at the New York Times to begin seriously covering the rise of experiential marketing, as he has finally delivered…sort of. Sure, it's taken a cool out-of-home campaign from Kraft in Chicago to get his attention, but at least he's calling it "experiential" in his article.

The gist of the experience is quite simple (as all insight-driven experiences should be): 10 bus shelters in the Windy City will be heated, courtesy of Stove Top Stuffing. The campaign succeeds in equating the warmth of the shelter in the middle of Chicago winter to the warmth that Stovetop Stuffing gives those who eat it. Simple, right?


According to the writer:

Such “experiential marketing” is intended to entice consumers to experience products or brands tangibly rather than bombard them with pitches.

It is a response to the growing ability of consumers to ignore or avoid traditional advertising, thanks to technology like digital video recorders. Experiential marketing is also an acknowledgment that products and brands must offer alternatives to the interruptive model of peddling that has been the mainstay of advertising for more than a half-century, which disrupts what consumers want to watch, read or hear.

(I love how experiential marketing is still in quotes!!! It's as if experiential marketing still doesn't exist in the mind of the NYT writer who covers Madison Avenue.)

He goes on to explain the promotion:

The 10 heated shelters, primarily in downtown Chicago locations like Michigan Avenue and State Street, will have posters that read: “Cold, provided by winter. Warmth, provided by Stove Top.” The posters will also appear on 40 other bus shelters that will not have heated roofs.

During the first three weeks of December, Kraft plans to give samples of a new variety of Stove Top, called Quick Cups, to commuters and passers-by at half of the heated shelters….

…JCDecaux North America, a unit of the global outdoor-advertising specialist JCDecaux, says these will be its first bus shelter heaters in the United States. The company has installed them in other countries for other advertisers’ campaigns. Those sponsored by British Gas included simulated fireplaces.

Tellingly, the article reminds readers and the ad community that:

The biggest risk with experiential marketing is that consumers will deem it an annoying gimmick, which could harm attempts to improve perceptions of brands or products.


There is a precedent. In December 2006, the California Milk Processor Board worked with the CBS Outdoor division of CBS to introduce scent strips on bus shelters in San Francisco. The strips, which smelled like chocolate chip cookies, were an effort to bring to life the experience of desiring a glass of milk for dunking cookies.

The campaign was abruptly ended after an outcry that the scent was inappropriate in public places and could set off allergic reactions.

(Only in San Francisco! Those cats will protest anything, including the smell of cookies.)

Thanks, Elliot! I dig the story. And more importantly, as a Chicagoan, thanks Kraft!!!! I'll warm up with the shelter on Michigan Ave. Hope it won't be too crowded.

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