Leveraging Experiential Marketing Internally & Externally

2019 CMO Club Spring Summit Breakout Recap
Doug Bentz
Cindy Donohoe

Led by: Doug Bentz, VP Marketing & Digital, San Jose Sharks and Cindy Donohoe, EVP, CMO, Highmark Health

San Jose Sharks

External Activations:

Overall Takeaways – don’t get too narrow with just revenue goals because it limits creativity. The San Jose Sharks, they have two strategies:

  1. Reward your passionate fans by tapping into the emotional aspect of fandom via visual impact so that non-fans will notice and come into the fold.
  2. Drive ticket sales.

Off-Season Ice Cream Truck – Not Successful– because it was logistically too difficult, felt disconnected from the brand and without a story…and the truck caught fire!

“See the Puck” – Successful– they hid pucks all over the Bay Area for a kind of scavenger hunt to win free tickets to a game.

  • The barrier to entry is high ticket sales, so the goal of this activation was to get people to one game. Once you get them to one game, they tend to come to more.
  • Pucks were geo-fenced, which was leveraged for social media and push notifications.
  • It was only a one-day event, but it was fun, on brand, covered a lot of geographies and got a lot of press, and provided content for story-telling.
  • The result is less than 1% opt-out, with a huge spike in social media scores.

“Sharks for Life” – Successful– this was a new brand campaign that centered around Teal Houses (teal is the primary team color).

  • Fans would apply to have their house painted teal, over 1200 applied! They could also DIY if they were not selected.
  • Metrics were not as good as “See the Puck,” but it did help identify the biggest advocates for the brand in order to build deeper relationships. This was just as important.
  • This activation also provided a substantial visual story vs. other teams in the Bay Area, enabling them to breakthrough since the Sharks are the “4th sport” (behind football, baseball, and basketball).

Internal Activations:

“The Office Recognition” – Successful– they shot their own unique episode of “The Office” showcasing employees living their principles.

  • Results: 1500+ views (for a 200 person office!) and 50%+ participation.

Highmark Health

“Copied The CMO Club” – Successful– Highmark Health hired GoWest to build and film a similar set as The CMO Club Nashville Summit to roll out their new Mission, Vision & Values utilizing informal discussions on the couches with the executives with employees in the audience, as well as some entertainment.

  • They needed to signal a real cultural shift / a movement in a unique and authentic way.
  • Results: survey results showed 100% left confident and excited and proud about the brand, 89% said it was a wonderful event.
  • They ended up leaving the set up for other company meeting uses, and they continue to see more engagement overall in company meetings vs. previously.

External Activations:

Overall Takeaways – Highmark Health had an obvious metric – to close the gap in brand perception with the most popular hospital in Pittsburgh, Allegheny General Hospital. Through the below efforts, they were able to close the gap by 30%! However, they also had a “softer” goal to get people to think of their brand in new, and exciting ways. (Also good to create social currency in the process.)

Created Sub-brand, AHN Women – Successful– profiled different women, and they then made those profiles into a modular work of art that grew over 365 days.

  • This art installation ended up being recognized as Best of the Gallery Crawl at an annual gallery crawl the competitor sponsors, ironically allowing for competitive marketing as well.
  • The key was to make the art installation modular so that they can put it anywhere now, enabling them to achieve a lot for a small spend.

“The Green Sofa” – Successful– they introduced a green sofa (green is their primary brand color) into their commercials, on which they would showcase two women on that couch talking about quality of life (part of the Highmark Health overall “Living Health” campaign).

  • The sofa has become iconic, and also goes on-tour.
  • This program derived from a brand tenant that Highmark Health believes caring for women means listening to them.
  • Since Highmark Health had already built up credibility through the prior campaign, the women were comfortable sharing their stories because they trusted Highmark Health to be true to their story. (Can be more difficult with Behavioral Health, which is still perceived as taboo to discuss on a larger stage.)

Greeting Cards – Successful– Highmark Health created greeting cards by women for women which we distributed in multiple retail outlets (ex’s: Happy Shake Your New Hip Day, and Buns Out of the Oven Day).

“Larger Than Life” Events – Successful– built modular and portable (again, significant for efficiencies) installations to raise likeability (ex: World’s Largest Operation Game, World’s Largest Plaster Arm Cast, etc.)

  • Cost Per Interaction was only approx. $0.06 – when you move things around you can achieve a lot for a small spend.

General Q&A

How do you achieve trust when trying to sell in experiential marketing?

  • Most of the uphill battle is on the financial side – they need to see very specifically how you measure these activations.
  • Have clear objectives with a business result and be very upfront with risks and what is planned to mitigate those risks.
  • Then, prove out the results!
  • Most activations need collaboration across functions both before and during the projects, which helps credibility as well.

How do you measure ROI / KPIs?

  • You don’t really measure ROI on these projects but, rather, brand metrics, impressions (media &/or in-person).
  • Admittedly, some are hard to measure, so be conservative, but also value the unexpected, and hopefully high just pure impressions you may get (ex: with things like the greeting cards, and another Highmark Health activation that involved putting branded medical exam chairs all over town).

% of Budget?

  • Anywhere from 2-10% of budget.
  • Try to find partners to cover the costs of the activation.