Nothing attracts marketers and ad agencies quite so predictably as the prospect of seeming hip. And so in recent years, events that used to be barely noticed havens for independent music, film and even comic books suddenly become the place to be for any brand and any agency executive that wants to be seen among the cool kids.
Sundance, SXSW and Comic-Con -- among many other smaller events that I simply am too unhip myself even to know -- have mushroomed of late into raucous, mob-filled super events that are flooded with sponsors and Mad Men. I am not sure if secret handshakes are involved, but I do know that if you have to ask what an event like Coachella is then give it up -- you’re not in the club.
Brands now use these events to showcase technologies they may not even deploy in any wide release, but still draw attention to their supposed sense of cool. Heineken this year is hosting a Dome complete with DJs and wirelessly connected beer bottles that will become part of the light show. Attendees will be able to use iPads to create light paintings that will be projected onto the dome. The entire venue will be a WiFi hotspot, of course. And campers at Coachella even will be able to keep their beers at Heineken’s cold storage facility and have their stash fingerprint identified.
At the recent Milan Design Week, Heineken went even further and introduced a prototype Heineken Ignite project. In this case the Heineken beer bottles themselves are connected and become the media instead of the mobile phone. Heineken is positioning this as an alternative to having people staring at their phones in order to interact with the brand. And instead, the idea is to have them interact with their beer bottles. The bottle literally lights up when people yell cheers. It glitters when people drink it. And when the DJ brings up the music, the lights within the bottle start reflecting the rhythm of the beat.
God, I wish I were a cool kid.
But I'm not, so I'm stuck just analyzing the trend. One of the things that strikes me about some of the event-based marketing is not only that it is moving beyond the app, but even using the mobile medium and the new cliché of noses down in a smartphone as a foil. It may seem silly to depict a new media habit that is barely 4 years old as oh so yesterday. But it does speak to the broader creative possibilities of connectivity beyond the personal device.
The wireless environment allows for a remarkable new range of connectivity interactivity with this world of things that does, in fact, make the heads down into the smartphone seem transitional.