Brands today are investing tens of thousands of dollars on over-the-top activations to grab the attention of key social media players with the expectation that they will promote their products to their scores of followers. Journalists can also be among the recipients, as marketers seek earned media mentions.
It’s a trend accelerated by the pandemic, which has sidelined major in-person events, leading to marketers investing more in pricier promotional mailings to catch attention.
For example, Spotify delivered videogaming chairs with Bose headphones to handpicked VIPs; to promote the “Soul Train Awards,” BET sent out LPs, record players and vintage issues of Jet and Ebony magazines to select individuals; and Remy Martin worked with chefs in multiple markets to bring cocktails and gourmet bites to the homes of powerful influencers.
Coltrane Curtis, founder and managing partner at the Brooklyn agency Team Epiphany—a leader in experiential marketing with a history of creating memorable campaigns, including those mentioned above—remembers when promotional pieces sent to VIPs, celebrities and journalists were little more than tricked-out party invitations.
“It’s taken on a mind of its own,” said Curtis, whose shop has been cranking out an average of two such campaigns per week, as marketers during lockdown have sought to get their brands out there. Some promotional pieces can run hundreds of dollars or even as much as $1,000 apiece. “Budgets have ballooned,” as Curtis put it.