A marketing experience like no other

Last month millions of us took part in one of the biggest live marketing campaigns ever seen in the UK – and most of us didn’t even know we had.


What we were looking at weren’t selling us anything, they weren’t driving us to a website or generating leads – they were simply engaging with us on a very personal level.

Brave “ghost soldiers”, dressed in First World War infantry uniform, congregated in hundreds of public spaces across the UK to watch 100 years on after they were all killed in Britain’s deadliest day on the battlefield of the Somme.

They had a simple message – #wearehere


But this wasn’t just street theatre dreamt up by the genius of Jeremy Deller and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, it was experiential marketing at its very best. It evoked memories, it was thought-provoking, it made people who saw this magnificent spectacle want to engage.

Why? Experiential marketing – or live, on-ground, participant marketing, whatever you want to call it – is nothing new, it’s been around for decades. Brands have been using all sorts of ways to engage with the consumer for years with varying degrees of success.

The #wearehere campaign wasn’t about success though, they weren’t selling anything. They simply wanted to let people know. And it worked on a level no-one could have imagined.

Social success

More than 143 million hits on social media, massive engagement in national theatre projects and awareness of what the Somme did to the national psyche was all the success it needed. It was the largest, most silent and most engaging flash-mob in history and it was a stroke of pure genius. It was also the simplest way of telling a nation they should never forget. It worked.

Here are some Happy tips as to why experiential marketing works:

Make them think

#wearehere worked because every one of those Tommies died on the first day of the Somme and it remains the biggest single loss of life on any day in British history. Every one of those 19,240 men carried a card with the name of the Tommie who fell which they handed to members of the public. You couldn’t help but be captivated by the sheer enormity of the numbers.


Emotional marketing

Big brands work on emotion. From Pampers donating from each pack of nappies to John Lewis’s big budget Christmas advertising, emotiveness sells. #wearehere didn’t have anything to sell but a message and it was delivered in such a way it brought a nation together like it did a century ago.


Speaking of the moon, no-one will forget where they were when they watched Felix Baumgartner plummet to earth in a stunt pulled off by Red Bull. The company, a master in emotional marketing, was behind this audacious Stratos Jump which had people on the edge of their seat while the extreme jumper fell to earth.


It surprises

Some live marketing shocks people, some makes people interact with brands and some evoke memories but they all have a common theme – they surprise. Social media went crazy for the ghost soldiers and all because in an age where nothing seems to surprise because of how we consume information, this just happened and it happened everywhere. From Blackpool Promenade to London Transport links #wearehere made people look twice.

wearehere blackpool

From real-life events such as the Somme to big-budget fantasy blockbusters, emotional marketing can cross over to PR opportunities as Blinkbox discovered when it dumped a dragon on a Dorset beauty spot to coincide with the release of Game of Thrones. People interacted, press got involved and a result all round for the TV streaming service.

GoT dragon

It engages people

The sign of any successful marketing campaign is how people react to it. Although there was no physical engagement in #wearehere there was emotional, much in the same way as 14-18 NOW’s Light’s Out campaign in 2014 which urged people to switch off their lights to commemorate the start of World War One and making people feel how the UK felt a century ago. Engaging isn’t just about trying out new products, it’s about trying new experiences.


#wearehere brought experiential marketing to another level and worked in the way no-one could have imagined, raising the bar for marketing campaigns in the future.

As we stared in amazement at the ghost soldiers of the Somme it also reminded us that you don’t need to shout to get your message heard and perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all.

Nick Hyde is PR & Content Manager at Happy Creative, a full service marketing and creative agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to www.happy-creative.co.uk

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