My brain is quite literally aching from another day crammed with ideas, insights and examples delivered by some of the world’s best and brightest at SxSW. Today’s topics included purpose driven brands, strategies for telling lies more effectively, high fidelity prototyping, premium water, fearless leadership and reinventing Elmo for a new generation.
What’s been really cool today, however, has been the smattering of in depth case studies presented by brands and their agency partners at a number of sessions. And of all the case studies, the highlight for me was easily ‘A/R Jordan: Activating the Power of Community’ presented by Dan Harbison of brand Jordan and (Aussie expat) Ben Williams of R/GA Portland.
The quick pitch on the session was a look at how the brand celebrated 30 years since Michael Jordan’s legendary "free throw line dunk" with an exclusive, first-of-its-kind Snapchat AR and e-commerce experience.
Buzzwords aside, what the guys managed to pull off was nothing short of incredible. At the All-star weekend in LA, Snapchat users could bring up a 3D, augmented reality version of MJ, mid flight. From here, they could walk around the image to truly appreciate every angle, including the soon to be released, special edition ‘AJIII Tinker’ kicks he was wearing.
Later, at a Jordan brand event, users scanned a mysterious Snapcode that led them to a ‘Snap Store’, where they could seamlessly purchase the sneakers - which weren’t officially releasing for a number of weeks. Behind the scenes, logistical gymnastics were well underway, ensuring the shoes were delivered within hours - often before the purchaser even got home from the event - as opposed to the 3-5 business days that many of us have become accustomed to.
The shoes sold out in 23 minutes and users spent an average of 80 seconds interacting with virtual MJ - more than four times the average for similar activations. The campaign also lit up twitter, Facebook, Insta and (of course) Snapchat, not just in volume but also in a flood of positive sentiment and brand adoration.
While it’s easy to downplay this as something any of us would have done with a mega brand, an iconic sporting moment, and a (non specified, but surely) gigantic budget, saying so would be completely undercooking it. In the details of the activation I saw three critical decisions that made a previously impossible idea succeed, within a miniscule timeframe and with the endorsement of dozens of stakeholders (including His Royal Airness).
Like many of the best activations, what the guys wanted to do had never been done before. Rather than stop at a script, a scamp or a storyboard, the team pushed the idea into beautiful visuals as early in the process as possible. This helped ‘shop’ the idea across the businesses, and energised a large, diverse team around the project.
When trying to do the impossible, things tend to go wrong (a lot) before they go right. We know it’s true for clients, but internally we can forget how important presenting a compelling vision that people could sign on for really is - especially when we know there’ll be plenty of bumps along the way.
There’s always the inclination to present the agency as the knower and orchestrator of all, but as the stakes get higher, the reality becomes tougher. The team recognised this early on, and were quick to bring in the absolute best in the business to help facilitate (and elevate) the four critical elements of the project.
Assembling an all-star team meant there was a running start, as well as far fewer collective unknowns. This translated to significantly less project risk, and extra headspace for each specialised party to find ways of contributing to the larger idea.
Re-creating an iconic, 30 year old dunk in AR is one hell of a big idea, but what really made this great was how the rest of the experience wrapped around it. From free, special edition sketchbooks for party attendees who didn’t cop the Jordans before they sold out, to a custom ‘Got Em’ Snap filter for the lucky ones to use when posting about their shoes arriving, the guys had all bases covered.
Nobody lost, everybody won something, and there were just enough ‘surprise and delight’ (forgive me) moments along the way, to make this a real slam dunk (wow, fatherhood is really setting in).