Everyone is looking to engage with customers in new and unexpected ways, and it’s often easier said than done. But the solution lies in the problem: engagement. A marketing campaign that customers can interact with is both more entertaining and more memorable than a traditional one.

Interactive marketing is basically a campaign that invites a response, driven by customers expressing their preferences. This two-way dialogue is what makes the marketing process so much more dynamic and relevant than  outbound marketing of the past.

The businesses listed below delighted and engaged customers with interactive campaigns and reaped the benefits, and your business can do the same—no matter how big or small. Even interactive campaigns from Fortune 500 companies can provide inspiration to smaller businesses because the basic idea is to identify what is really important to your target consumers and to create experiences that will allow them to relate to your brand on a personal level.

That said, here are some of our favorite interactive marketing campaigns, along with tips for how small and medium businesses can apply them in their own marketing.

Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis

With the #WeighThis campaign, Lean Cuisine did something brilliant: they took their brand message away from the traditional, narrow focus on weight loss and dieting—topics that are both negative and ubiquitous for the women who are their primary target audience—and traded them in for great feelings and positivity. (For another perfect example of this trend, not to mention proof that it works, check out the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches,” part of its “Real Beauty” campaign.)

Part of the campaign saw Lean Cuisine place a “scale gallery” in Grand Central Station in New York City, where women could “weigh in.” But these weren’t scales for measuring weight—they were little boards where the women could write down their most important accomplishments, the things they chose to be measured by. Participants chose things like donating bone marrow, being caring for hundreds of homeless children every day, going back to college at 55, or raising children, and passers-by could see videos of them talking about those accomplishments.

Woman adding her scale to display
A woman adds her thoughts on how she wants to be “weighed” to the Lean Cuisine display. Via Lean Cuisine, YouTube.

There were no Lean Cuisine meals, no samples, no endorsements—just interaction by unobtrusive invitation. The interesting display motivated people to stop and get involved. It was smart, because Lean Cuisine walks that line, between feeling “preachy” or “judgmental” for the consumers they’re trying to reach and needing to feel supportive instead. And it worked: it garnered the company a 33 percent increase in positive brand perception, a 428 percent increase in social mentions, 6.5 million views in the first week alone, and more than 211 million impressions overall.

Small and medium business takeaways:

  • User-generated content is powerful. Lean Cuisine didn’t get their interactive content by hiring models or actors; they went to real women, and their target consumers responded. You can get user-generated content by using anything from interactive quizzes and data visualizations to videos submitted by users.
  • Being on message has more leeway for interactive content. You can create a very effective interactive tool that has little or nothing to do with your actual product or service. Don’t be afraid to get creative when you’re considering the message you’re hoping to send. Lean Cuisine did better than ever by breaking away from the same old diet message, and you may be able to take your business further by broadening your brand conversation.

SNCF Europe is just next door

The tourism market in the EU is competitive, and travel between EU states is common. SNCF, a French train operator, created their interactive Europe is just next door campaign to give themselves an edge, and it quickly went viral, with the YouTube video over 2 million views and a place on the awwwards.

SNCF placed special, colorful “doors” in various places in Paris for pedestrians to open. Each was freestanding and labeled with the name of a European city SNCF serves. When someone opened a door, they saw a live feed from the city named on the door, and something fun was happening in each place: a boat ride on Lake Geneva in Geneva, a session with a caricature artist in Brussels, a hip hop squad in Barcelona, and a mime in Milan.

Green door on sidewalk
A green door to Stuttgart allows people in Paris to experience what they might see if they traveled there. Via TBWA Paris, YouTube.

Small and medium business takeaways:

  • Show, not tell. Don’t tell consumers about the benefits and features of your product or service. Whenever you can, show them!
  • Interactivity has longevity. A funny, memorable interactive marketing campaign sticks around for a long time, and even people who don’t participate right then can turn into customers later when they see it, so a top notch interactive campaign is actually a great longer term investment.

Zappos versus Google: Cupcake Truck

Google took a cupcake truck to Austin to promote its new photo app. The idea was that people could only pay for cupcakes with photos taken with the app. Zappos had a plan: piggyback on the Google cupcake—and people went a little nuts, in a good way.

Zappos cupcake “machine”
A happy Google Photo user gets happier by inserting a cupcake into a box to get free Zappos swag. Via MullenLowe Group, YouTube.

Zappos sent a box with feet to stand next to the cupcake truck. The box would give people either a pair of shoes or a watch, but only in exchange for one of Google’s cupcakes. Cheeky, but definitely not undermining for Google! And lots of fun for everyone else—not to mention the major buzz and exposure for both Zappos and Google.

Small and medium business takeaways:

  • Co-branding works with interactive. As long as your partner works with your brand and the interactive idea, experiential marketing offers a perfect co-branding opportunity.
  • Everyone wins. By creating win-win-win situations, you can be sure consumers benefit from both brands, and vice versa. Aim to ensure that the interaction requires that participants “exchange” each brand’s service or product to maximize the chances of them interacts with you both.

Denny’s on Twitter

Denny’s is hilarious on Twitter. It’s a huge brand, but it is openly not taking itself very seriously, which is totally working for them—and earning them tons of engagement, plus lots of new, young fans. They love to do quizzes:

Denny’s Twitter quiz
It turns out that the Venn diagram of Denny’s fans and Sasquatch fans are circles with a huge overlap. Via @DennysDiner, Twitter.

 

And goofy images that force you to talk out loud to yourself:

 

Denny’s Twitter meme
Head, shoulders, . . . cheese and crows? Cheese and crows. Via @DennysDiner, Twitter.

 

And they’re great at keeping up with current events (note the tag of Neil deGrasse Tyson):

 

Denny’s Twitter post
Denny’s may have been the only user making the eclipse about pancakes, but it worked for them. Via @DennysDiner, Twitter.

Denny’s on Twitter is entertaining enough that people want to take a break and burn a few spare moments hanging out there. That’s the secret with interactive: make the invitation to interact so appealing that it’s all you need.

Small and medium business takeaways:

  • Low-budget interactivity. Quizzes and other fun, interactive tidbits don’t have to be expensive. Use some creativity and you’ll come upon something fun for your customers so long as you have a good sense of who they are.
  • Have fun with it. Interactive campaigns are famous for being fun; that is one of the ways they add value to the user experience. If it works for your brand and message, don’t miss the chance to use humor in your campaign.

Goldman Sachs Millennials Infographic

Infographics are a fantastic way to go interactive. Creating infographics, even interactive versions, are within reach for most businesses, especially if you can comparison shop with artists and designers to find a great fit. Interactive infographics beat out the regular version—which are already very popular and powerful—because they allow you to pack more information in there and engage your visitors while you do it.

Goldman Sachs millennials infographic
This interactive infographic on how millennials spend and interact with the economy has gotten enormous traction for Goldman Sachs. Via Goldman Sachs.

This highly clickable interactive infographic from Goldman Sachs is a great example. It’s been shared many times and mentioned in many “best of” lists this year already. The motion you see right away catches your eye and draws you in, and when you click the tab-like organization makes it easy to find the information you’re interested in.

Small and medium business takeaways:

  • Infographics can also be interactive. Interactive infographics are high-value items that offer a serious return on your investment. They also provide you with a piece you can cross-post and share easily on social platforms.
  • Humans love movement. Draw in your target audience with movement and color to start the interaction.

Interactive marketing is smart marketing

Are you feeling the interactive inspiration yet? Interactive campaigns aren’t just for the corporate giants. With a strong brand presence, a solid understanding of your target consumer, and some creativity, you too can launch a successful interactive marketing campaign.

What’s the best interactive marketing campaign you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments.

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