October 6, 2009
Case Study: Xtension Marketing Reaches New Heights
with Toyota Prius Solar Flowers Tour
Its 4 a.m. in Boston, and Sean Lenihan, managing director of Xtension Marketing, is in Prudential Plaza scratching vinyl letters off a 12-ft.-tall solar-powered flower sculpture. A supplier applied the lettering crooked on the newly arrived exhibit; it has to look perfect by daybreak, when thousands of Bostonians will catch a first glimpse of the eye-popping Toyota Prius display.
Glamorous work, isnt it? he jokes to a co-worker,scratching alongside him.
The key to successful engagement marketing? A willingness to take matters into your own hands literally, at times to get the job done right.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: What Toyota needed
Toyota sought the creation of a traveling exhibit to support the 2010 Prius hybrid launch. The launch was envisioned by Toyota and theiragency, Saatchi & Saatchi, as a far-reaching, textured launch with many different components. The goal of this project was to create a ground-levelactivation to engage people in a unique and aesthetically pleasing way.
The project, known as the Harmony Installations, consisted of three components:
1. Design and fabricate five 12-to-18-foot-tall flower sculptures that provide free Wi-Fi and laptop charging capabilities, powered in part by solar technology.
2. Design and fabricate bus shelter cooling fans, powered 100% by solar technology.
3. Provide event production and tour management services as the installations visit sixcities nationwide.
Xtension Marketings role in the cutting-edge exhibit was to produce the entire tour and handle design and fabrication of the bus shelter fans, which use the same solar-powered ventilation system as the 2010 Prius. Xtension Marketing was tasked with creating the best possible user experiencewhile maintaining the exhibits durability to withstand thousands of miles ofcross-country travel.
Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi wanted the focus to be on the kind of impression the display made. The emphasis was on the happy feel-good look of the solar flowers and the ingenuity of the displays, and how that applies to vehicle, says James Kern, project strategist and designer for Xtension Marketing. Even if not everyone made a direct connection to the car, Toyota was most interested in the feel-good aspect.
THE SELECTION PROCESS: Why Xtension Marketing?
The Xtension Marketing team has extensive experience working with automakers, particularly Toyota and Lexus, and Sean Lenihan had no doubts he and his team could successfully handle the Harmony Installations.
Britta Couris, the creative director who hired XtensionMarketing on behalf of Saatchi & Saatchi, met with several companies and ultimately chose Xtension Marketing for two of the three elements of the project: the bus shelter design and fabrication and tour management.
They could have managed all three parts easily, but I already had a source for the design and fabrication of the solar flowers, says Couris.
She chose to work with Xtension Marketing over the other companies she considered because, They were the most transparent and most on-point with the project. They were also the most amenable to any kind of working situation. It wasn't ego-driven, it didn't need it to be all-or-none of it. They were happy to handle any part of it or all of it.
Their attitude is, We won't let you down, we will be transparent, well do whatever it takes for the project, she says.
ON-THE-FLY: Obstacles andProblem-Solving
In engagement marketing, the best-laid plans are nice, but the ability to plan on one's feet is absolutely critical.
The job isn't just execution and content. Clients need some one who can think, plan and problem-solve on their feet to make sure itsperfect, says Couris. Xtension Marketing really delivered on this for us.
There Was No Expert to Call
The solar basis of the project resulted in unique challenges while the exhibits were on display, necessitating on-the-fly problem solving.
Solar is still in the developmental stage as an industry.That affects the level of service providers and equipment out there, Kern says. Normally, solar installations are one-time, permanent installations, but ours had to be modular and not permanent
When we had equipment failures, there was no expert forus to call. We were the experts. We had to troubleshoot the solar systems ourselves to keep everything functioning properly, he says. That speaks to the intelligence, tenacity and technical know-how of the Xtension Marketing team.
Will This Spot Be Sunny Tomorrow?
One of the major challenges with a solar installation islocation and positioning. Choosing a site with enough sun exposure is crucial to the success of any solar project.
When the solar installation is also a marketing initiative,there is the added challenge of balancing the marketers message with solar function. Adjustments were made throughout the Prius tour to keep the flowers and bus shelters optimally positioned to meet both goals.
At its core, its a marketing effort, says Kern. But it has to function. It's a fine line.
Keeping it Green, with an Eye on the Bottom Line
Because the Prius is a high-visibility hybrid vehicle, Xtension Marketing brainstormed ways for the entire tour to be as green aspossible. This included purchasing a used truck, using recyclable aluminum forthe bus shelter fan boxes, and minimizing packaging.
Balancing green practices with efficiency and cost-effectiveness was important, says Kern.
Its about finding the balance between what the budget can sustain versus what makes environmental sense. Xtension Marketing had to figureout the trade-offs. For example, we explored bio-diesel for power needs onsite, but it was too expensive for the amount of energy we needed to use, Kern said.
Other green practices were a better fit.
We packed the truck in such a way that we could use a smaller vehicle. That meant less fuel, less waste, and less wood packing materials used, says Kern. This level of awareness and consciousness is one thing that differentiates Xtension Marketing from competitors.
Lean and Mean and Effective
For a client, the ideal is to work with an engagement marketing firm that makes the clients job easier while achieving its objectives.
With some companies in this industry, you have many layers before you get to the Sean, says Couris. With Xtension Marketing, Sean is client-facing, he's labor-facing. He does it all, or he figures out the best person to hire to do it for him.
With a lean and mean crew at Xtension Marketing, each team member is hands-on. That results in less expense for the client and a smaller carbon footprint.
RESULTS AND INNOVATION
Successful execution of this very high-profile tourstrengthens Xtension Marketings position as an innovator in green displays and events.
The viral response to the Harmony Installation campaign, particularly the attention-grabbing solar flowers, has been impressive.
This is such a unique program, with such positive interaction with the public. It's generating a ground swell of chatter among social media users. Individuals are making their own videos of the flowers and posting them on YouTube and Facebook. In New York City, a musician powered anentire concert by plugging his equipment into one of the flowers, says Lenihan.
That type of viral excitement is exactly what we wanted to happen.
ABOUT XTENSION MARKETING
Xtension Marketing LLC, known until May 2009 as Automotive Displays, is a turn-key engagement marketing company based in Los Angeles. The firm is building on its successful track record in automotive engagement marketing as it expands to serve clients in a variety of industries. Using avirtual business model, Xtension Marketing provides cutting-edge event production services for top global brands including Toyota, Xbox 360, Lexus, Subway and Aston Martin. For more information, visit www.xtensionmarketing.com.