Consumer Engagement In The Time Of COVID: Drive-Thru Experiences


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Socially Distanced Experiential Events

What did you eat for lunch 5 days ago? How about...the names of all the people you spoke with today? Odds are you probably don't remember (but if you do, I'll have what you're having). In this digital COVID-run world, event marketers are having to work harder to create and offer memorable events for attendees. 

It's easy to get distracted when we are experiencing something on screen. We are able to distance ourselves or are pulled out of an environment we've immersed ourselves in on-screen. The result of this is that we aren't as engaged and living in the moment than if we were actually there in person. In this blog, Hollywood Branded discusses how brands are maintaining consumer engagement in fun and entertaining ways through drive-thru experiences during COVID.

Consumer Engagement In The Time Of COVID_ Drive-Thru Experiences

Let's All Go...To The Drive-Thru?

As if planning an event wasn't already hard enough, marketers now have to add COVID safety precautions to the list. But between organizing the event, COVID screenings, and set up, some have managed to pull off immersive drive-thru events. Some of these recent experiences have been put on by Netflix, Paramount, and Insomniac. Not only are these events fun for families, but they also help keep these brands top-of-mind as they provide an escape for those quarantining. They are enabling families and friends to create fond memories to look back on when they recall this strange pandemic year. 

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The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run Drive-Thru

He's back and ready to seek new adventures. It's Spongebob on Paramount+! Paramount produced quite the event in late February! To build anticipation for their new movie, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run, preceded by the Paramount+ Original Series Kamp Koral: Spongebob's Under Years, they created unique a drive-thru experience.

Spongebob Movie Drive-Through Poster

Photo: Paramount Pictures

The event stuck to the sea theme through its partnerships with non-profits Heal the Bay and Canned Water 4 Kids. All proceeds to attend the drive-thru went to Heal the Bay, while Canned Water 4 Kids was included in the Kamp Koral-themed lunch bag to spread awareness of their brand.

Spongebob Drive-Through Gift Bag

Photo: Alexis Joy VIP Access

As fans drove through, they encountered Spongebob and friends with the ability to scan various QR codes for a more immersive experience. The QR codes directed scanners to a landing page that offered games and VR filters that enabled them to dive into the world of Spongebob. The experience was coupled with a first-look screening of the original series followed by the premiere of the movie. A fun-filled time, Paramount put together an event that gave Spongebob fans, old and new, something to talk about.  

Video: Attractions Magazine

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Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience

Having begun in October 2020 and running through Spring 2021, Netflix and Fever with Secret Cinema have given Stranger Things fans a new way to experience the town of Hawkins and the Upside Down. The drive-thru experience is located at the Skylight ROW DTLA. There, fans are directed to turn their radios to a given station where they are welcomed by Hawkins' school mascot and entertained by various hosts who put on a show that transports you back to the 1980s! During the show, passengers are given the opportunity to purchase food and beverages and even novelty Stranger Things items, such as cups or a lunch box.  

Stranger Things Drive-Into Experience Food

Photo: Secret Los Angeles

Stranger Things Drive-Into Experience Cups

Photo: Secret Los Angeles

Once cars are waved to the next part of the experience, they are told to tune their radio stations to a new channel where the rest of the experience takes place. During the drive-thru fans hear the voices of the characters and encounter several actors ranging from demogorgons to Eleven and the gang. Overall, attendees are "walked" through the the major events of the past season with some jump scares sprinkled in the mix thanks to the actors. One of the first major drive-thru events of the year, the Stranger Things drive-into experience has had completely sold-out nights and have profited from the sale of merchandise offered before and after the drive-thru. As one of Netflix's biggest hits, the experience worked to keep Stranger Things fans engaged and excited for upcoming seasons as they present different ways to brings fan together - regardless of the pandemic. 

Stranger Things Drive-Into Experience Merch

Photo: Magic Guidebooks


Calling All EDM Lovers And Ravers 

The lack of concerts and festivals alike has been a hit to all music fans, but the world may not have to wait much longer for live events to come back Insomniac has curated Electric Mile which is an audio/visual experience for people of all ages. Having started in January 2021 and ending this March, it's exciting to see how the world of music has leveled up past virtual offerings to create a family-friendly festival-like experience. With 7 different sections, it gives ravers a high-energy experience filled with flashing lights, entertainers, and of course EDM music.

Insomniac Electric Mile

Photo: Insomniac

An interesting new take on how to promote their label's music and give people an experience to remember, Insomniac has set the bar. It's a wonder how other music labels and artists will come out with their own socially-distanced events that will make fans feel seen and engaged. Even as events start to open up and life returns to some semblance of normalcy, drive-thru events could still prove to be a good option for engaging with fans in a post-pandemic world. 

Make Your Brand Memorable

Amid these drive-thru experiences, one thing is for sure. All offered some kind of keepsake after the experience to further solidify attendees' time. Although for the Stranger Things: Drive-Into Experience and Insomniac's Electric Mile, the merchandise had to be purchased, the Spongebob Drive-thru experience provides insight into how brands can leverage partnerships to get products in the hands of potential consumers.

Additionally, by connecting their brand to the event the goal for brands is for consumers to have a positive association with their products. As more people get vaccinated it will be interesting to see what lies ahead for the future of drive-thru experiences, but it's always good to keep in mind that everyone loves free things. Having a physical reminder of the event reinforces the brand in the consumer's mind as they are able to engage with the event activities and workers while having a memento to evoke the memory later. 

Want to learn more about how other brands and celebrities are marketing themselves during COVID-19? Check out these blogs below:

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