Member Success
Story: XPO Brands

From product sampling, consumer promotions and point of sale design, to brand ambassadors, food trucks and so much more, Sally Tobin, Founder and Managing Director of XPO Brands, an experiential marketing agency, talks to us about her industry, how getting face to face with your customers can make all the difference, and how one of her biggest business costs actually rewards her team and her business.

Whilst deciding if launching her own business with an investor backing or not at age 23 (and with an MBA already under her belt), Tobin noted that while her own career trajectory had been relatively unhindered, some of her peers at the time were being held back in their careers - ‘either due to being too nice, or being too young. They were underappreciated. My experience had been so different.’ Tobin explains.

‘I realised I wanted to create a business where other talented people could have the glass ceiling removed; and their potential unleashed. I had three backers approach me to fund XPO; and just as I was about to move forward with my preferred investor, I realised ‘if they’re willing to back me, why aren’t I willing to back myself?’. From there, XPO was born as an independent agency, with a vision to be the springboard for young people who wanted to take on the marketing world!’

Since then, XPO Brands has grown from a team of two with stock lining Tobin’s driveway, to a team of 25 full time staff, and 600 casual brand ambassadors, activating over 20,000 branded experiential and sampling events each year - and there are no signs of slowing down, ‘This year we’re focussing on expanding our Melbourne office into a new site in Port Melbourne, and then we are set to span the Tasman with a presence in New Zealand as our next top priority.’

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What is experiential marketing?

In short, experiential marketing uses activities that provide a personal connection that allows the customers to remember the product or service ‘it really allows a brand to cut through all the other media noise out there’ says Tobin

‘We’re all familiar with TV advertising, traditional branded 15-30 sec video content with the purpose of changing how we think & feel about a brand or product. Experiential Marketing is the same thing, but in the real world. Physical moments and experiences you can see, smell, hear, taste & touch, all designed to craft the way you think and feel about a brand.’

‘Brand experiences can come in all shapes and sizes, from immersive events such as juice bar takeovers of “The Beach” at Pacific Fair or Virtual Easter Hunts that send people racing around the Royal Easter show to win cash prizes and free product, through to product tasting events at the Good food and Wine Show, shopping centre, or even a supermarket.

‘Experiential marketing does what other forms of marketing and advertising can’t do - allows consumers to get hands on with brands. To try a new product before they buy it, discover a new recipe without cooking it, experience once in a lifetime moments, create personalised products. Everything is centred around learning, crafting, and engaging in a face to face and sometimes digital environment.’  

What are 5 top examples of experiential marketing that SME businesses should consider?

1. Brand Partnerships:

Create new environments and audiences for your product, by partnering with brands who share your vision, your target, or even share an occasion. For example, we recently partnered Nescafe Gold with Freedom Furniture to talk to the in-home coffee experience; Twinings In’Fuse with Lorna Jane to speak to health conscious females looking for inspiring ways to consume more water; and most recently, Golden Circle and Sunnylife – two brands with a brand purposed centered around ‘life under the sun’. The opportunities for strategic brand partnerships to create more impactful experiences is endless.  

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2. Personalisation:

The first challenge most of our clients have is capturing the right data on their shoppers before they can generate meaningful personalised experiences. Experiential marketing has moved beyond your name on a product, with shoppers now looking for a personalised moment that delivers on ‘customisation that reflects me’. From creating bespoke flavours of chips and chocolate, to crafting your own designs on underwear, clothing and lunchboxes, through to ‘choose your own adventure’ activations, such as video games that are unique to how you interact with them. When we activated a virtual reality campaign for Cadbury at Christmas, we were able to deliver a unique experience to every consumer who enjoyed a ride in Santa’s sleigh over the Australian skies. The technology followed your gaze, to reveal hidden moments in the night sky, with Santa talking you through the journey.

 

3. Act not Ad:

Gone are the days where TV and traditional media can do all the heavy lifting for brands. Our clients are now looking for ways to create noise and experiences based on genuine acts that link to a brand’s purpose. Milo have done this well, with an initiative we partnered on, to create Cups for Clubs, which is a fundraising platform, where Milo donates free cups of Milo to grass roots sports club canteen’s, to help them raise money through sales of Milo Cups that will fund club initiatives. What I love about this campaign, is that Milo weren’t seeking quick PR (they have barely even spoken about it); but rather it was founded on Milo’s core passion to fuel future champions through the life lessons of sport.

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4. Consider sustainability:

Creating experiences that are environmentally friendly, and solving real life challenges around sustainable practices in retail and products. I believe this trend isn’t going to pass anytime soon – but rather brands and agencies will have increased scrutiny around how they bring experiences to life sustainably moving forward.

5. Retail Activation:

Whilst sponsorship, and out of home brand experiences  are certainly the most media centric and sexy versions of experiential marketing, we can’t overlook the fact that bricks and mortar stores need a healthy level of experience as well – and brands play a role in bringing that experience to life. We continue to see a surge in support for simple executions like in-store sampling moments; from being served a free coffee in Freedom, through to tasting fresh meal solutions that inspire tonight’s dinner as you shop after work.

 

Doubling the benefits with Qantas Business Rewards

With a national client base and on the ground customer activations and events as a key focus, travelling for work is part of the job for Tobin and her team, ‘We fly every week, all the time, relying heavily on flights that allow us to span 5 states in 3 days at times when launching a national event, so flying with someone we trust and in comfort is an essential business need for us’, and as Qantas Business Rewards members, Tobin knows that her growing business is receiving the maximum amount of value from that important business cost.  ‘My favourite part about the Qantas Business Rewards program is that while we earn Qantas Points as a business whenever my team and I fly for work, and book hotels or car hire, we also earn points for ourselves as individuals so everyone wins, it’s a no brainer.’

Tobin then reinvests her business’ points back into her team, ‘We use our business’ points mainly to upgrade our team when they travel for work, or for little rewards for them as part of our own internal rewards program to recognise their hard work.  A little bit of recognition can go a long way.’

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