So about a year ago, I was recommended a book called 1000 Places to See Before You Die because I love adventures, and therefor I eat that stuff up. The book covers anything from touristy clichés to places off the beaten path around the world, and while looking through the United States section, I stumbled across a little festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico called the International Balloon Fiesta. After a quick Google search, I found out that Oct 1, 2011 launched the 40th anniversary of the festival.. So I decided to book a flight and see what the fuss was all about..
The fuss was that over 600 hot air balloons from across the globe gather once a year in Albuquerque to pretty much block out the sun (but not literally). Impressive was an understatement. If I had to use one word to describe what it was like to see that many balloons in the sky at once, I couldn't. It was amazing, magical, and, not gonna lie, it was nice feeling like a little kid again staring endlessly at all of the pretty balloons for hours. But after I was done drooling, I was able to get myself back into Ad-Man mode and started noticing that a lot of companies do go the extra mile in finding ways to get their names out there; even in quirky hot air balloon festivals.
Care to take a guess as to how companies advertised their brands at this particular festival?
While there are hundreds of normal balloon-shaped hot-air balloons at the festival, a lot of people go to see the crazy shapes that people come up with to make hot air balloons out of. There were Goblins, Witches, Penguins, a Spider-Man Pig, and even a massive Darth Vader head (crowd favorite.. and mine too). Obviously.. a lot of companies showed up to jump on the bandwagon. This friendly lookin' Cow comes courtesy of the New Mexico Dairy company, Creamland. It doesn't stop with the balloon either. They spent the day handing out trading cards of Airbelle (the name of the cow) that displayed the history of both the company and the balloon.
Another company that was all sorts of enthusiastic about their ballooning was Wells Fargo. They actually brought three balloons with them; two normal shaped balloons with Wells Fargo printed along the sides and one shaped like their famous Stagecoach. The wagon was instantly recognizable (they didn't really need the other two in my opinion) and it was refreshing to see that banks can have a fun side too! In fact, the Stagecoach even stuck around for the Twilight Glow; basically about 80 of the balloons returned at dusk to inflate and light up sporadically for about an hour while everyone just watches in awe before the night time fireworks show. Good for you Wells Fargo.
After leaving the festival, I realized that I didn't learn anything about any of the brands that were advertising in Balloons.. BUT, I was able to walk away with warm fuzzy feelings towards them because they were part of the whole experience for me.. and they do it for 8 days! Not only is that commitment, but it's something they don't really have to do at all. Granted, an average of 100,000 people usually show up on any given day of the festival, but in competition with 600 other balloons, no one's attention span will stay on one balloon for too long. Budweiser advertised in a Bottle-shaped balloon, Pepsi in a Can-shaped balloon, and even Farmer's Insurance was there. These are all companies that take part in the balloon festival just to be part of the eye candy for the crowds and, in the process, they plant a little seed for people to remember them. So the crowds walk away liking brands for just that reason... those mind ninjas.
This is me after a day of being attacked by mind ninjas. Enjoy.