Virtual hot air ballooning

Corporate hot air balloons may no longer be original but neither are broadcast or broadsheet advertising, press releases and social media activity. But in the hands of an imaginative marketing team it can be an exiting part of the marketing mix.

In the case of the marketing team of thecentre:mk in Milton Keynes, they combined an iphone application with a visual branded hot air balloon in the sky above their shopping centre to promote a sequence of retail outlet offers.

The concept was based around virtual balloons. After downloading the app using an iphone as a viewer balloons appeared at cross sections within the shopping centre. They carried discounts for products which could be captured by the user and redeemed in other parts of the development.

Robert Hall Director of thecentre:mk commented ‘the principle included capturing both data from the customer user and the end user retailer. The concept enabled us to record and register responses and drive footfall to specific locations. Incentives included discounts and offers from the retailer businesses and were incorporated into an opportunity to enjoy an actual flight with the Corporate hot air balloon, mixing reality and the virtual world. Whilst the software investment was far greater than that of the balloon and the intentions to capture data a critical aspect of the return on investment, the reality of an actual balloon allowed us to engage additional marketing activity through public responses to actual balloon flight sightings’.

While the “application software” was being developed we flew the branded balloon at the Northampton Balloon Festival in 2011. The resultant local broadcasts, press coverage and social media more than covered the entire hot air balloon advertising investment.

In September 2012 the software was approved and we flew our socks off over the local morning and evening rush hour traffic. Again the social media coverage was impressive.

After an initial reaction from the marketing team of “just fly the brand” we sent them pictures from the early flights. See attached photographs. As a result a queue of people emerged to fly with us over their home town in the corporate hot air balloon.

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