Leveraging Physical Marketing in a Digital World

Starbucks branded coffee cup

June 7, 2024

While nowadays digital tools certainly rule the marketing scene, it turns out ‘old school’ forms of advertising – such as billboards, merchandise, etc. – are still very much in fashion. Research on the impact of outdoor advertising on consumer behavior shows that – after the pandemic – 77% of people are more aware of their physical surroundings and nearly 67% make purchasing decisions influenced by ads they see outside of home.

Physical marketing, comprising an astonishing variety of tools, offers a wide terrain for creative expression. However, to successfully take your advertising efforts off screen, you first need to obtain a good grasp of the opportunities and pitfalls that this marketing realm holds. So, without further ado, let’s review how physical ads can give you brand recognition in a world ruled by technology.

the Coca Cola logo on a building

Deconstructing physical marketing

Step one is covering the basics. Maybe you’re already familiar with some of the most popular forms of physical advertising. But do you know what earned them their fame amongst marketers worldwide? Take a quick look:

Billboards

Billboards remain one of the most efficient ways to get consumers’ attention throughout the entire day cycle. They are usually placed in prominent roadsides, ensuring high visibility and (literally) providing a canvas for innovative witty ideas to promote your product or brand. One of the downsides of billboards is that they can be on the pricey side of the marketing spectrum, which is why they are more suitable as an advertising tool for medium to large companies. Fret not, however, because physical marketing is by no means restricted solely to the big players in the game – if you’re on a budget and still want to make a splash in your industry, there’s plenty of opportunities to do that.

Print media

Print media is a much more affordable option that can still reach a broad audience and introduce your product to the world. Apart from advertisements in newspapers or magazines, you can opt out for creating an eye-catching leaflet or flyer and distribute them amongst your target audience (for instance, at an event that is relevant to your industry or your buyer persona’s key interests). Don’t shy away from being bold and creative with this form of physical marketing – opportunities for capturing consumer attention in an overcrowded market tend to flash by in a second, so make that second count by showcasing what makes your brand authentic and unique.

Merchandise

Brand merchandise is one of the sneaky ways to get into the mind of consumers – the more a person is exposed to your logo or brand name on objects they encounter daily, the higher your chance to attract them to your existing customer base. The options here are endless – clothing, stickers, stationery, tote bags, bookmarks, etc. Make sure to consider your ideal customer’s daily life – their hobbies, favorite hang out spots, social environment. That will give you an idea of potential situations in which your logo might spark interest or even a conversation, which will point you towards the most suitable materials to include in your campaign.

Bus stops, sidewalks and the Great Outdoors

Don’t forget that billboards are not the only way to put the spotlight on your brand outdoors. In fact, once you escape the frames of the screen or the printed page, you unveil a whole world of creative opportunities. Think of everything that surrounds you as a potential physical marketing tool.

McDonald's directional billboard

Creative ways to leverage physical marketing

If you’re in need of some inspiration when it comes to using the world as your canvas, we’ve got you – here are a few examples of brilliant physical marketing from some of the industry trailblazers.

McDonald’s

One of the ways in which McDonald’s have managed to remain leaders in their industry for so long is the undeniable creativity of their marketing team. For a company with substantial resources, they seem to exercise a rather minimalist advertising approach which never fails to strike a chord with consumers. A bright example of this is their “Follow the Fries” campaign for which the brand launched a series of directional billboards featuring the golden arches from their logo to navigate consumers towards the nearest McDonald’s location. With this innovative strategy, the industry giant proved yet again that in the world of advertising, less can absolutely be more, as long as you communicate a clear message to your audience.

Maybelline

Last year, Maybelline took their marketing game to another level upon the launch of their Lash Sensational Mascara by giving makeovers to… buses and trains. Yep, you read that right. Giant mascara tube stands were installed at different bus stops and metro stations across London to create the illusion of them curling the giant eyelashes placed on numerous vehicles. The photos and videos of the campaign caused quite a stir in the media, thus ensuring astounding exposure for Maybelline’s new product.

IKEA

Another example of the so-called “experimental marketing” is IKEA’s furnished climbing wall which was installed in France to promote the opening of the company’s 30th store in the country. The wall resembled a typical IKEA showroom flipped vertically and was created to invite people for a climbing experience (with the help of a professional and safety measures in place). The campaign undoubtedly attracted consumer and media attention, but it also served as proof of product quality, with the installed furniture supporting climbers to the top of the wall. Talk about a two-birds-with-one-stone strategy, right?

Of course, resources and current brand visibility play a huge role in the performance of such campaigns. However, creativity is free and accessible for everyone. So, don’t be intimidated by the lack of a substantial budget and start small – remember that something as trivial as a leaflet can make all the difference for your business.

Finding the sweet spot: The power of phygital marketing

Despite the obvious benefits of physical marketing, keep in mind that the successful strategy is a two-ingredient recipe and off-screen advertising is only half of it. Your creativity, as well as the character of your brand, should be reflected in both your physical and digital marketing efforts.

Ease consumers into taking a leap between these two worlds in ways that spark human curiosity – a prime example of that is adding QR codes to physical marketing materials, thus inviting people to explore your brand’s presence on, as well as off-screen.

Going ‘phygital’ with your marketing strategy is one of the best ways to foster deeper and more meaningful connections with consumers and ensure higher brand recognition and customer conversion rates. If you’re looking to bridge the digital and physical realms of your business, but feel like you need a nudge in the right direction – hit us up anytime, we’ll be happy to lead the way towards new creative horizons and bring your brand’s potential to life.

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