2019 SIA Awards: Sensorial stunts

Activations for Canada Goose, Upper Canada Mall, Quebec Milk Producers, Uniqlo, Interval House, Fondation Emergence and Fountain Tire all rose above the rest at the SIAs.

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This story originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of


You eat with your eyes, you see with your brain, and you feel with your heart. Going to market with shopper programs that tickle the senses is a sound strategy for any brand wanting to engage with consumers beyond the rack. Just ask Canada Goose.

The parka brand adopted a “try before you buy” attitude with “The Cold Room” installation that was exactly that: a sub-zero chamber for shoppers to put Canada Goose jackets under a frigid stress test. Why? Because once you go Goose, you’ll never want to let that parka loose.

The brand has found that people are more likely to purchase its coats after sampling them. But doing that inside an air-conditioned store wasn’t enough, so it fast-tracked the process by allowing shoppers to test it in a cold zone. The 50-square-foot room features an adjustable thermostat, so people can control the temperature (between -18 and -25 degrees Celsius) to suit different environments from spring temps in Manitoba to winter in Ontario.

“The Cold Room,” done by Canada’s Goose’s internal team, won a Bronze In-store Engagement and has since seen 30% of customers test the space when visiting five of the global stores that have the room.


Physical engagement of the senses is a strategy that works well, but there’s also merit in digital engagement too, as proven by Market & Co and the Quebec Milk Producers.

The food market in the Upper Canada Mall is unique as it allows shoppers to buy fresh items from 20 local merchants. For its launch, the market and Union created “Food That Sings,” a soundtrack for shoppers’ ingredients. The idea was to encourage shopper interactions through a blanket program that touched all of its vendors.

In partnership with Spotify, the team developed scannable stickers and placed them on 20 products in the market. When scanned using their phones, a song would appear. For example, if they scanned a pint of ice cream at Sweet Jesus, they could play the song “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. More than 17,000 stickers were distributed during the first week of its opening, and in that month, the program saw 50,000 interactions (and also won a Silver In-Store Engagement SIA award).

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Similarly, the Quebec Milk Producers and Lg2 built a musical campaign that saw people interact with food using their mobile device.

Developed in a rare collab with Quebec’s major dairy brands, the “Singing Cartons” app used AR to display faces on cartons and give them a voice. It all went down during the holidays, a time when families come together, with the association looking to reinforce milk’s place in Quebec homes. Up to five cartons formed a choir that sang Christmas songs, with over 150 cartons being detectable.

During the four-week festive season, the Bronze Seasonal & Event Success and Bronze Tech Breakthrough-winning app was downloaded 66,000 times and nearly 1.4 million songs were sung.

Pop-ups are an another tried-and-true engagement tactic, adopted by brands to bring the store to the shopper, instead of vice versa. And they’re hugely versatile, giving temporary space for those looking to build awareness, sell goods, or drive donations.

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Global fashion retailer Uniqlo launched in Toronto back in 2016. And while some Canadians are aware of the brand from their travels abroad, its presence in Canada was low. So to introduce itself, Uniqlo paid tribute to the country’s most iconic garments – the flannel shirt.

The brand opened a completely empty store, and left it to Canadians to fill. Visitors received a Uniqlo flannel shirt and were given a choice: they could keep the shirt, or hang it up on the wall for a new Canadian. Not surprisingly, 97% of Canadians decided to give up their shirt for a new Canadian.

The campaign, by Rethink, reached over 3.8 million through media picking up the film that documented the stunt, and Uniqlo picked up a Bronze Original Idea for the campaign at the SIAs.

Interval House, a shelter for abused women, also wanted to increase awareness, albeit of something with a much more serious tone. It used a pop-up to get more people talking about domestic abuse, which, for many women, can occur when a marriage begins. This troubling truth was brought to light through “The Broken Bride Registry” at a Canadian bridal show.

What appeared to be a standard wedding registry, was actually a statement on spousal abuse, with shocking items like “Jealous Rage Bandages,” “Cigarette Burn Cream,” and the “Don’t Talk Back Arm Sling.” At the booth, people could pick up a scanner to scan the items and unlock true stories of abuse. They could then add Interval House to their own bridal registry, providing a unique way for newlyweds to help those less fortunate.

The Gold Experiential-winning campaign, created by Union, is still ongoing, but since launch, donations have increased 14%.

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And finally, Fondation Émergence also used an installation to bring awareness to a cause close to its heart. Many people tend to forget that the LGBTQ+ community still face violence and discrimination in less developed nations. The non-profit decided to use the pride flag to create a “Pride Shield” that highlights the power of standing up against homophobia and transphobia together.

Working with Rethink, the team aligned 193 flags (the number of UN member countries) on wires and shot a .45 calibre bullet, travelling at 9,000 feet per second in a 400-yard warehouse. A single flag stood no chance against the bullet. But with each flag, the bullet lost power, eventually stopping in its tracks.

As a result, the installation took home a Gold Original Idea and Gold Reinvention at this year’s SIAs.

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A surprise engagement

All brands strive to get people to stop in their tracks (or in this case, cars) by way of engaging stunts.

That was exactly the goal behind Fountain Tire and FCB Canada’s “Safest Highway,” a data-driven program that engaged with unknowing Canadians to convince them to stock up on new tires from the retailer.

Replacing tires can be an annoyance, so much so that 50% of people will drive with at least one worn-out tire. Yet, worn tires account for over 26% of accidents in poor driving conditions. So to encourage drivers to change their tires before it’s too late, the team placed digital boards along a dangerous stretch of Alberta’s Highway 44. The signs displayed the ice, snow, visibility, winds, and collisions using data from Waze, Twitter and Weather Network.

But it was the tire tread reader, which was installed at a gas station near the highway’s entrance to 3D-map vehicle tires, that really got driver’s attention. The tech alerted those with unsafe tires and a Fountain Tire rep gave every driver a customized tire safety report: 31% of tires failed, which were replaced, free of charge.

The serious message worked, with local sales increasing 8% locally and 4% nationally. The campaign also won a Gold Original Idea, Gold Tech Breakthrough, Gold Experiential, Silver In-Store Engagement and a Silver Integration.

Correction: A previous version of this article in print, and online, misstated the marketing team that did “The Cold Room” campaign. The Bronze In-store Engagement winner was done by Canada Goose’s internal team. Strategy regrets the error.