How do you best celebrate five years of the world’s favourite blue heeler puppy? You start with a month-long festival, then ramp up the greatness with an iconic ice cream van to spread family joy and Bluey happiness across Australia.
Snoopy, Scooby Doo, Pluto, Goofy and Clifford. And if you’re into Family Guy, there’s Brian Griffin, too. While all these legendary digital doggos are household names, none are as good at capturing children’s and adults’ hearts as Bluey, the four-legged star of the much-loved Aussie show.
If you’re part of the small percentage that doesn’t know Bluey, it was a series started five years ago by Joe Brumm and Ludo Studios, and it revolves around the animated adventures of a six-year-old, lovable, high-energy blue heeler puppy, her heeler family, and doggy friends that live in Brisbane. This isn’t just a TV show; it’s a cultural phenomenon. It’s the first Australian TV show to be signed up to Disney+ and the most popular show in ABC history. It has won several awards (including an Emmy and a BAFTA) and has unmatched global appeal, so much so that there are kids worldwide speaking with an Aussie accent!
This global success is thanks to the funny, relatable and heart-warming stories that resonate with viewers of all ages and attention spans. This little show with a big heart wraps life lessons and parenting power-ups in ingenious plotlines and stand-up comedy dialogue from epic characters. We love the fact that they’re introducing the world to Aussie terms like jocks, dunny, tactical wees, dobber, and bin chicken (the Australian white ibis bird that typically rummages in rubbish).
The fact that Bluey is so good made the creative activation requirements much harder. ABC enlisted us to help celebrate this fantastic pooch and her furry family and friends for her five-year birthday. ABC created Bluey Fest, which included the Biggest Little Bluey Countdown, a month-long extravaganza of ABC streaming cherished episodes from the show’s first three seasons. Fans voted for their favourite Bluey episode (ours is Sleepytime – no question) and hosted their own Bluey countdown parties at home with Bluey Bunting, baking duck cakes or pavlovas, and playing Bluey games like Pass The Parcel. On top of this, the ABC staged an epic marathon of the top 100 Bluey episodes streamed back-to-back from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm on Sunday, 19th November. Not surprisingly for the Aussie audience, after 50,000+ votes ‘Cricket’ took out the top spot!
All this digital streaming and voting was brilliant, but the real question was: how can we celebrate Bluey beyond the screen? How do we tie in the digital celebration with real-life experiences? That’s where we came in. Bluey Fest deserved creative marketing of the highest order, which pleased both die-hard fans and newcomers. Our answer: A Bluey-themed retro ice cream van and experience that hit the road for two weeks along the east coast, from Sydney to Brisbane, making stops in regional and coastal areas and giving out FREE ice creams to kids and hard-working parents. Here are three reasons why we think it was a marketing masterstroke.
- It started with scoops of authenticity.
For events like this, you can create your own stories from scratch or reinterpret the brief, but for Bluey, we wanted to stay 100% true to the TV show’s history. So, we used two episodes as inspiration for our tailored experience. One was Episode 46 from Series 2, aptly called ‘Ice Cream’ and shared a valuable ‘lime’ lesson. It highlighted the importance of learning how to share, being fair, and showing that even parents deserve a treat now and then (parenting is a tough gig). Episode 32 from Series 3 called ‘Tradies’ was the second bit of inspiration. So, we designed and planned a Bluey ice cream van that was 100% true to the show’s identity and nature – the ice cream episode was set on the Southbank, part of the roadshow route!
Paws for Thought: Keeping true to the show and its character helped drive authenticity, a key ingredient for experiential success. A report by Stackla revealed that 86% of consumers say authenticity is crucial when deciding what brands they like and support. 57% of consumers are more likely to engage with authentic content.
- It doubled up on nostalgia and novelty.
Imagine the scene: it’s a hot, windless day, and you’re keen to take a break. Suddenly, you hear the ice cream van jingle, but it’s not just any jingle – it’s the Bluey theme tune. You follow the sound to a cool, shaded picnic area filled with chairs, tables and umbrellas. Your kids could take a photo with Bluey and Bingo on the ice cream bench and play dinkum Bluey games. But best of all, the whole family could get free ice cream – all you had to do was vote via a QR code for your favourite Bluey episode.
Paws for Thought: We combined the nostalgia for ice cream vans and the Bluey brand to create one unforgettable experience for kids and parents alike. The American Marketing Association has proven that nostalgia-inducing content drives higher engagement and social sharing, and a study by the Journal of Advertising found that marketing evoking nostalgia generates more positive responses and brand recall.
- It served up all the right sprinkles.
Success is in the details. We ensured every detail tied back into the Bluey brand – even the ice creams had unique character sleeves and carefully chosen toppings. Bluey’s ice cream had blue sprinkles (no lime!), Bingo’s option had biscuits (crushed Biscoff crumbs), Coco’s was rolled in pink sherbet, and Indy’s was dairy and gluten-free. The servers all had dinkum Bluey-inspired uniforms and used lingo from the episodes, and the games, props and activities came straight from the show (Taxi, Magic Xylophone, Keepy Uppy and more).
Paws for Thought: The greater the focus on details, the better the customer experience. A Journal of Consumer Research study found that details significantly affect how people remember an event. The finer details, including the venue setup, personalised experiences, and unique surprises, can improve memory and event recall.
SERVING UP SMARTER EVENTS
The success of our bespoke ice cream van came down to a single-minded focus on rewarding fans and celebrating the beloved series, its endearing characters, and incredible storytelling. Like the episodes, we needed to connect with audiences on a deeper, more emotional level and extend beyond the screen. That’s where our experiential track record and collective creativity were our secret formula. This wasn’t just a typical ice cream van activation – it was an unforgettable experience that brought families together, served up nostalgia and novelty, and celebrated the good times and lessons shared in the series.
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