This ‘Phygital’ Experience Shows How to Do a Scavenger Hunt in Quarantine

For a U.S. 5G launch, T-Mobile and OnePlus tasked fans with finding pop-up stores

Delivered via truck, the stores were placed in Red Lodge, Mont. (pictured); Tybee Island, Ga.; and Hunter Mountain, N.Y. OnePlus and T-Mobile
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When the pandemic upended experiential in March, marketers had to rethink how to safely engage consumers, leading to an influx of video conference-based virtual events and Covid-19 compliant drive-ins for the past eight months. 

Pre-pandemic, Chinese smartphone brand OnePlus and T-Mobile would have held a traditional large-scale consumer event with a keynote to launch the OnePlus 8T+ 5G device in November. Instead, the brands staged a scavenger hunt that fans could experience digitally. 

The brands partnered with experiential marketing agency The Bait Shoppe to produce the One Plus Go Farther scavenger hunt, which tasked fans with finding three real OnePlus pop-up stores hidden in remote locations in the U.S., signifying the extent of T-Mobile’s 5G coverage. The incentive for fans during the hunt, which ran Nov. 12-19, was winning prizes that include $5,000 in cash, new smartphones and earbuds. 

The Bait Shoppe founder Evan Starkman said the project’s primary objective was to deliver consumers a virtual experience they hadn’t yet seen, and something that might actually create FOMO (fear of missing out). 

“We had been talking internally about this idea of ‘phygital.’ How do you create a physical and digital experience?” he said. “What dictated our thinking was how we could engage consumers for a long period of time, have them participate socially and hopefully share that experience with their friends. This is true for pretty much every brief we’ve ever worked on, but the rules have changed a bit.”

OnePlus doesn’t have a physical retail presence in the U.S., which Starkman explained was an impetus for the project idea of creating physical stores.

“Because of Covid-19 and the inability to open in large markets, we challenged ourselves with asking: Where are the most impossible places to put these stores?” Starkman explained. “And in order to show off how broad T-Mobile’s 5G coverage is, we looked for the farthest corners of 5G coverage across America.”

The agency’s goal was to find hyper remote locations that varied in climate and scenery and chose snowy Red Lodge, Mont.; coastal Tybee Island, Ga.; and Hunter Mountain in N.Y. Logistically, Starkman said the agency didn’t go through a traditional permitting process but instead “knocked on doors” of anyone that was in the vicinity to ask for permission. 

The illuminated microstores featured a minimal design, only containing the phone and a T-Mobile flag. Starkman said each store had a staffer onsite in case anyone physically showed up (although no one did). OnePlus and T-Mobile

Once the pop-ups were in place, the agency with OnePlus and T-Mobile launched a social program on Twitter announcing the program and teasing the locations. Then, the brand directed fans to a custom microsite with an interactive U.S. map, where fans could submit guesses and contact information for the brands to send prizes if they won. 

The brands are slated to notify guests via email if their answers were correct, having enough prizes for more than 400 winners.

The Bait Shoppe reported the seven-day activation averaged 1,900 logins or guesses per hour and 41,000 guesses per day, with more than 9,000 correct guesses and a total of 319,200 total participants. Globally, the site averaged 1,035 users per minute. 

While the agency is still quantifying social and earned media impressions, it’s viewing these numbers as a success, noting the benchmark for measuring activation performance has changed. Because of Covid-19, many more consumers had access to participate and didn’t need to travel anywhere to experience the scavenger hunt. Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.