Immersive is having a big cultural moment. From restaurants to concerts to museum exhibitions – these days, if an experience doesn’t hit every sense, it is simply not enough. But the importance of (and demand for) immersion goes beyond the world of arts and entertainment – in order to truly connect with the modern consumer, marketers must also break the fourth wall, so to speak, and create powerful, immersive experiences.
Here’s why immersive marketing matters right now. Although immersive has certainly been around for a while, I believe that you can attribute some of its increasing importance to the evolution of media and our on-demand culture. If I can order my groceries within two clicks (by drones and chilled on-ice, no less), than as a consumer, I’m going to demand more from my advertisers as well. It’s no longer enough to see or hear what a brand is telling us – we also need to know how a brand feels and smells. How it thinks and what it stands for. How its products are going to change our lives.
Personal photography experienced a similar evolution. Fifteen, twenty years ago, I’d go on a trip, snap a few photos, and send them off to be developed… Years later, they could be printed in an hour… Then shared digitally… And now, we can take a panoramic photo and immediately blast it to our entire network, across every social platform.
Marketing tactics and experiences are evolving at the same pace. And in many ways, consumers want to be inundated with branded content. The challenge, of course, is creating an experience that is not only immersive and entertaining, but tells your brand’s story in the most authentic way possible. Slapping your logo on a stage at a music festival, for example, doesn’t ensure that music fans associate seeing their favorite band with your brand.
Childish Gambino (actor Donald Glover’s musical alter ego)’s recent PHAROS show in Joshua Tree and VR collaboration with Microsoft is a beautiful example of an immersive brand experience. The experience wove together different components of Microsoft’s interactive technology, all to create a unique cultural moment around one artist.
We also have to remember that there’s no set playbook for creating an immersive experience – we’re all figuring it out as we go. In some cases, immersive might come in the form of a VR film: speaking to a viewer one-on-one. But there’s also something magical about sharing this kind of experience with others, in designing an event that can be experienced by an entire audience in the same, singular moment. There’s also the rapid rise of live media, which – in its raw, unedited form and all its “realness” – offers another kind of immersive experience that media consumers desire today. All of these experiences are incredibly powerful, however, you ultimately choose to immerse consumers in your brand story in a matter of what makes the most sense for your company and product (and the size of your budget…).
Consider big moments like NASA’s recent Future Flight experience at Super Bowl LIVE in Houston, a drop tower amusement park-style ride which simulated a trip to Mars and back. Or the VR-enhanced events produced at Samsung 837, the brand’s flagship experience center, which bring sensory elements to consumer experiences ranging from food to music. These kinds of immersive experiences will become increasingly powerful and popular in the coming years. But as marketers, we must remember that it’s our job not just to entertain for the sake of entertaining, but to create immersive experiences that mean something for both our brand and our audience. Let’s use these moments to really invite consumers in.