Immersive Experiences: You Need to Dive In
Experiences are becoming more and more powerful parts of the integrated marketing mix. Studies by the Event Marketing Institute and Mosaic, note that 93% of consumers believe live events are more effective than TV ads, with 89% saying events improve their understanding of a product or service better than a TV, print, online or radio ad does. A massive 96% are more likely to buy a product after participating in a branded live event, and 74% of consumers report having “a more positive impression” of a brand as a result.What we’re seeing is that digital content and social media engagement alone are no longer enough, with younger audiences wanting to feel a part of these moments, that they can share them as their own social currency. The right experiences now offer an opportunity to immerse your audience in your brand and deliver meaningful product and campaign messages in a memorable way.

And we are finding more and more that fans – and millennials in particular – want to find an emotive connection with brands and rightsholders. Take the recent F1 Live Event in London, which gave motorsport fans the chance to see the drivers and cars in a fantastic environment in central London, showcasing a new, more inclusive beginning for the world of F1.

This is why events and experiences can no longer be considered a simple bolt-on to an wider brand campaign. And this is why, as experience leaders, we need to start putting fans at the heart of everything we do to make them more likely to engage with the brand.

Our Bose F1 Garage experience around the 2016 US GP in Texas was a great example of this, as we set the paddock and Austin alight last year with a ground-breaking experiential activation, combining innovative spatial sound technology and Bose Wireless headphones. Using a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 Noise-Cancelling Wireless headphones, race fans gained access to one of the most exclusive places in sport: the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS garage in the moments before the cars went out onto the track. The technical complexity of the build is what brought to life The Garage, but the notion of ‘getting closer to the things you love’ was at the forefront of every touchpoint of the user journey.
Opportunities to create content-rich experiences aligned to brand values are only set to increase across the next 12 months, as the buzz around integration continues. Importantly though, those that are successful incorporate the wider audience too – both online and across social media – such as Nike Strike Night. The activation represents a high watermark (appropriately) for experiences that get people talking.

As experiences become more important, there are five key considerations that you need to have in mind in order to build a truly engaging immersive experience:

1. Letting the audience curate their own experience
Millennials want to curate their own events. The emotional connection between a brand and consumer or fan is more important than ever. By providing millennials with engaging immersive experiences in which they can actively participate and interact with the brand in some capacity, you increase the fans’ likelihood of becoming more emotionally invested in the brand, product or service. This helps to increase important attributes of that relationship, such as brand awareness and loyalty. It's no longer good enough to say "we sell a product and here's a photo of it"; customers want detailed descriptions, context-relevant specifics, social proof and super-rich experiences that they have more control over.

2. Being authentic and standing out from the crowd
Brand and rightsholders looking to differentiate their physical interactions with fans and consumers will need to customise their approach to stand out. This includes taking a multi-dimensional attitude to branded experiences such as pop-ups, festival activation, roadshows, corporate museums and events. The fan or consumer is always looking for authenticity, always asking questions. What’s new? Why would I take that photo? Why should I enter that experience?

Brands need to use partnerships or passion points to create enticing visual spectaculars with a new layer of detail and interaction for fans to engage.

3. Integrating technology in a purposeful way

A truly immersive experience should be personalised towards the fan and enable them to bring their passion points to life in a truly memorable experience, with innovation going a long way to stimulate the senses of consumers.

Taking an analogue experience utilising performers, actors and events professionals tied in with technology can be the exact fusion needed, something Lexus did successfully by bringing in VR technology mixed with a fantastic analogue experience to launch their new Lexus RX.

Technology can be the key enabler, as long as it is used for purpose and not for novelty. To heighten expectation for fans, whilst pushing the brand event to the masses, technology can play a key role in empowering fans and creating advocates for brands. The one-of-a-kind experiences which place the brand in fans’ hands will be the most powerful.

4. Audience insight is crucial for creating the right experience for your audience

The Heineken Cliché campaign draws attention to women who are more interested in going to the UEFA Champions League Final than their male partners. It’s an example of understanding what customers really want. Audience insight really makes or breaks an event strategy and can turn an experience from being good to great.

Ultimately, our industry is all about results, and the outcomes need to inspire, engage and, usually, educate the audience. This is done best by encouraging participation, even if this is as simple as using the competitive notion of always wanting to beat your best time, such as Nike’s Unlimited track, which used personal immersive technology and projection mapping to track each runner.

5. Bringing together the physical and social worlds adds power to the experience

If you want people to talk about your brand you need to give them something to talk about. And new products or ad campaigns are not enough. Photos and video drive the majority of engagement on social media and in the era of the selfie, it’s the images in which they feature that people are most excited to share on social. A rich physical experience will have your audience pulling out their smart phones to show their friends and followers what an amazing time they are having, authentically spreading the excitement far beyond the four walls of any event. It’s an obvious one, but the question the audience will always ask themselves is “will I share this with my followers?” If it’s not cool enough, exclusive enough, authentic or rewarding enough then this simply doesn’t happen.
Event market is about creating lasting memories, bringing in brand advocates, demonstrating product features and benefits and delivering a legacy in the hearts and minds of your consumers. Your audience exists in both the real and the social worlds – so as a brand or rightsholder you should be doing the same. Go beyond photo booths, create something that generates a sense of fear of missing out, because that’s what people will talk about. After all, it’s not who goes, it’s who knows.

Go on, immerse yourself!