We’ve all heard the words ‘experiential’ and ‘immersive’ being thrown around over the last few years, but what do they really mean? For many, a themed cocktail is enough to qualify as experiential, but we believe there’s a little more to creating something that’s truly deserving of the title. For us, it’s all about creating a great event narrative. Powerful stories are the foundation of every memorable event and help to transcend the four walls within which the occasion is taking place.
Savvy marketeers have noticed the power of live events and are now using them to activate their brands, build customer loyalty and connect with their audience in a more meaningful way. Taking guests on a journey is a sure-fire way for brands to resonate with their audiences and offer those money-can’t-buy experiences that modern consumers are so desperately seeking. So how can brands use live events to better connect with audiences and what does it mean for the future of the marketing mix?
Create a journey
Like any good story, your event should have a clear and cohesive narrative which guests are made well aware of in advance. This includes a clear beginning, middle and end. Start with the invites so that they know right from the outset that this is no ordinary event. At our last Halloween event, House Macabre, we used personalised ‘death’ tarot cards to invite guests. This increased anticipation, set the mood and offered them a taste of what was in store. Printed on the tarot card and enclosed in their digital invite was a link to a dedicated website which featured nothing but a counting clock and an invitation for guest to register their details. When telling a good story, it’s often the things you leave unsaid that stand out the most.
When guests arrived on the day, the venue had been completely dressed to reflect a journey to the afterlife with a car designed to look like it had crashed into the front wall of the venue. Guests made their way up the staircase to be met by a performer dressed as a weeping widow who was blocking their path up the stairs. Guests had to squeeze past her to get to the main room, providing a moment of anxious shuffling and creating the perfect mix of tension and intrigue.
There is a psychological principle which suggests that creating a feeling of journey, by moving through physical space, going through an experience or facing a challenge together, dramatically speeds up the feeling of connection. Implementing this can be a hugely effective method for brands and businesses to create a sense of community in a short period of time. By allowing the guests of House Macabre to take the journey in groups, it was as if they were already old friends and created the feeling of togetherness among attendees. The stage was set.
As the saying goes, it’s all in the details. Immersive events should do everything they can to keep guests wrapped up in the story being told and avoid breaking the illusion at all costs.
For our 2016 Christmas parties, we created the stand-alone brand ‘Aurora Industries’, a faceless corporate entity that ran a dystopian world in which the sun had mysteriously disappeared. The story went that during December, for one month only, the celestial (known as the “Aurora”) would illuminate the sky, offering guests a chance to celebrate light and colour once more. To supplement the story and add an extra layer of immersion, the dedicated website included an online store ‘selling’ curious items linked to the main event story, such as high-vis ties and blinds printed with pictures of a sunrise.
This tongue-in-cheek approach offered a fun way to go about booking and showed potential clients that serious consideration has been put into the event. Even if you don’t think it will be appreciated, or noticed, the little details often make all the difference to guests and is a great way to highlight the intricate thinking that goes into your brand activations.
Your guests are the cast of the story
A great tale drags us in and makes us feel like a member of the cast. That’s exactly what you want to achieve through live events. You want your guests to be active members of the story rather than passive observers going along for the ride.
During House Macabre, once guests had made their way inside, they were introduced to the shocking news that they were in fact ‘dead’ and were currently experiencing ‘purgatory’. Guests were given short Q&A’s which were used to gauge the quality of their life on earth and ultimately whether they would be heading to heaven or hell.
A similar method was used at our Apostles of Anonymity Christmas parties in 2015. Themed as a mysterious secret society, guests were invited to dress the part, don masks and become one of the apostles themselves. This created a sense that they were more than just a witness taking in their surroundings, they were very much in control of their own experience and how they interacted with the wonderful world we had created for them.
Remember, no one wants to feel like a passive onlooker, they want to be part of the collective, part of something bigger than themselves. If you can create an incredible story, fill it with intricate and amazing details and then make your guests feel like the star of the show, you’ll create an event which is worth much more than the sum of its parts. For us, that’s the true hallmark of a great storyteller.
- Simon Lockwood, Creative Director at The Brewery