#TheFutureIs / Art / Brands

#TheFutureIs… My Mind, Body… And Soul? [Immersivity]

We take a look at the growing trend of consumer-created immersive experience and what brands can learn from art to connect with their audience…

Read the latest JWT report and you’ll see that Immersive Experiences are listed as one of the top trends for the near future. With that in mind, we explore how more and more people are turning to experiences to make them happy. Vital reading when you consider that it’s now proven that experiences are more important to people than a cold purchase of consumer goods, with no emotional attachment to the brand. In their book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, authors Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton draw on years of research to explain: “we have shown in research… that stuff isn’t good for you…. it doesn’t make you happy. But one thing that does make us happy is an experience.” With this growing trend only set to rise, we take a look at how artists harness the power of experience to reach into the hearts and minds of their audiences, and what brands can learn from them to stay connected to their consumers’ happiness.

In today’s world customers expect something interesting, relevant and precise. It is often acknowledged that traditional marketing campaigns can be boring and fail to create meaningful connections. As consumer-driven audiences demand more, a growing number of brands and agencies are turning to immersive experiences. As a result, marketing campaigns and the free-ranging art world are beginning to converge. Interactive art installations point to a new era, and are testament to the evolution and boundaries of what can be achieved. At Vision Nine we are turning our attention to the trendsetters in the art world to bring examples of alternative approaches which acknowledge the intimacy and idiosyncrasies of people’s environments.

Contemporary art group rAndom International is one such group that creates art that not only challenges audiences to participate, but builds personal connections with people by moulding an experience around them. In their latest piece, Rain Room (recently featured at the Barbican’s Curve Gallery) audiences were invited to walk through a room filled with pouring rain without getting wet. Aside from the sensory wonderment the piece is especially fitting as it enabled users to choose their own route and make their own discoveries on the limitations of the technology (if you dared).

“In terms of what the viewer experiences we don’t really have set ideas. I think that’s the whole idea… to see what experiences they have and how they perceive it and respond and interact with it,” explains one of the artists behind the exhibit. By allowing the audience to take part in their own personal journey, their experiences formed not through visual or material attributes, but through their own particular circumstances that surround it.

In a similar theme Yayoi Kusama’s The Obliteration Room at Queensland Gallery of Modern Art began as a completely whited-out setting (furniture included), and ended up covered by thousands of her signature dots – aided by placement of colourful stickers by those who visited the exhibition. This model is especially empowering as the audience directly participates in the creation of the art and take ownership of the piece and its experiences.

The success of immersive content is highlighted in the explosive growth of London’s immersive theatre offerings. Take Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel – now in collaboration with Secret Cinema. Their most recent production continues to engage audiences across London with their sell-out show. Artistic director Fabien Riggall recreates the screen world in real life, complete with dining rooms, restaurants and a spa. Aside from the grandeur of the sets and richness of decoration, guests are invited to explore their surroundings while interacting with actors and fellow audiences. The guts of the activation is brought life in extraordinary detail as audiences embark on unique discoveries and create personal experiences with the production.

You don’t have to look far to see how this thinking is already being applied on a wider platform. SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas now showcases a range of brands capitalising on immersive marketing. This year’s event hosted the CNN Grill, Taco Bell’s FeedTheBeat, and most famously Doritos’ Bold Stage.  The Doritos campaign involved challenging audiences to participate in a series of ‘bold missions’ such as  jumping from a 30-foot high platform to grab a dangling BoldStage ticket, busk on the street using instruments Doritos provides to earn $10 in 10 minutes or less, and pit themselves against roller derby pros while wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler suit.  All successful missions/applicants were rewarded with tickets to their exclusive concert featuring Lady Gaga, who personally encouraged fans to get out there and take part in their own unique journey towards earning a ticket… “I believe that being an individual is the boldest thing you can do… I can’t wait to see all creative, generous, brave and individual acts my fans take to gain access to the show.”

Closer to home, the Converse recent ‘shoes are boring, wear sneakers’ campaign allowed pedestrians to contribute to their own daily joy. Commuters in Shoreditch and Dalston Kingsland station were treated to a bubble-wrapped hopscotch floor. Often unaware that they were walking on bubble wrap until it started popping, the activity provoked people to react to their environment and in many, if not all cases, added some childlike fun to the start of their day. A far cry from walking in the Rain Room, though this would definitely make me buy sneakers, not shoes.

Not so long ago, it was enough for customers to simply see and/or hear your brand, a fact that advertisers exploit to the max across multi-media channels. Now, it appears that the more we message across all points of technology, the less connected we feel. Bombarded with communication at every touchpoint, consumers are switching off. To engage them, brands can learn from artists and create something interactive on a truly personal level. Walking through the rain, busking in the streets to see one of the biggest names in pop or jumping for joy on bubble-wrap puts us in touch with our emotions, and reminds us that we exist. Immersive experiences take us back to basics, in a way that is streets ahead.

Via Vision Nine

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