I’m in a wheelchair, in what looks like a men’s changing room, and eleven men, in full American football kit, their helmets under their arms, are looking at me. I think I’m their coach. And they’re waiting for instructions…

It’s not a nightmare, but the opening scene of an immersive theatre company I bought tickets for a couple of years ago, without fully knowing what I was getting myself into. I honestly haven’t felt that exhilarated for a while.

Now it’s becoming so mainstream – there’s a whole section on TimeOut – it’s a shock when a theatrical event doesn’t break the fourth wall. Entertainment might be pioneering the practice, but brands are following suit.

Why are brands adopting immersive experiences?

Immersive experiences offer a winning combination of a one-on-one participation that can’t be replicated: a personalised moment that also gives you the feeling that you’re doing this with other people. In other words, one person feels like they’re part of a movement.

Make the audience feel like they're in control and they'll come back for more. - Highlight to share  -

And what’s a key ingredient? Agency.

Make the audience feel like they’re in control and they’ll come back for more. The experience fits into how they behave and how they live their life.

Back to the theatre example – sitting still on a velvet seat for hours and watching other people do stuff doesn’t sound like so much fun now in comparison to my locker room experience.

Adding an extra dimension is not a new phenomenon. You can see it in tech, where virtual reality has been the ‘next big thing’ since about 2014, and in gaming too. But it’s starting to be more frequent in commercial and marketing efforts. Think of concept stores which give you an experience as you shop. The aim is to tap into what customers want and offer them something unique.

People want to have a personal relationship with brands, yet understand they're just one of many customers. - Highlight to share  -

The Airbnb example

Airbnb knows this. CEO and founder Brian Chesky is charging full steam ahead on developing the ‘Trips’ experience: ‘The whole idea is that you can immerse yourself in local communities’ he told the BBC last year.

He’s now pioneering ‘Music Experiences’ for music lovers to access small gigs, practice sessions etc. Recently, Chesky was one of 60 people watching an Emeli Sandé gig live – tens of thousands more were watching on social media.

How other brands can follow suit

This taps into many of the things that we know at Reevoo.

  1. Give the customer agency. They have to feel like they are in control; whether that’s the brand giving the consumer a voice or responding to them and dealing with feedback properly.
  2. People want to have a personal relationship with brands, yet understand they’re just one of many customers.
  3. Experiences are what people are after – rather than a bog-standard product or service. It’s not about the product, it’s about how you use the product and how it fits into your life.

And it’s up to brands to show people an experience they can buy into.

Are immersive experiences changing marketing?