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Hit ‘em In The Gut

Posted on July 3, 2013 and read 2,476 times

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oogielee Hit em In The GutOogie Lee
Design Director

As I rode up the escalators of the Los Angeles Convention Center’s South Hall, I could hear the booming bass from what were sure to be concert-sized subwoofers. By the time I reached the top of the escalator, the flashing lights flickering through the hazy mist served as a promise that beyond these glass doors awaited an awesome sensory experience. Upon entering the hall I immediately walked in the flow of traffic and shuffled my way through crowds captivated by theater-sized screens with earth-shaking surround sound.

Everywhere you look, there were lines for theater experiences or swag giveaways. In every direction, there was a booth designed to catch your attention through the use of height, massive screens, theatrical lighting, incredible surround sound, smoke machines and all sorts of sensory tactics that might be used at a show in Vegas. If you attended the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo a few weeks ago, all of this may sound familiar, however, the experience I just described was not of the current year’s show but that of E3 2000. The point is that the gaming industry has been honing the craft of “creating experiences” since very early on. I believe they have been ahead of the curve in the ad world and have always understood that they must create a lasting impression through an entertaining experience that’ll leave their product top of mind and at the top of people’s share feed.

I am not saying experiential marketing is new to advertising. In fact, it is probably the oldest known form of advertising. Before paid media existed, products and services were sold through demonstrations and word of mouth. Psychiatrist William Glasser has said humans learn only 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see but 80% of what they experience. So the merits of making gut-hitting connections are well documented. However, the levels of engagement and entertainment achieved through the assault on your senses reached by the video game industry at their trade events has been unrivaled by any other over the years.

For instance, Activision’s E3 booth this year featured a massive 180° screen with an elevated platform that rumbled under your feet. It was an experience one would expect more from a theme park than a trade show. It was certainly share worthy and in fact, if you missed it first hand, you can find plenty of videos online showing this experience. Quite simply, a straight trailer is just not enough in the video game business. This isn’t the movie industry after all. The added dimension of interactivity in their products requires one to expect more from their trade events.

For years it had been the goal of game makers to produce trailers that were of the quality of blockbuster films. Well, technology has advanced over the years and the visual quality of games, CG footage, voice acting and story development have allowed the gaming industry to catch up to the movie industry in terms of trailers. But the tactics of creating entertaining experiences used by the gaming industry allows them to surpass their industry rivals in terms of engagement. The chase has reversed now and the collision ground for all of these entertainment properties to stand off is at Comic Con International. This trade show has completely transformed over the last few years to the point where major TV and movie studios will come and engage and captivate the rabid fans in a fashion not unlike the way game publishers have showcased their properties at their shows.

The trend of developing highly entertaining trade show booths can be seen in industries outside of entertainment. At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, CE companies will use highly engaging tactics to captivate their audience. Over the past two years, mega-sized theater experiences utilizing 3D technology, stunning visual displays and content have be seen at most of the major manufacturer booths. This year at CES, I saw some amazing 360° projection displays, dancing TVs on robot arms and even live dancers in an oversized, two story mock house to showcase a multi-room, wireless speaker solution. I know for a fact that last mention was influenced by a gaming approach because it was our agency that created the experience.

You can even see this trend in the auto industry. Auto shows in the past didn’t need to do much more than feature their latest car. But today, they have some of the most innovative uses of theater screens and captivating experiences.

The idea is to hit the public in the gut with something to shout about. Engagement is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Shares, tweets, blogs, ratings and likes: these are what make up the new currency of business today and they can be earned through the use of elaborate trade experiences that leave the visitor feeling rewarded for having witnessed them firsthand. Gaming companies have been approaching trade show booths like a form of entertainment for as long as I’ve been a part of the industry. And it’s clear that it’s had an influence on how their neighboring industries approach trade shows.

Even outside the world of trade shows there are examples of brands that have found success by recognizing that audiences just want to be entertained. Red Bull is a relentless force when it comes to creating brand related events that captivate, engage and entertain. In fact, Red Bull has created so much content through capturing entertaining experiences that it considers itself as more of a media company than a product manufacturer. Nike is another brand that has created droves of advocates through the creation of highly engaging events. For example, their use of concerts at Run Hit Wonder creates a memorable experience that goes way beyond the typical learning events of their competitors. The Nike Plus program has droves of people directly linked to their brand. Through the masterful use of technology, events and social media, they exploit fun by game-ifying the task of running and have made their product a necessary ingredient to participate in the overall experience.

Perhaps it is unfair to say all of these examples of brands using engaging experiences owe credit to the video game industry. But one thing is certain, the gaming industry is in the business of entertaining so it will always be on the bleeding edge of innovation and effectiveness when it comes to engaging people through experiences.




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