I Woke Up Like This: Experiential Marketing in a post-Sprinkles Pool World

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You wake up, flawless
Post up, flawless
Ride round in it, flawless
Flossin on that, flawless
I woke up like this

  • Beyoncé: Flawless (2013)

Beyoncé’s 2013 musical ode to self empowerment might actually be a Nostradamus-like vision of things to come in the experiential marketing world. (We will come back to this a little later on…)

I’m going to start out this article by making an unpopular statement (but, C’mon marketers — you know it’s true)… and that statement is:

“We have reached ‘peak Sprinkles Pool.’”

As we begin to wind down 2018 we most definitely have achieved peak “sprinkles Pool” (or “peak experiential”, if you prefer) . This sudden realization should come as no surprise now that every brand is (as the kids would say) doing it ‘for the Gram.’ it doesn’t take more than a cursory browse through your average Instagram timeline to see that carefully, painstakingly-curated and overly-aestheticized Instagram murals, sprinkle pools and increasingly curated moments of perfectly-adorned Avocado Toast rule the visual lexicon of 2018. Brands have certainly noticed this trend and have marshalled considerable resources towards creating the perfect “gram-able” selfie honey pots . This constant one-upmanship has locked brands into a unrelenting battle to outdo each other in the quest to create the most ‘gram-able’ experience possible, thus creating Gram-centric selfie pop-ups and other experiential experiences that pit consumers against each other in a Hunger Games-style Battle Royale for best branded selfie.

This sort of movement to create limited-time-only flights of fancy have certainly exploded in recent years, fueled by social media powerhouses and shining examples of Experiential marketing such as The Museum of Ice Cream, and HBO’s Westworld: Live Without Limits.

But as with most groundswells that intersect with Madison Ave: There are now few frontiers left untouched by Experiential marketing. So that leaves us Experiential marketers wondering where the future of our specialty lies as all the roads have already been paved and all the maps already drawn.

Westworld: Live Without Limits held true to its name by offering devout fans of the HBO series the opportunity to visit a meticulous recreation of the series’ focal set piece Sweetwater at a ranch just outside the Austin city limits. In the faux Sweetwater, 80+ actors acted out 500+ pages of dialogue painstakingly handcrafted by the show’s creative team including Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan.

In addition to being provided food, drink and Sweetwater-appropriate western wear, Live Without Limits fully embodied the term “immersive experience” by allowing fans to most- literally walk in the shoes or “boots” of their favorite characters and discover easter eggs and sneak peeks of the hotly-anticipated 2nd season of the HBO series. Live Without Limits became a social media phenomenon, trending locally for several days and sporting a standby line that stretched almost 0.5 miles down Cesar Chavez Blvd. for most of the 4 day run.

So, given all this, how do we as marketers, build a better mousetrap that still promotes our brand and generates the social media and press coverage that converts into a halo effect of awareness and ultimately, hopefully, conversion? That is where the aforementioned, Queen Béy comes in.

I Woke Up Like This

See… what Beyoncé has done here is unknowingly planted a road map into our minds for experiential marketing’s future shrewdly-disguised as a pop ditty about self-empowerment and a not-too-subtle demand for fellow female adversaries to praise and acknowledge her accomplishments. Hidden in this pop manifesto is the song’s crowning declaration: “I woke up like this.” — a brave and bold statement that has been adopted by a millennial Instagram-driven culture as a rallying cry to showcase makeup-less faces, un-retouched selfies and Bedhead. More than just a hashtag, it reflects a shift in visual aesthetics towards authentic and unvarnished vulnerability.

So, how can we as marketers use this as a potential roadmap to the future of the experiential industry?

Simply put, we should focus less on creating Insta-baiting selfie honey-pots and instead take a cue from Queen Béy and create authentic experiences that allow visitors to check-in and be truly authentic and vulnerable. The key to doing this lies in breaking down the well-worn experiential model of having various photo opps that guests are shuttled through and instead I propose creating so-called “stay-able” experiences wherein guests can take off their shoes and stay a while (most literally) and eventually, in the words of Béyonce: wake up like this.

Think of it as The Museum of Ice Cream meets a hip boutique hotel. I believe that if we offer spaces that are comfortable and hotel-like we can erase the usual self-inflicted pressure created by experiential pop-ups — that gnawing feeling that I have to capture as many pictures as possible from the best possible angles before moving on to the next room of the experience and the next room and so forth.

I believe this new approach could have a potentially transformative effect on experiential marketing as a whole — travel photography is quickly becoming a cottage industry amongst influencers on Instagram and hotels are already providing plenty of Insta-fodder from wanderlust-inducing balcony views, room service trays and over-the-top amenities and hotel perks. — The #hotels tag on Instagram has over 21M posts at the time of this writing. So instead of courting Influencers and sending them across the globe to promote your brand, why not instead create an unforgettable branded travel experience within reach?

The other benefit of “stay-able” experiences beyond Instagrams and word of mouth is also the sleep itself — a good night of sleep has been scientifically proven to form new neural pathways to help learn and remember information. A recent Harvard study found that a good night of sleep improves Acquisition, Consolidation and Recall.

Just sleep on it: Acquisition, Consolidation and Recall

Sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. Although the exact mechanisms are not known, learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions.

Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain.

Consolidation represents the processes by which a memory becomes stable.

Recall refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored.

So, it’s my entirely non-scientific theory that by luring potential consumers into a space where they are immersed in a brand and feel safe, calm and relaxed we as marketers can introduce our products in a way that naturally binds itself to memory and coaxes the brain into being more receptive to recalling the brand in question.

While these theories might sound out there, I believe our industry is already showing a few forays into this territory:

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Disney’s highly-anticipated addition to Disneyland and Disney World that allows Star Wars fans & families the opportunity to spend the night inside the Star Wars Universe.

W Village Experience @ Coachella: The W, created a unique, one-of-a-kind experience for their SPG and Marriott Rewards members during Coachella (Weekends 1 and 2). W created four luxury yurts, made to resemble W Hotel properties in Bali, Hollywood and Barcelona, and Dubai: The Palm (set to be the first W Escape in the Middle East). Marriott Rewards and SPG offered members the opportunity to bid their points for the chance to stay in one of the four yurts.

Avicii Hotel Miami: For 2013’s Miami Music Week, the SLS Hotel Miami — temporarily rebranded as The Avicii Hotel featuring the iconic Swedish DJ and his signature aesthetics integrated into the decor of the hotel down to the toilet stalls.

Avicii Hotel Miami

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Star Wars: Galaxy’s edge

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W Village Experience @ Coachella

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Entertainment Industry Consultant w/15+ years of entertainment industry experience. Voracious consumer of content and pop culture.

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