Themed Entertainment Industry Goes Virtual: What Can We Learn?
By Amanda Retter, Marketing, InVision Communications
The corporate events industry isn’t the only one suffering from in-person, large gathering bans. The themed entertainment industry, which relies primarily on in-person entertainment, is also experiencing major setbacks. And, during this time, the industry is scrambling to find new ways to keep people engaged and connected with brands without diminishing the experience.
Let’s examine and take inspiration from some fresh, imaginative ways companies like Disney who is bringing virtual experiences to fans to keep their brand top-of-mind during this time. These ideas could live well beyond the demise of shelter-in-place when the world begins opening back up.
Disney is bringing the magic of its theme parks into fans’ homes. Let’s think about the things we love when we go to Disney World or Disneyland…is it the food? The Dapper Dan’s? The character meet-and-greets? What about the rides? Who doesn’t love the adrenaline rush of Indiana Jones or the nostalgia of Peter Pan? Well, Disney might not be able to bring those attractions to your backyard, but they can bring it to your screen with their “Ride & Learn” series. The series takes you on virtual rides (bonus: no lines!) while also giving you fun facts about the attraction. Disney fans are rejoicing. The virtual rides have been predictably popular, only making fans itching to go back into the parks when Disneyland and WDW resorts reopen.
Brands can use similar tactics to virtualize elements of their product or service. Your customers or user base are eager to connect with your brand at this time. Perhaps your products can be accessed with a simple touch of their mouse (no Disney-pun intended) inside a virtual demo room.
In the events industry, we’ve used escape rooms as an engagement tool and teambuilding activity for years. Just like other in-person entertainment, the immersive, interactive game was put on pause. But not for some…and they took it to a surprising new level. Rock Ave Escape Room adapted their game into a livestream online escape room using an actual real escape room. Players control a live person in the escape room by telling him where to go and what to do. This clever twist on the game was so widely received, it sold out for two months the moment ticket sales opened. It even caught the attention of many media outlets and the escape room community when they realized it was a first of its kind in the industry.
Find ways to deeply immerse attendees into breakout or training sessions by gamifying the online experience or making it interactive. Possibly create an escape room that involves attendees to work together to solve a problem or challenge; or intersperse QR codes or Augmented Reality triggers that force attendees to take action if they want to see the content. The more an online viewer is immersed into what they are learning or seeing, the likelier they’ll retain the information.
Spooky attractions are keeping fear-based adrenaline junkies hooked at this time. In fact, the Winchester Mystery House is campaigning for everyone to #BeLikeSarah, a clever way of capitalizing on the mysterious heir Sarah Winchester who is responsible for the bizarreness of the Victorian mansion itself. And for nine dollars, fans and curious thrill-seekers can access (forever, btw) 360-degree virtual tour of the mansion anytime they want. You can explore every level of the house, including rooms that are not open to the public (that’s a win). The owners of The Conjuring house teamed up with The Dark Zone, a new paranormal online network, to live stream the haunted house for a week back in May. The weeklong live stream gave paid viewers an inside look of the mysterious home, including seances and, you guessed it, conjurings.
Online environments that allow attendees to explore at their own pace or “choose their own adventure” are a great way to keep attendees engaged. Provide a walk-through exploration through an expo and maybe infuse hidden treasures or “easter eggs” within it, e.g., a special message from an executive.
Festivals are a fantastic way to spend the day with friends to check out unique arts and crafts and tasty food and beverages. With shelter-in-place, most festivals canceled, while others adapted. Rock Star Beer Festival didn’t waste a beat and immediately began promoting virtual beer festivals for their happy beer connoisseurs. Upon registration to a festival, 10 special beers are sent to the attendee’s house along with swag merchandise. During the virtual experience, guests are treated with interactive games, comedy sketches, musical performances and guided tastings with different breweries. These virtual beer festivals have been wildly popular and sell out almost immediately.
Consider sending your attendees a small gift or at-home kit that they can use during your online event in an interactive and special way. For example, VR cardboard glasses for your smartphone to view online virtual content. And just like virtual festivals, intermix live sketches or entertainment to reenergize the pitfall of online fatigue.
Online experiences will never fully replace in-person experiences. Yet we can certainly adapt and find other ways to keep fans, customers and employees engaged while we patiently wait for the world to open back (safely, of course). So, what can we do to give your next event a little twist? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the ball rolling!