Brands can learn by diving into a hot tub of sprinkles

Does the world really need a “hot tub of sprinkles”? Apparently. Because seemingly every social channel has been filled lately with consumer-generated content from the Color Factory and the Museum of Ice Cream—the latest crazes in immersive experience.

At the end of this month, the Museum of Ice Cream’s Miami and San Francisco exhibits will close. Both were extended by popular demand AND sold out. The Color Factory just released more tickets for the spring – again due to its extraordinary appeal – and only a few slots remain.

I have to admit when I first learned about the Color Factory, I didn’t get it.  Why were people willing to pay over $30, line up around the corner and scour the secondary market for tickets going for north of $150 … to stand in a yellow room?

When I started to dive a bit deeper, however, the “why” started to come into focus. People, as we know, are obsessed like never before with documenting their lives. “Pics or it didn’t happen” after all. And these experiences, and 29 Rooms and M&M’s 75th Anniversary experience before them, were created to offer consumers countless backdrops for the perfect selfies.

Consumers continue to be desperate for live, tangible experiences. But not just for themselves.  They demand these moments to help them create compelling, beautiful content their digital-selves can broadcast. These recent experiences did that in spades, with endless unique, lush and saturated backdrops.

And more than that, these exhibitions were simple, moving and original – the foundation of truly extraordinary experiences. They make people feel something. They make them care. They make them remember.

Brands need to integrate these three principles into their storytelling in order to make an impact. How?

  1. Stop assuming that people spend a lot of time thinking about your brand. They don’t. Many consumers wouldn’t care if brands disappeared from their lives. So, in order to create a lasting impression and connection, experiences need to be easy to understand. Simple. In particular, with uncluttered recognizable visual elements of a brand’s identity. Simplicity makes it easy to remember and increases the likelihood that what people take away and share are clear and consistent.
  1. Remember: humans can be irrational and tend to make decisions emotionally. What people feel about a brand is as important, if not more so, than what they think. So, we must move them. Moving experiences are also relatable. Force your audience to pay attention by demanding an emotional interaction with your experience. Emotions are also tied to memory, so creating work that moves people can add to its impact, memorability and share-ability. Ninety-five percent (95%) of our purchase decisions, according to research by Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, take place unconsciously. And another professor at Harvard Business School, Francesca Gino, who studies emotion, focuses specifically on how simple, seemingly irrelevant, factors can have a significant impact on the choices we make every day.
  1. Brands need to challenge themselves and not be afraid to do the “never been done before”. Make it original. While it’s important to take cues from pop culture – make sure to create something that is truly unique. Brands who are willing to do bold things that haven’t been done before tend to get better results, particularly when the objective is to create awareness, engagement and earned media. On the contrary though, brands that don’t embrace originality end up as “plain vanilla” – and I don’t mean the ice cream. When it is original, people are inclined to share it, and that is how we get an Instagram feed full of life-sized desserts.

Together, these three characteristics help ensure that an execution will be memorable. Drawing inspiration from these two recent activations—and beyond is a great starting point.  We don’t need to recreate the yellow ball pit but we should challenge ourselves to create experiences that are equally or more memorable. Because with all of the change in the world, one truth remains constant: while the experience itself may be short lived, it brings a story to life and it’s the stories we live to tell.

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