By Pratip Biswas
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”—Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
This quote, which is taken from one of the most celebrated horror stories ever written, clearly explains the human relationship with escapism, or the desire to be distracted from the problems of everyday life. When life becomes difficult—as it especially is today with the ongoing pandemic—people will indulge in their own kinds of escapism.
Does the popularity of escapism have any real business value? Actually, it does. The need and demand for a good escape into a fantastical world where anything is possible has opened up new opportunities for marketers to establish their brands as heroes.
Achieving escapism: Opening the doors to a fantasy world
Just like there are many tiers of fantasy, there are multiple ways to take advantage of escapism in your marketing.
Escaping with humor: Adobe Marketing Cloud
Humor is the best medicine for the blues, and this is why Adobe Marketing Cloud’s advertisement “Click, Baby, Click” was so successful. The ad shows a completely impossible situation—a company making business decisions based on a high number of clicks, yet it has no idea that all those clicks are coming from a baby.
The humorous ad presents a real scenario marketers and businesses experience every day, but in such a manner that instead of causing distress, the target audience smiles and understands the problem and solution at hand.
Adding a touch of humor, whether it be in your web content or in an ad, is a way to encourage your audience to escape reality, and it makes the solution-seeking process a lot more entertaining. This is why opting for humor when interacting with customers can help you make a positive connection.
Create a new world: Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly” universe
There are many examples of fantasy worlds that are the perfect escapist heaven. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and George R.R Martin’s Westeros are both worlds which allow audiences to escape into a universe of fantasy and magic.
Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly campaign features a fantasy world that was similar to the world of GOT. The mix of medieval aesthetics influenced by one of the biggest pop culture sensations and the humor of the nonsensical catchphrase “dilly dilly” went viral, reinforcing the Bud Light brand.
While this type of escapism works, it may not be ideal for all brands. In the case of Bud Light, it worked because the brand happens to be a category leader. “When the category leader creates more demand, the category leader get the lion’s share of that increase in demand,” writes Jeff Haden, a contributing editor for Inc. “If you’re a smaller player like Sierra Nevada and you create category demand, you’re not going to get much of it. If I’m a craft brewer, I’ll get a tiny lift, but the majority of the incremental demand goes to the category leader.”
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The power of fun in changing consumer behavior: Volkswagen’s piano stairs
If a brand can offer a certain amount of fun to an audience through a marketing initiative, it can make a big impact. Consider the Volkswagen experiential campaign which turned an entire staircase into a working piano. Each time commuters stepped onto the steps, a musical note played, causing people to unleash their inner artists by walking up and down the stairs to create music.
It was an interesting little experiment that not only offered a unique experience, but also provided people with a fun break from their daily life. Giving your audience the chance to escape the tediousness of everyday life and enjoy themselves for a few moments happens to be one of the best mixes of escapist and experiential marketing.
When technology comes to the foreground: Coca-Cola’s FIFA AR campaign
We are all aware of the wondrous features of augmented reality (AR), but what happens when it is used to provide the perfect experience and escape into a dream world? One of the finest examples of the use of AR comes from Coca-Cola’s FIFA World Cup campaign featuring Xherdan Shaqiri. A large screen showing footage of the Swiss soccer star was set up just outside Zurich’s main train station; fans got to play alongside Shaqiri and take photos with him.
The experiment had about one thousand interactions in two days, proving that providing consumers with experiences that help them achieve the impossible, even for just a few moments, goes a long way to reinforce a brand’s image.
It’s all about going that extra mile
Businesses exist in a very real and sometimes difficult world. The success of a marketing initiative depends on how much a campaign is in sync with reality. To meet the demands of consumers wanting to escape, today’s brands have to push the limits of what is ordinary and not be afraid of providing bold and new experiences.
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