Immersion Marketing | Hooked on a Feeling

By in Experience Design + Management, Featured, Insights, Thought Pieces

Two long-standing marketing trends are colliding, creating opportunities for innovation and creativity like never before. By 2020, the result will impact nearly every business with something to sell — across every business model, from service providers to product manufacturers. The two trending concepts are:

  1. People tend to do business with people (and companies) they like.
  2. More than ever, marketing is a total immersive experience.

These are trends forecasted by some notables as Susan Bond and Tony Zambito. They apply equally well for B2C, B2B, and even B2E (business-to-employee) efforts. To woo your target market, you’ll have to give them something they’ll remember, enjoy and want to repeat. Disney — with its theme parks, movies, toys, games and other merchandise — is a master at immersion marketing, but you don’t need Disney’s deep pockets to take advantage of this knowledge.

Immersion First

Immersion marketing isn’t a surround-sound stereo system; it’s giving your audience instruments so they can play along at multiple touch points. While the ultimate goal is still to sell your product or service, the more immediate goal is to provide an emotional connection to your brand. In other words, “If you build it, they will come” is no longer true. Rather: “If you let them play, they will come, relate, learn… and spread the love.”

The power of experience is more memorable than merely being exposed to an ad campaign. In immersion marketing, your customers become stakeholders, involved and engaged. By immersing your audience in a branded experience, you’re much more likely to begin a relationship around your message.

Immersion marketing doesn’t replace other forms of marketing; it enhances it. Potential customers can turn off their televisions and block advertising on their digital devices (a growing trend), but immersion marketing sidesteps those roadblocks with a friendly invitation: “Come on and play.” It’s a powerful lure.

Like Making a Friend
Truly connecting with humans (not “consumers” or “the audience,” but real people) takes time, effort and patience. It’s similar to making friends. You enjoy stronger connections with friends, and friendship often leads to deep loyalty. Imagine if all your customers and employees thought of your brand as their friend.

An emotional connection with a brand is as strong as a personal connection to a friend. Some products and services lend themselves to friendship-based emotional connections more readily than others. People feel connected to their cars, for example, sometimes even giving them names and personalities. And many of the growing array of digital-service based brands like Uber and Airbnb also offer strong emotional connections. By thinking about any brand as a “friend,” you open up to the possibility of building a mutually beneficial relationship that can lead to loyalty — and ultimately even love.

But to create a mutually beneficial relationship, just as in a friendship, you have to offer something, too. And that’s where immersion marketing comes in.

Immersion Marketing Feels Good
Immersive experiences work because they allow participants to feel involved, which is inherently enjoyable. Immersion creates desire for a brand by inviting involvement into an engrossing story that feeds our human desire for feeling. These stories carry the emotions, developing a connection along the way.

People may forget what you tell them, but they will always remember how you make them feel. It’s the thrill of discovering the Easter egg in a game. It’s receiving an unexpected gift at an unexpected moment. It’s finding the solution by yourself. The result is gratifying, engaging and completely memorable. That’s the hook of immersion marketing.

The fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed. But by making it immersive and fun, you change the game. It’s almost not even like marketing anymore. Once engaged, people will tend to let their guards down because they’re enjoying themselves. People connect more readily and are more receptive when they’re having fun. Who doesn’t like getting permission to play?

Find the emotional hook, whether it’s curiosity, delight or desire. Make it fun and beneficial enough to leave an impression and create a lasting memory. Those are the ingredients of immersion marketing.

Strangers Are Friends You Haven’t Yet Met
So instead of selling to customers, make new friends. Instead of deploying an advertising campaign, think of your marketing effort like a block party. Inviting and engaging with real people through your brand’s emotional platform has the greatest potential to raise your sales and impact the sustainable growth of your business.

Immersion marketing builds those relationships. Whether you are planning to launch a B2C, B2B or B2E marketing effort, connect with people in a way that leads to friendship. No one wants to be sold to, but everyone wants to be wooed, to have fun and to be involved. And those are the goals of immersion marketing.


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