Sweeping en-vogue industry events like the South By Southwest (SXSW) Conference, the Escape Room is your attraction getting everybody talking. And it’s not only the participants, because this newfangled love of immersive experience is opening a door to advanced advertising and marketing opportunities, too.
What exactly is an Escape Space? You may ask. Picture this – you’re in a locked room. You have a couple random clues and you have no idea how to get out. You might think this is just another plot from among the Saw film franchises but it’s in fact the makings of an Escape Space experience. This’craze’ involves a group of up to 12 players – based on where you book – that must use physical and mental agility to unlock door after door, moving from room to room frantically figuring out mysterious clues. The catch? You’ve just 60 minutes to break free.
Of course this isn’t a new idea but after years of virtual reality parading as the cool big brother in the world of immersive experiences, escape chambers have been working through the experiential ranks to take the title of legitimately’wow’. Unsurprisingly, sharp marketers have monitored this and are now finding innovative ways to maximize the exposure to the experience. The’tie-in’ style of marketing arrangement appears to be the judgment formula for this.
Famous examples to date include Disney hosting a pop-up escape encounter linked with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The Escape Sport in Austin Texas (America’s most popular escape adventure ) being taken over by FOX in time for the launch of a new series of Prison Break, and HBO setting up a multi-room setup themed round Game of Thrones, Veep, and Silicon Valley. Smart.
Although this kind of marketing is nothing new in itself, what makes it effective is that the products marry perfectly with the experience, and we all know that consumers are, more than ever, forced to spend their money on’doing’ rather than through conventional advertising procedures, i.e. simply’watching’.
This tendency can be linked back to the world of video games and eSports. Marketers would release games then host’real world’ experiences: events, interactions and competitions that complimented the gameplay and made it concrete. This is where smart partnering and cooperation comes in. The ideal partnership here would be founded on a mutually beneficial business relationship where the escape room business and the IP (or copyright) owners work together to garner maximum exposure and expand the client base, prompting a’win: win’ arrangement.
Escape 60 in Brazil pulled off a blinding example of this in 2015 when they linked up with Ubisoft, the creators of dream behemoth Assassin’s Creed, to get ahead of the game and make an escape room orchestrated around the release of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. America’s Escape Game, Marriott Vacations Worldwide and Vistana Signature Experiences also collaborated to deliver the worlds of hospitality and entertainment together, which is now an increasing trend. Alex Reece, CEO of America’s Escape Game, commented in an interview at the time (October 2016),”We see a very bright future of integrating escape rooms powered by America’s Escape Sport in multiple Vistana locations in the coming months and years. There is no doubt that this strong alliance will bring the exploding escape room experience to many enthusiasts throughout the world.”
Fast-forward to 2017, and that same love of immersion compels lots of the elaborate marketing activations we see now in escape rooms. “I believe that the immersion allows for this to be more personal and personalized,” Joanna Scholl, vice president of marketing at HBO stated when quoted in an interview at this year’s SXSW conference. When asked about HBO: The Escape she remarked,”Every individual feels like they themselves are part of that experience, and it leaves much more of a memorable note for them.”