Demolishing the imaginary wallsBy Jess Lehmann
Now that ‘All the world’s a stage’, it’s time we started to think more theatrically.
When it comes to telling brand stories in our uber-connected, technology driven world, it’s not only a case of getting colour, typography and edit right, but about finding the right devices, platforms and networks. Being in all the right places with witty and engaging dialogue can leave brands feeling like frustrated teenagers who want to go to the party but don’t have the right sneakers to wear.
Brands are not alone in needing to deal with new levels of complexity, though. The last 10 years has seen a boom in immersive theatre. With the imaginary 4th wall separating stage and audience demolished, action takes place in a variety of different locations and the audience are free to wander.
London based theatre company Punchdrunk have had multiple successes with the immersive form, including a long running production of ‘Sleep No More’ in New York – a reworking of Macbeth which takes place inside an abandoned hotel. This summer they return to London with a hugely anticipated new work, ‘The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable’.
Both the artistry of these productions and their ability to communicate multiple, complex and cohesive messages to a wandering audience are impressive. A triumph of communication. And one that is highly relevant to the challenges we face as marketing professionals, with a roaming audience of consumers who we are looking to engage with at multiple touchpoints in the rich tapestry of their every day lives.
The relationship between the space and the action in a piece of immersive theatre is critical – they are mutually dependent, each making the other more powerful. For example, staging a production of Macbeth in an abandoned hotel draws out an interesting tension, and immediately piques interest. Are we always thinking imaginatively enough about the context in which our audience will experience a brand story? Are we considering media insights alongside consumer behaviour and trends to help us tease out similar tensions between the idea and where people interact with it? The recent KitKat campaign which invited people to ‘Take a Break’ in a selection of wifi-free zones is a perfect example – you don’t expect to be offered a service that blocks wifi in a public place, but being unexpected gets them noticed. The buzz that ensued all exploded online, of course, adding a spot of irony to the campaign.
Thematic signposts used in theatre – visual and audible cues appearing in different scenes – help to create continuity; especially important when the audience is not static. Adopting a similar approach could help us to maintain unity across different communications touchpoints. By teasing out different aspects of a brand story and developing them in platform appropriate ways we can build a rich collection of experiences that combine together to deliver a powerful, unified message. ASOS, the online clothes retailer, does an excellent job of this with multiple activities and pieces of content for consumers to engage with situated in appropriate places. Features such as street style and styling mechanisms – linked to e-commerce platforms – are on-point in terms of digital convergence.
Marketing communications is a type of performance in itself and in the post-digital world we live in never has the line ‘all the world’s a stage’ been so appropriate. Careful, theatrical thought can help us to embrace the lack of ‘walls’ and many special effects, props and locations on offer, helping us to create vibrant experiences for our consumers to explore and benefit from.
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