Bright yellow floating piers crisscrossing Lake Iseo. Entire islands in Biscayne Bay fully surrounded by hot pink webs of fabric. A giant white snake of fluttering cloth curving across 24 miles of the northern California coast to the Pacific Ocean. These were all temporary art installations constructed by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. All of them stirred up months of controversy in advance — followed by breathless reviews when completed. The snake, known as “Running Fence,” crossed the ranch of Joe Pozzi’s family, who later said, “It changed people’s lives, and for the better.”
Most experiential marketers don’t have the luxury to think on the scale of a Christo and Jeanne-Claude work. And with all of the focus on trade show logistics, and budget, and even more logistics, it’s easy to lose sight that your end goal is the same as an artist: to create an exhibit with emotional impact.
“The whole point is to leave your visitors feeling transformed,” says Group Delphi Chief Creative Officer, Tony Erpelding.
Whether you’re trying to convey a brand story, align with a cause, market a service, or sell a widget, the thought process that goes into a brand experience should be the same. An experience isn’t an experience just because you call it one: it has to leave a mark.
“Think about how the sights, sounds, and feels of your booth should emotionally impact your customer — and then design a booth with those specific senses in mind,” says Erpelding.
Here are some examples of exhibits that fully embraced the artistic approach:
Leave Them Talking
Did you know that out of the 150 statues across New York City, only five are of women? While New York City is working to address the disparity, Hulu recently used this fact to stir up some buzz.
A recent activation in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park to promote the third season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” consisted of 140 mirrored statues. Each were installed to highlight the gap between male and female statues in New York City. By reflecting the images of women walking by, the exhibit showed what a more inclusive future could look like. Yes, this was marketing for a television show, but it was also a moving and provocative experience that left people talking.
Invite Them In
“The best experiences leave visitors feeling called to action and yearning for more. Entice your audience. Draw them in. Show them something amazing and then talk with them about it,” says Erpelding.
Take our work with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. In the Expanding Universe Hall of the museum, our in-house creative team stitched together a composite space image using 32 giant screens and complex AV systems. The result? A luminous expression of one of the most abstract concepts: the expanding universe.
The same thinking applied to the “Fly Like a Bird” installation, using an interactive motion-sensing technology that responds directly to the user, taking them through the process of a bird’s flight. From the detailed painting of leaves to the construction of sea life, we approached every step of this installation as an artistic, educational expression first.
The result? At the museum’s opening gala, enthusiastic benefactors were buzzing.
In other words, the work we do isn’t like art, it is art — or it can be if you approach it with the goal of creating an exhibit with emotional impact for attendees. If you move people with an immersive experience, even just one person, you might as well be the Musee D’Orsay, a luminous meadow in Paso Robles, or a giant white snake of fabric slithering toward the Pacific Ocean.