As we bid adieu to 2018, we close on a year where technology once again took a front seat in top trends in exhibit design. Virtual reality, with lesser immersives like augmented reality and mixed reality, populated exhibits like a true superstar. Participants got to experience holographic driving, rearrange furniture in their homes, and even interact with Disney characters. After all, what’s better for experiential marketing then allowing customers to virtually experience your brand? What could possibly go wrong?
It turns out, a lot. Like many superstars, immersive tech has the potential to go full diva with its unrealistic demands. Consequently, 2019 may be the year immersive technology takes a more Best Supporting Actor role. Sure, he’s still in the film, but he knows when to take a back seat to a tried-and-true box office bet: Classic story-telling.
First, let’s take an honest look at how virtual reality functions in exhibit designs. While a natural fit for innovative thought leaders looking to showcase their brand with immersive experience, it can be expensive. “We will see more of VR and AR, but only for brands with the budgets for top-quality experiences,” says Ivan Lazarev, president and CEO, ITN International Inc. “They will not be adopted on a mass scale for at least five years.”
Worse, while immersive tech seems like a fantastic story-telling tool, it can lead to a dark ending. Often spiking real-life nausea, headache and dizziness in attendees, it also poses an issue with germ containment. After all, how clean can goggles really get between visits on a multitude of heads?
This leads us to ask the hard questions, or at least the ones without the possibility of paying a lot of money to make people sick. If we want to use VR in our exhibits, we should ask ourselves: Why? Does it really fit with our customer’s needs? Mixed reality can be a fantastic tool, as long as it is carefully executed, and by that we mean free of runaway costs (and runaway lunches).
The good news? While experts work to make the technology cheaper, cleaner, and dizziness-free, there are still many innovative ways stay on trend and tell an innovative tale with your exhibit designs. We predict a return to classic story-telling in 2019, championed by technological enhancers.
Here’s how to do it. Storytelling promotes a strong reaction, exactly what you want to give your participants. As Group Delphi CEO Justin Hersh explains, “People want to have a visceral experience, something that is really crafted to the a-ha moment. What is the story we want to tell? What are the emotive experiences?”
Hersh goes on to recommend some simple soul-searching about your mission. Determine the story you want to give your consumers. You don’t need a complex technology to pull this off according to Hersh.
With our Virgin Galactic launch, we used the otherworldliness of the Mojave Desert, as well as lights, glowing tents, cool music, and ice-carving. It was the totality of the experience that connected to participants.
Perhaps the biggest top trend of 2019 will be a return to the classics: storytelling, mystery and suspense.