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Marissa Franke: how did the Willy Wonka experience go so wrong?

The recent unveiling of the Willy Wonka Experience at the House of Illuminati serves as a stark reminder of the growing demand for immersive, multi-sensory adventures among consumers. However, what was anticipated to be a thrilling escapade for attendees turned into a dismal affair, with £35 tickets offering little more than empty halls adorned with printed backdrops and a lacklustre bouncy castle.

This misstep underscores a critical truth: while a poorly executed experience may spur conversation, it fails to create the memorable moments that truly captivate audiences.

So, where does one begin in the pursuit of crafting exemplary experiential offerings? Here are some guiding principles:

  • Accessibility: In the realm of spatial design, never underestimate the human element. People behave differently in public settings compared to private interactions with screens. Ensure your experience is accessible and intuitive, alleviating any apprehensions patrons may have about engaging in public spaces.
  • Consistency: Consistency is key to reinforcing brand identity. Align all sensory elements with the overarching theme and purpose of the entertainment center, fostering a cohesive and immersive environment that resonates with visitors.
  • Seamless Integration: Seamlessly integrate sensory elements and IoT experiences into the fabric of the entertainment center. Extend the experience beyond physical confines by incorporating digital touchpoints such as social media channels and influencer activations, thus amplifying engagement and reach.
  • Defined Outcomes: Clearly define the desired outcomes for both your brand and customers. Design experiences that not only meet but exceed expectations, empowering patrons to become enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
  • Invest in Prototyping: Embrace rapid prototyping to cultivate innovative concepts efficiently. Whether through virtual simulations or hands-on exhibits, invest in validating ideas early on to mitigate risks and optimise resources.
  • Streamlined Collaboration: Opt for a unified approach to project realisation, encompassing consulting, design, development, and fabrication under one roof. Minimise complexities associated with managing multiple partners, ensuring seamless execution and alignment with project objectives.
  • Measurement Metrics: While assessing the effectiveness of spatial and haptic experiences can be challenging, leverage both quantitative and qualitative measures. Employ sensors and tracking devices to gather data on participant behavior, but also prioritise insights gleaned from IoT devices to inform personalised interactions and enhance overall visitor satisfaction.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of experiential marketing, let’s broaden our perspective beyond virtual realms to embrace the tangible world where human connections thrive. By investing in both real-world and augmented experiences, brands can forge enduring connections with audiences and emerge as trailblazers in an increasingly competitive market landscape and avoid being a Plonka like Willy Wonka.

Marissa Franke is experience strategist and partner at Borabora Studios.

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