Escape Rooms: The Marketers’ New Playground

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Sweeping en-vogue industry events such as the South By Southwest (SXSW) Conference, the Escape Space is the attraction getting everyone talking. And it’s not just 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 Room? You may inquire. Picture this – you’re in a locked room. You have a few random clues and you have no idea how to get out. You might think that this is just another plot from among the Saw film franchises but it is in fact the makings of an Escape Room experience. This’craze’ involves a group of up to 12 players – based on where you book – that have to use physical and mental agility to unlock door after door, moving from room to room frantically figuring out cryptic clues. The catch? You’ve just 60 minutes to break loose.

Of course this is not 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 confidently working through the experiential ranks to take the title of legitimately’wow’. Not surprisingly, sharp marketers have tracked this and are now finding innovative ways to maximize the exposure to the experience. The’tie-in’ style of marketing arrangement seems to be the judgment formula for this.

Famous examples to date include Disney hosting a pop-up getaway experience linked with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Smart.

Although this kind of marketing is nothing new in itself, what makes it successful is that the products marry perfectly with the experience, and we all know that customers are, more than ever, compelled to spend their money on’doing’ rather than through conventional advertising methods, i.e. simply’watching’.

This tendency can be connected 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 tangible. 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 company and the IP (or copyright) owners work together to garner maximum exposure and expand the customer base, prompting a’win: win’ arrangement.

Escape 60 in Brazil pulled off a blinding example of the in 2015 when they linked up with Ubisoft, the creators of dream behemoth Assassin’s Creed, to get ahead of the game and create an escape area 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 entertainment and hospitality together, which is now a growing 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 several Vistana locations in the coming months and years. There is no doubt that this powerful alliance will bring the exploding escape room experience to many enthusiasts throughout the world.”

Fast-forward to 2017, and that same love of immersion drives many of the elaborate advertising activations we see now in escape rooms. “I believe the immersion allows for this to be more personal and personalized,” Joanna Scholl, vice president of marketing at HBO said when quoted in an interview at this year’s SXSW conference. When asked about HBO: The Escape she remarked,”Each individual feels like they themselves are part of this experience, and it leaves much more of a memorable note for them.”

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