When you go to an escape room, you immerse yourself in the fictional situation you have been asked to solve. You marshal your brainpower to discover clues, put puzzles together, decode ciphers, unlock locks, and beat the timer. If you are the owner of a business or brand, you may see the potential for these popular, immersive experiences as marketing strategies. You wouldn’t be alone in this idea.
HBO, Fox, Disney, and other media companies have been exploring using escape rooms to market new shows and movies. In addition, companies who have products you can eat, drink, or wear, are looking at designing or using escape rooms as part of their integrative marketing plans.
Participatory Immersive Experiences
Escape rooms are part of the new experience economy. People enjoy spending their money to experience things, rather than purchasing things that may or may not spark joy later in a cluttered closet. Popular experiences that people buy include amusement parks, vacations, bungee-jumping, skydiving, live role play or cosplay. Also, paying for vacations, premier travel destinations, themed cruises, and more.
Young people, in particular, are more interested in making memories than acquiring stuff. People don’t want to be passive in their experiences anymore. They want to participate.
Escape rooms scratch that itch for customers. You don’t sit back and watch a performance like you would at a movie, a play, comedy show, concert, or sporting events. With an escape room, you must be active and do things. Finding clues, using your creativity, knowledge, and imagination, are the name of the game.
Friends and Families Experience Together
An escape room is an experience that you have with friends, family members, or even strangers. When the hour is over, you have an adrenaline rush, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of camaraderie with your co-participants. When you work, create, and solve problems together, you build bonds and make memories.
So Where Does Marketing Come In?
Marketers want to take those memories and transfer the positive associations you are feeling to a particular product that you will want to buy later. When you have an enjoyable experience, what do you tend to do? You take photos to seal the memories, and you post about your fun on your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat.
Other people see the picture of your incredible gourmet dinner and want to eat at that restaurant. They see you enjoying the hot springs in Iceland and, as a result, plan their trip there. They see you holding a “We escaped!” sign with your time to beat, smiling and high-fiving your friends. That picture of your enthusiasm makes others want to try that escape room, either to have fun as you did or, with their competitive instinct engaged, beat your time.
Marketing Memories to Others
One of the vital parts of experiences is sharing them with others. When you enjoy something, you want to tell others about it! When an experience feels organic and sparks a level of hype, you will share it without hesitation.
However, if a company asks you to share, or tries to incentivize you to share using other coercive means, today’s consumers tend to choose not to do it. People don’t want to feel marketed to or to become unwilling ambassadors for a brand. They want their choices and their experiences to be authentic.
Escape rooms have this kind of authentic experiential sharing that marketers crave. At the end of an escape room experience, you get a picture of you and your team. Either you’re reveling in your successful escape and bragging about your time, or you’re pouting about how you were eaten by the zombies or arrested by the cops for failing to escape in time.
Either way, you’ve got the escape room’s logo on the sign or in the background, and while you are sharing your fun time with your friends, you are also sharing the name of the escape room and subtly recommending that others can have the same experience, perhaps with a different result.
You want to share the photo because you want to humblebrag or be cute-pouty online, and you want to show your friends and followers what you’ve been up to. The escape room wants you to share the photo to market its services. This convergence of desires creates a win-win from a marketing perspective.
How Can Escape Rooms Work for Marketing?
Knowing this, you might have an inkling for how escape rooms work well for marketing. By theming an escape room for a company’s brand or product, participants engage with the product in a way that isn’t passive, but participatory. As opposed to conventional direct marketing strategies which market at customers, you share your enthusiasm for a product by offering an experience in which your audience chooses to participate.
For example, HBO made a prison break escape room to promote their new show, aptly titled, “Prison Break.” Escape rooms can be part of a specific fandom, such as Trapped Puzzle Rooms’ “A Very Potter Escape Room” and “Diagonal Alley,” which are inspired by Harry Potter, or their “Room of Fire and Ice,” inspired by Game of Thrones.
Escape room marketing is two-fold: participants engage with a brand and its story. After the escape room, participants share their excitement for the experience on social media, or through word-of-mouth to friends and family. The hype spreads, and more people want to engage with the product.
Even if they never attend the escape room, they still learn about the brand featured in the escape room. The marketing succeeded in transferring the positive feelings of their friends — and their own FOMO about not being there — into a desire to have a similar experience.
Escape Rooms and Marketing in the Twin Cities
Trapped Puzzle Rooms has eight successful escape rooms at two locations in North Loop and St. Paul. If you’re interested in partnering with us to create a branded escape room experience for your company’s products or services, get in touch. When your customers immerse themselves with the fun and excitement of an escape room, they can learn more about your brand, without feeling aggressively marketed to. If you haven’t tried an escape room, check one out and see why the experience economy is all the rage.