A couple of weeks ago, a few of us dio staffers went on a field trip throughout New York City. As experiential marketers, what better way to get inspired than to visit some brand experiences?
First, we took a cab ride to 330 Hudson Street and entered the public meeting place called Cadillac House. This unique SOHO space is open to the public seven days a week, no reservations required. We walked right in and were greeted by a concierge with a simple, ‘hello’. The space is dealership meets coffeehouse, and is very modern with both industrial and technological elements. The brand has some of the latest Cadillac models on display, but they’re just on display – no car salesmen in sight. Unlike a car lot, there are no price signs in the windows. You’re just able to enjoy the elegant designs of the cars themselves.
As marketers, we’re trained to look for the details, such as the door handles trimmed with the same leather you’d sit on in one of their luxury vehicles. In the ‘showroom’ area, there is a row of columns alongside the back-to-back car lineup, each column with a vertical digital screen showing branded content. The multiple screens working in sync with one another definitely caught my attention and supported the Cadillac branding within the space.
But mostly, I felt as if I was inside an urban coffeehouse. With brewing by JOE Coffee, the space includes lounge furniture, as well as tables and chairs. This functional design is very welcoming for business meetings away from the office.
And if you look closely, you’ll find throwback art of the 1950s that not only fits in the modernly designed space but also supports Cadillac’s long history. For example, a replica 1959 Eldorado Biarritz Convertible in red stands out against the monochromatic colors of the space.
The time spent here was very relaxed. I knew I was in Cadillac House – a brand experience – but it didn’t feel as if I was being marketed to in any way. Rather, I grew appreciation for what Cadillac has given to this community.
IBM’s Art with Watson
On the day we visited Cadillac House, we were able to walk into the next room to an unexpected art exhibit, Hidden Portraits. This interactive art gallery was only in New York for two weeks, and I feel very lucky to have been able to visit! It’s a traveling exhibit, so if you missed it, check their website for upcoming exhibition dates.
Art and technology combine to produce very unique experiences. Fifteen artists teamed up with Watson to discover and reveal the essence of notable people from history, such as Charles Darwin, Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt and Josephine Baker, to name a few. Watson analyzed vast amounts of information about these people, including writings, speeches and photos, and then the artists were commissioned to interpret those findings.
The art was very interactive. For example, Charles Darwin’s portrait became a large slide puzzle. This was fitting, since Watson’s findings revealed that many of Darwin’s concepts resembled those behind many puzzles and board games. Life is sort of like a puzzle, itself, and creating this hands-on experience helped us draw these connections intrinsically. For the Tesla exhibit, I stood inside a mirrored cube and watched visualizations of electricity envelop me, inspired by Tesla’s dual personality in being both a scientist and an artist. And for Eleanor Roosevelt’s exhibit, I sat with headphones on listening to contemporary beats and watching synchronized projections that filled me with a sense of empowerment.
The notables weren’t the only ones Watson analyzed. We each got to meet Watson personally that day.
Sitting inside an enclosed booth (similar to a photo booth), Watson asked me a series of five questions. The questions ranged from topics about my favorite artist, my morning routine and my best friend. Some required more thought than others! Speaking aloud, I answered Watson’s questions. Then Watson took a photo of me, and I stepped outside to wait for my portrait. My portrait was actually not created with the normal pixels of color, but instead, of small emojis, reflecting the personality traits Watson saw in me. Based on the percentages of traits Watson identified in me, the quantity of each corresponding emoji reflected those percentages. This created a customized portrait, where up close the emojis are very evident but from a distance, the image looks more like my picture.
With this brand experience, I should note that there were two friendly and knowledgeable brand ambassadors on site to walk us through the exhibit, answer our questions, teach us about Watson and its findings and encourage us to interact with the portraits. Without their assistance, I don’t know that we would have had such an enjoyable – or informative – experience with Watson. We also had an increased dwell time thanks to their participation with us.
Finally, we ventured to the Meatpacking District and entered a world of innovation through Samsung’s perspective. At 837 Washington Street, this adeptly named Samsung 837 space was high-tech and high-action.
Once inside, we overlooked a 3-story high screen from the loft above. Below us, a couple interacted with each other in the real world while also in a virtual reality world. (I still don’t know how they didn’t run into that huge screen!) We were able to take a multi-angle photo with an array of Samsung phone cameras. We were able to touch and play with the latest Samsung Galaxy devices in the T-Mobile dome. We shot at zombies in a VR game. We saw smart refrigerators that will make list-making a thing of the past. We took a 360-degree photo. Then, we rode a roller coaster at Six Flags.
And I say it like that, because it was very realistic.
We climbed into the roller coaster seat, fastened our seat belts and waited for the ride to start. With VR headsets on, we started to climb up the hill. Just like on a real roller coaster, we could hear the click, click of the chain and with seat motion, even feel those jolts! During the ride, I had to keep telling myself, ‘this isn’t real,’ because it was amazing to me how real it felt. Someone once told me that virtual reality can trick our brain into believing we’re in such a realistic environment based on previous experiences. Maybe it was because my brain expected to feel those butterflies that I really did feel them as we soared down the big hill. Either way, I was pretty impressed with the VR roller coaster ride! (And my hair didn’t become a tangled mess like on the real thing.)
The VR installations switch out their content regularly, so the next time you go, be sure to let me know what VR world you were in! I cannot wait to hear if you had as much fun as I did.
At the end of the day, I was feeling very inspired and excited. These first-hand experiences really do connect me differently to these brands. A special thank you to Cadillac, IBM and Samsung for involving me in their brand stories. By actively seeking out brand experiences, our team becomes more knowledgeable in designing your next activation. Put us to the test.