connecting with the guest through social media technology
by Daniel Burzlaff, Owner & Chief Creative Officer, Utopia Entertainment, Inc.
Theme parks are often on the cutting edge of applying new forms of technology, whether through creative show systems or operational achievements such as RFID wristbands. On the heels of these achievements (and perhaps quickly passing them by) is the development of social media technology as a major platform in the development of a new show or attraction, offering the opportunity to forever link the guest to the park or product.
Facebook, Twitter, and blogs are all accessible social media outlets that provide opportunities for themed attractions to tap into the world of direct consumer communication, enabling guests to share comments, photos, and messages with their friends and families while providing parks a way to extend the overall guest experience far beyond the borders of the main gate. Having the guests reflect upon their favorite and memorable moments while at home, on the go, or with friends and families is a simple way to generate buzz and interest within the social world. From a marketing perspective, it’s an amazing win-win situation.
Utopia is currently designing a large multi-media production for one of Asia’s largest retail malls, with the intent to create an experience that lives on beyond the nightly show. The multi-show attraction will feature video content, concert-like lighting, lasers, and popular music that is choreographed and programmed to provide the client with countless shows. The key connector to these shows is the social media piece, which will allow visitors to select themes, songs and video images through an Internet interface, enabling them to direct the live show content. Photo uploads and individual messages will be incorporated into the playlist offering visitors the opportunity to play VeeJay on a major scale.
When opened, the attraction will be the world’s largest permanent indoor light show, presenting an unparalleled opportunity for the millions of shoppers to connect to the popular mall from their smart phone, tablet or computer.
As an example: a young man may go online to select a certain romantic playlist, add a photo of his sweetheart and finally a short message. He then requests to have this show played at a specific time, and invites his family and friends to the mall. When “his” show is played, he turns to his sweetheart, gets upon a single knee and to the music of “their special song” presents a ring – just as his personal message scrolls across the video screens:“Will you marry me?” What follows next is a flurry of social media messaging, tweets and of course Facebook postings. The mall indirectly receives hundreds of thousands of interested ‘hits.’
There are also potential sponsorship opportunities for commercial messages and product endorsements inserted between shows to a captured audience waiting to see what the next guest VeeJay has created. The potential outreach and connection opportunity is considerable, and in this world of instant communication through shared networks, the excitement generated by such an experience is likely to spark a viral explosion.
For the client, the success of this particular show attraction is formidable, as it will serve to act as an engine for business growth. At Utopia we like to think of this process as “hitting on all eight cylinders.” Here’s an example of how we envision the show will help to drive business success:
- Increase foot traffic – the light show will become a “must-see” entertainment destination for the region.
- Extend length of stay – visitors will extend their shopping and dining experience into the evening hours in order to enjoy the show experience.
- Increase repeat/return visits – the promise of encountering a unique or different show experience with each visit encourages patrons to return again and again.
- Generate word of mouth interest – the unique social media component of this experience will effectively feed online content and social chatter.
- Create a sense of urgency – specialty and seasonal show experiences will entice visitations through their ‘limited time’ offerings.
- Increase sponsorship value – the social media component provides an accessible bridge that enables sponsors to connect their product directly to expanded points of contact, and allows engaging and nonintrusive communication messaging to a vast network of potential patrons.
- Raise per caps of food vendors & restaurants – increased foot traffic and extended stays translates to a longer shopping experience, and a potential for patrons to add snacks or a full meal to their visit.
- Increase retailers’ bottom line – increased mall traffic, social media interest and marketing/sponsorship drives advertisement campaigns presented upon the show system. These translate to higher footfall, and engaged and connected shoppers.
Additionally, the data capture of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who will participate in the online conversations, sharing and reposting of their favorite shows and moments will be invaluable. For the retail owner this generated public relations and marketing outlet is priceless.
As social media technology continues to intersect our life, it becomes clear that our industry – that of affecting people through memorable entertainment experiences – will continue to search for ways to reconnect these experiences to guests. Our show production taps into the ever-growing equation of human-meets-technology to provide a genuinely unique and memorable attraction experience. This experience also offers an emotional and perpetual connection to the audience and a method to engage people the world over, long after the doors close and the lights fade out. • • •
Daniel Burzlaff focuses on the creative development of all projects for Utopia Entertainment, Inc. and leads the design team in the creation of live shows, attractions, experiential exhibits and special events for clients around the globe.