Why brands must embrace immersive artistry

by Lexie Taylor | Growth Marketing Manager

Aug 24, 2021

As humans we’re always craving new experiences. Our brains are attracted to novelty, it’s part of our natural learning process. We enjoy sampling new restaurants, travelling to different countries, exploring art exhibitions, and visiting the latest shopping destinations.

So, it’s unsurprising we’ve seen a rise in immersive brand events and artworks over recent years. Brands are recognising the power of high touch, high engagement environments that bring their products to life, capturing the hearts and minds of consumers, and forming a long-lasting emotional connection.   

To get a greater insight into the ethereal world of immersive artistry, we spoke to Grant Dudson, Creative Director at experiential agency, Chorus. Grant has created numerous campaigns for world-class brands including Ferrari, Ralph Lauren, Ford, and Johnnie Walker, and describes himself as an ‘experiential artist’ who uses innovative techniques to bring to life the storytelling of brands.

Above: Johnnie Walker Highball Arcade experience

To begin, could you define experiential artistry?

An experiential artist gives the tools to the audience so they can express themselves creatively. I love designing experiential installations that allow people to contribute to the art, enabling them to become the artists. It’s a little controversial as it moves away from the traditional art format, but if the sentiment is right, it really works.  

In this increasingly digital world, how important are immersive experiences?

Experiences are everything. Consider how we jump on a plane and travel somewhere exotic as it provides a new sensory experience.

This same sensibility can be applied to the high street. Would you rather go to a trainer store with boxes of shoes piled up? Or to a space where the selling points of the trainers are brought to life in a tactile and visceral way?

There is a real power behind creating worlds and new experiences as it allows you to engage with people on an emotional level. When you create a visually arresting environment it is memorable, and it is something people want to talk about and return to.

Above: Interactive Bastille concert for Hewlett Packard's Bending The Rules Campaign

How do you see experiential marketing, installations, and events impacting the retail industry?

Retail has undoubtedly struggled in the last few years, but the saviour of retail is experiential – guaranteed. By placing immersive and engaging installations into retail stores, combined with future-facing interior design, it transforms the space into a destination venue.

When it comes to physical retail, it’s less about having shelves of beautiful products to sell, as frankly most people will just buy them online. If you really want people to go and experience your products, then give them a reason to do so.

I collaborated with Ford on an immersive experience that really showcased what each facet of their cars could mean to the consumer by engaging the senses – sight, touch, smell, sound. Then when it came to the presentation, the visitors were far more receptive as they were already connected to the cars on an emotional level.

People flock to the V&A and Tate as they want to see art – to be moved and immersed. Brands should be looking to these types of institutions to understand what experiences people have an appetite for. Ultimately, experiential can help revitalise the high street, but this shift needs to happen quickly.

Above: Immersive installation for the Ford press launch

How have people’s responses to immersive art changed post-lockdown?

Most people are vehemently behind getting back out there. Experiential will come back with a bang – in fact, it has never been more relevant, as it has been so bereft in our lives for the last 18 months. There is a real need and desire to get back out there and experience what it is to be human, living each day in a unique and vibrant way.

What trends can we expect from the experiential space?

People want to go out and have a good time. They want to have unique experiences that they can recount to others. Not to mention connecting with likeminded people.

One trend to watch out for is competitive socialising, which is when hospitality spaces use games or competitions to attract more visitors and increase dwell time. For example, I collaborated with Johnnie Walker on their Highball Arcade, where visitors could compete at basketball, skee-ball, and other games to win exclusive merchandise. It was an electrifying, magnetic experience, which filled the consumers with joy.

It’s important for brands to be tapping into this as much as they can, they need to be providing value that extends beyond selling products. If you can provide multifaceted elements of value to consumers and they walk away thinking ‘that was amazing, I’ve learnt so much and met new people’ – then you have nailed it.

Above: Johnnie Walker Highball Arcade experience

You created the Immersiveartgallery on Instagram and regularly share design inspiration on your LinkedIn account, what do you look for when collating these projects?

When looking at the landscape of all things creative it doesn’t have to just be focused on immersive art or installations. I like taking a fresh perspective on places that people may typically overlook as ordinary, such as meeting rooms – why shouldn’t they be inspirational, leaving the visitor excited? There is a real psychology behind designing space, you need to consider what it means to the person who interacts with it.

When looking for examples of creative works, I like to look for trends and explore what is round the corner, but I also pull examples from the past that may have gone under the radar. I’ll then take these wonderful examples and collate them, giving them a unique spin.

For consumer goods brands looking for a flexible, low-risk approach to experiential retail, multi-brand venues such as Situ Live, provide cost-effective access to prime retail destinations.

Launching this September at Westfield London, products are brought to life through immersive design and live demonstrations, enabling shoppers to develop everlasting relationships with the featured brands.