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How to: Multi-sensory events

Suz Mountfort and Kerry Adamson

L-R: Flavourology co-founders Suz Mountfort and Kerry Adamson

Guest blogger Suz Mountfort, co-founder of experiential dining specialist Flavourology, shares tips and tricks of the trade.

Shhh… I want to tell you a secret. Immersive experience is not for everybody and it’s definitely not for every brand. There, I said it, despite working with Flavourology, a pioneer of immersive dining in London.

Immersive has become a buzz word in the events industry. But, really, what it is about? More importantly, what makes a live event immersive?

Simply put, immersive is a form of interactive experience that uses multi-sensory techniques to communicate a story. And, as the interest in food and drink increases, more often than not this sort of experience now needs to revolve around a meal.

Many companies are aware of the need to use live events to:

  • Wine and dine media types with the latest and best food
  • Cultivate the perfect branded picture point for excited consumers
  • Use an active ‘experience’ to communicate brand truths.

Immersive dining has become an alluring prospect because it has the potential to do all of the above in one live event.

But beware. Brands wanting to use it will create an activation with a powerful mixture of objectives and a potent mix of formats, which are more than a sum of their parts.

At Gingerline, we’ve explored this format for almost eight years. We are a group of food and drink enthusiasts whose goal is to create the ultimate dining experience. We’ve done many a merry jig with brands who have weighted their activation too heavily toward one of the above tried and trusted event types without understanding that true food-led immersification is a different beast entirely.

Healthy budget

During development, brands can wobble when faced with relinquishing a trusty logo-centric event for a more multi-sensory version of their brand.

And, while we’re being honest, here’s another secret bit. Immersifying your brand is not cheap. Mixing set design, performance, interaction, technology and food is going to take a fair chunk of that year’s marketing spend.

Obviously, budgets are all relative, but don’t expect to be able to do this for the cost of a bit of catering. To do immersive, and particularly immersive dining properly, you better believe you’ve got to do it with guts and a healthy budget.

Now, here’s the final truth. If you do it right, my good god, it can be truly magical! You can strike at the heart, mind and mouth and run the gambit of different audiences and media avenues. What’s more it lets you completely control your users experience and sensations, to tell a captured and, literally, hungry audience your story in a creative multi-sensory way.

Here’s some of our tips for ensuring you channel your bravery and deliver an experience to remember:

  • Include in your brief what you want your audience to feel: That may not be just one thing, but a whole host of things. For example, good dining experientialists will be able to elicit that through, visuals, performance, one-to-one interaction, sound and flavour.
  • Make sure your story is strong enough: It’s always good if the story you want to tell has a twist, for your brand or product, so an audiences expectations can be played with a little.
  • Trust your audiences ability to brag: If you make an experience good, really good, consumers will want to share (especially if there is food). The only help they need is a hashtag and a beautiful moment.
  • Make sure you are doing something different: That’s easy to say, hard to achieve. But immersive marketing allows for that more than most. By mixing formats and art forms, the potential for innovation is exciting.
  • Do multiple nights: That’s just good economics. The events can be costly so your stats will look better when you use the one set-up cost but run multiple nights. The clever bit is getting different audiences in on different nights in different ways to maximise noise in the right places. A client-only night is always a good idea too!
  • Be brave: I think you’ve got it by now. Though remember if being a truly brave brand is a little daunting, or outside of your budget abilities, there are ways to be a daring host instead. Use an already created immersive experience to mesmerise your target audience. An honest conversation with your immersive partner will ensure you find the right outlet for your creativity.

Editor’s note: Immersive dining company Flavourology has collaborated with the likes of Godiva, News UK, and Sipsmith.