I’m going share my experience of Secret Cinema with you (well, as much as I can without giving it away) but first of all, I want to give a little bit of context about how consumers’ buying habits have changed over the past few years and why every brand (if you are not already) should be making experience THE priority above all else.
The rise of the experiential marketing industry is unstoppable!
Everywhere we turn, we are inundated with experiences. Digital experiences, real life experiences and brand experiences stare us in the eye. As consumers, we are waiting for the next cool, quirky and unusual experience to come along and blow us away, top us up with experience endorphins and give us something to share with the world through social media.
Experience breathes life into us, and we have become addicted! We want to explore the weird and whacky, the zany and crazy, the exciting and thrilling!
Being someone who works in the experience industry and someone who consumes experiences by the bucketload, I can tell you, that during the past few years, people have really made it a part of their identity to desire experiences over material goods.
Scrolling through instagram today is very different to how it was even 12 months ago. We are seeing a huge boom in the popularity of brands such as Boohoo, Missguided and many many affordable clothing brands and material good brands, compared to the once high brow brands that consumers would pay pretty much whatever the cost for status acquisition through being ‘seen’ and dressed in the ‘IT’ label of the moment. We are consuming the ‘more affordable’ in order to free up our purses to top up our experience tanks!
This is not to say that people are no longer consuming luxury and high end brands, of course they are, but if you scroll through social media right now, go on (go and do it) you will see that status acquisition has been replaced by a phenomenon that is taking the world by storm ….
… Experience Acquisition.
People will drape themselves in Primark if it means they can fly to the Phillepenes and experience culture for a fortnight. Now there is nothing wrong with Primark at all, but what I am saying is that what we wear seems to have taken a nose dive versus what we experience that is draped all over the social media accounts we scroll through daily! I only have to scroll through Facebook to see a rise in boutique clothing brands (all selling very similar and on-style trends) at a fraction of the cost of even high street stores!
Let me tell you, they are not daft. They have become the winners of an ever struggling high street because they have recognised that experience is really taking peoples paper currencies! And in order to have a product that will sell to the masses their prices are rock bottom. They are capitalising on pennies while experience makers are collecting the big bucks and good on them! They have something people want and the really good ones, the real true experience makers deserve to do well! What happens with the high street in between, who knows … but it’s a struggle for many retailers I speak to!
Anyway, back to experience and my fist visit to …
Secret Cinema: Casino Royale
007 Calling …
I just can’t tell you where!
I went with my very own Mr Bond who had purchased this as a birthday gift. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but for someone who LOVES collecting experiences and someone who helps many brands and businesses to design experiences, my bar is set exceptionally high.
We arrived at our ‘Secret Location’ somewhere in London, UK, having been fully prepared for our experience as operatives of MI5 in a series of e-mails and communications from the Secret Cinema brand. I’m not going to delve into too much detail here, but Dean and I fully adopted our aliases Jacques Bayliss (Tech Entrepreneur) and Justice Bosworth (Media Mogul) and we were ready for our mission at Casino Royal. We were given a meeting point where we saw hundreds of people (in all their glitz and glam) meet their various contacts before entering into what I can only describe as on of the best experiences I have had, EVER.
We took a couple of snaps outside before we went in and then that was it … our phones were electronically sealed into special bags and were not unsealed until we emerged out of the other side, some 5/6 hours later (VERY JAMES BOND ESQUE).
Whilst I wish I could tell you what happened inside that building that night (and boy do I wish I could share it in all it’s beautifully detailed glory), I almost feel like I am sworn into a pact not to ever tell (and you know how I like to talk!) I have of course talked to my family and a couple of close friends about this experience but other than that, I feel like it was so exceptionally well done that I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else who is yet to experience it. In a world where we are able to voice our opinions via social media channels to the world (and we do, daily) Secret Cinema have created a feeling around the brand that encourages those of us who have attended to actually keep the experience, well … Secret.
And there is that beautiful secret ingredient: keeping it a SECRET.
Now I love that we were able to take photos before our entry and after emerging from the experience, with photo points and props outside specifically set up so people could take their photos after the experience had finished and boy, did we take photos! You can imagine it can’t you, thousands of people spilling out, from an out-of-this-world experience, who have had restricted access to their mobile phones for the last 5/6 hours only to be let loose into an area where we could now at least capture and share a few glimmers to our social media accounts! The outside area of that experience was like a movie premiere with cameras flashing whilst eager attendees posed in all their glamour, high off the outstanding experience we had just had and not quite sure what to do with that adrenaline … because, wait? we couldn’t share the ACTUAL experience all over social media!
Justice Bosworth & Jacques Bayliss …
Reporting for mission!
Secret Cinema : A Case Study In Experience Excellence!
Now, I work in an an Industry that says it thrives on the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ concept and many marketing campaigns are designed to show so much of an experience/thing that it draws hungry punters to want to experience too!
It is a well used method and one that works reasonably well but it has become a bit tired and lacks innovation, but none-the-less it works off the concept of show people what they are missing and they will want to come and experience it too!
So what the Secret Cinema Brand do, is not something for the faint hearted and actually making people miss out completely on the experience is the total opposite of show people everything and they will want to come concept. But their braveness pays off in every way in my books. By daring to do the different they achieve the extraordinary! Events, sold out, wonder, everywhere.
I can not WAIT for the next one we choose to visit!
Will I reccomend Secret Cinema to everyone I speak to? absolutely damn right I will. There were so many jaw-hit-the-floor moments as we wondered round that casino of pure AMAZINGNESS that night, I could not fail to reccomend it to everyone I speak to.
Is it worth the price tag? (Dean went for the more expensive VIP option) yes it is … and some!
Will I tell everyone what to expect? absolutely not. Going into this experience with little to no knowledge made it all the more special. Just experiencing it (without snapping every moment) made it an in-the-moment experience that we won’t ever forget.
A little something to take away …
Memories to last a life time, and a souvenir to go in our experiences box!
So I guess what I am trying to say is this. This complete secrecy will not work for every brand and experiential concept …. so before anyone goes trying to change the shape of their experiences just take your foot off the pedal for a moment, Secret Cinema have built a whole brand around this concept, a multi million pound brand that is thriving, and well deserved too!
If you are thinking of changing things up, remember that context matters. You can’t just apply this concept and think if it works for them it will work for us! This has taken years of work, hours or dedication, careful planning, outstanding experience design, an exceptional pre-customer and post-customer experience. If you do think of trying it, make sure you don’t change your whole business plan overnight!
What I am hoping though, is that it may inspire you to think differently. In a world where we are very used to seeing such similar concepts from every brand out there, to me, Secret Cinema is a case study of the decade that proves that daring to be different and taking risks can pay off, exceptionally well!
I can not wait to go back and experience Secret Cinema again it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, to be had again… at the next one!
Until next time, 007 over and out!
*Want to talk about the experience industry? or how to create meaningful customer experiences? you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org