Digital media offers your brand a great way to present itself and interact with customers. But the move towards virtual is not all one way. Look around, and there are several hints that a new trend for what I call Real Reality is tipping the pendulum the other way.
People are embracing environments and events that offer a less than perfect, but authentic reality. Let’s look at some of these, the insights they offer, and what it means for marketers.
Entertainment: Real-Life Creative Efforts
In film-making, CGI has come of age and is firing the imagination of many film directors, opening up a whole new universe of new worlds to the movie-watching audience.
We can be taken across time and space, and if film-makers can dream it, we will see it. Or will we? Audiences are increasingly harder to impress, making the race for the most amazing special effects spiral out of control towards a point where the visuals themselves have become more important than telling a good story.
The story about how a film itself was created is, in part, what makes it a good story, adding to its aura and value. The thousands of hours spent in front of computers is now common in film-making, but less impressive than, for example, inviting thousands of extras from all around the world.
Consider the lacklustre response of fans when they realised that not a single clone trooper uniform was made for the recent Star Wars prequel, compared with the enthusiastic cheers that followed the news that The Millennium Falcon was actually constructed as a full-scale set.
The insight? Audiences love it when creators make an extra effort to bring a good story to life. It adds to the overall perceived value and appreciation of the story.
Leisure: Physical Playgrounds
In many themed attractions, kids and other visitors are presented with physical activities such as climbing trees and ladders. In stark contrast to staring at a screen, experiencing reality has come into focus. New park concepts such as Timbalaya aim to let everyone imagine and play together through natural outdoor play, books, and games.
You could almost think of this as “analogue transmedia” storytelling, given the coherent theme that runs across the activities. Definitions aside, Timbalaya and others like it will give kids a reason to embrace some much needed time away from digital screens and get out for some fun in the real world.
The insight? Nothing compares to actually immersing yourself in a well-executed setting of physical reality, with its smells, sounds, bruised knees, and all.
Television: Unscripted Reality
When Survivor premiered in late May 2000 in the U.S, it became a world-wide phenomenon that paved the way for many of the reality shows we see today. It was not the first reality show, preceded by MTV’s The Real World, but with its formula of contestants going for the win of $1 million after living for weeks on an island with strangers, Survivor attracted viewers in their millions.
Today, there are more than 300 reality shows in the U.S. alone, and people are sky-rocketed to super-stardom, even if their only talent is being followed around by a camera. Yes, the infamous Reality Star.
There are still many good scripted shows that will draw a massive crowd (any Game of Thrones’ fans out there?), but the reality show has gone from being a niche television project to the norm, with a long list of sub-genres to cater to all kinds of interests.
The insight? The challenges and characters that real people face in real life still attract the attention of other people, whether they like it or not. For better or worse, we want to take a peek into other people’s real lives.
Living: Urban Gardening
Urban gardens are sprouting up amongst the asphalt and concrete as city dwellers (or so-called urban farmers) make use of pallets, boxes, and other containers to grow flowers and vegetables. Often this is simply people finding an opportunity to grow their own produce that will make its way back to their own private kitchens—the attraction comes from trying to make something grow, and literally harvest it when successful.
Denmark’s largest urban garden, Ø-Haven (the Island Garden), is home to hundreds of gardens, and has become an attraction in its own right—perhaps because it will eventually be closed down.
Located in the middle of an area primed for development and high-profile architecture, this urban garden seems much less valuable than new high-rise buildings on paper. But it is exactly a place like this that adds some organic life to the architect-drawn pseudo-reality of its surroundings. As is the case in so many other places, it will be a loss to see it shut down.
The insight? Living spaces are made more liveable (and loveable) when real, organic life is balanced with buildings.
There are many other indicators that Real Reality is becoming a growing trend. CrossFit has exploded as a leading craze thanks to its fitness-in-a-factory-like locations, and e-book sales are down while printed book sales are up, prompting U.K. bookseller Waterstones to open new stores.
As the pendulum swings back towards a more integrated world that embraces both digital and reality, marketers will need to ask themselves how they can benefit from these trends. How is your brand perceived? Is it brand-authentic and a part of the real world? Or is it, well, unreal?