How to Build an Immersive Play Experience Around Your Brand

Immersive experiences are exciting and engaging new ways for people to experience and interact with brands, organizations, schools and more. By combining real-life experiences with the seemingly unlimited capabilities of technology, organizations and their audiences can interact in unique ways. Learn more about the key considerations to remember while designing an immersive brand-themed play area and other immersive brand experiences below.

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What Is an Immersive Play Experience?

An immersive play experience is an interactive aspect of a business that brings guests into a new world. Immersive play experiences typically align with a brand’s theme or messaging, and the experience presents this information in a new and exciting way for customers. As customers become involved in the messaging, they are better receptive to the information.

Immersive play experiences rely on engaging the senses to get customers interested and invested in the experience. Think of an immersive play experience as a way to show customers what your brand is about instead of just telling them. Additionally, immersive play experiences work especially well for children-centered audiences.

Types of Immersive Brand Experiences

There are various types of immersive brand experiences to choose from. The immersive experience that works best for your brand will depend on your intended audience and your brand’s purpose. For example, the way you would try to reach kids is much different than how you would want to reach adults.

Tactical Immersive Experiences

Tactical immersion focuses on the sense of touch. Therefore, tactical immersive experiences allow guests to physically touch and engage with the material. Not all immersive experiences need to solely rely on technology — there is still value in physical elements guests can touch and interact with.

From a young age, we learn by physically touching. Kids learn how to engage with and explore the world around them through touch, and this need for touch is carried into adulthood. As a result, tactical immersive experiences are beneficial for both kids and adults as a fun and effective learning tool.

Narrative Immersive Experiences

Narrative immersion uses a storytelling approach to increase guests’ interest. Through storytelling, guests learn more about a product, topic or mission, which can make them feel more connected to the brand and may even increase their purchase potential. Narrative immersion can happen digitally or through live actors. Typically, these immersive experiences are most impactful when guests or customers are the protagonists in the story. Throughout the storytelling, actors or digital experiences will lead guests to achieve the goal or solve the problem.

Through engaging dialogue and a choose-your-own-adventure setup, guests will feel in charge of the experience, and they’ll need to pay attention in order to make decisions and reach the end of the story.

Sight Immersive Experiences

Sight immersion is an engaging way to introduce customers to different products, ideas and experiences. This experience can be a great tool for brands with mascots, as this technology can bring them to life and allow guests to engage with them.

For kids’ play areas, sight immersion technology can make the experience extra special and unique as kids can interact with a version of a fun mascot. Themed play areas can also use this technology to bring other aspects to life, such as dinosaurs, fish or other animals, people or objects that align with the play area’s theme.

Sight immersion often uses virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) to appeal to guests and make the experience more interactive and unique. Virtual or holographic displays allow customers to visually experience and engage with the brand, which can lead to better brand recall.

1. Virtual Reality

VR allows guests to enter a new reality with the help of VR glasses. These glasses make guests feel completely immersed in a new space with accompanying audio and video. While guests may not physically experience these trips, they can take a tour of a factory to see how their favorite products are made, ride a rollercoaster or fly a spaceship, all from a dedicated VR area.

2. Augmented Reality

AR is similar to VR, with a few key differences. AR uses a real environment and allows users to manipulate or change the environment. By using a screen, such as a smartphone, users will see the real environment in front of them with fun added features, like a dinosaur walking beside them or a spaceship taking off. In real-time, users will see the environment around them change, creating a fun and unique experience.

This can be a great way to get customers invested in your immersive experience story. For example, if you’re a museum that wants to share the magnificence of dinosaurs, AR can be used to show just how small guests would be next to dinosaurs if they were around today.

3. Projection

While projection is not a new type of technology like VR or AR, it still offers a variety of unique experiences. Use projections to display visuals on the side of a building, on a large wall or even on the ceiling. Putting visual elements in unusual spots makes them stick out to customers.

As customers walk through a room, you can project water on the walls and ceiling to make them feel as though they’re underwater. Or, add structures on the walls to look like windows and project images of outer space to give the illusion guests are onboard a spaceship.

Benefits of an Immersive Play Experience

Immersive play experiences offer a variety of benefits for both your business and for guests who take part in the experience. From connecting with your audience and providing a unique experience to reaching across language barriers and standing out from the competition, there are a variety of reasons to invest in immersive play experiences for your brand.

You Connect With Customers

Immersive experiences can also build relationships with customers. Customers can become emotionally invested as they see the positive impact your immersive play experience has on their kids, which makes them feel connected to your brand. When customers feel connected, they’re more likely to support the brand in the future, and they may even become brand advocates.

You Stand Out from the Competition

Providing customers with immersive experiences makes you stand out from your competition. Even if your competitors offer some type of immersive experience, yours will still be unique to you and your brand. Customers will remember your immersive play experience and associate it with your brand down the line.

Keeping up with the latest technology also keeps your brand relevant. Using innovative technology can also show customers how your brand is committed to embracing technological advancements and providing the best products or experiences.

Your Messages Reach Across Language Barriers

Immersive experiences can help build connections with customers, even if there is a language barrier. By doing and seeing, guests can experience the benefits of your brand without having to read or hear about it to understand.

Immersive technology may even offer various language options in some cases. For example, VR experiences may offer a variety of languages to choose from, so guests from all areas can fully learn and enjoy.

You Keep Kids Engaged and Receptive to Learning

While it’s always important to keep your audience engaged, it is especially crucial for young audiences. Play helps kids improve their physical, cognitive and social skills that, as a result, help them learn about themselves and the world around them. If kids are not actively engaged and listening to the lesson, there is a good chance they will not absorb or remember the information. Through immersive play, kids will be stimulated, which will keep them interested and allow them to actually pay attention and learn.

Because this immersive method is so effective and well-received by kids, this makes your business the perfect place for group trips or school field trips.

You Spark Action and Drive Revenue

Immersive experiences get people involved and hands-on with the information. Since they’re already engaging, it’s easier to encourage action, whether it be getting parents to sign up for a season pass, enroll in a newsletter or sign a pledge. For example, at the end of a VR experience, you may ask each guest to complete a survey or input their email address. Since they’re already engaging with the technology, they may be more likely to fill out this information than they would be if they were asked separately.

Immersive play spaces can also show guests how valuable and worthwhile they are, and it’s likely guests will want to come back and experience it again. This can help drive revenue throughout the year and can build customer loyalty.

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Steps to Creating an Immersive Play Experience

Immersive play experiences can be extremely beneficial to your business, so how do you go about creating the perfect immersive experience for your brand? Keep the following ideas in mind as you craft your new immersive play area.

Center the Experience Around Your Brand

To design a brand-themed play area, think about what makes your business what it is. The simple integration of your brand’s colors and logos can keep your business present in the play experience, for instance. Get play structures in colors cohesive with your branding to keep things consistent with the rest of your space.

You should also keep your industry in mind when creating an immersive play experience. The journey kids go on should be consistent with what your business offers so grown-up visitors feel a sense of consistency in what you offer. Here are some ideas for play experiences based on industry:

  • Food service: Use VR to put kids in kitchens of their own, learning how food is prepared. They’ll feel a connection to what your business serves and be excited to explain to their caregivers how things are made.
  • Fitness or health care: Create an immersive play area that teaches kids how blood cells flow throughout the body. They could go down a slide to simulate blood pumping from the heart, and large projections of red blood cells in the play area make kids feel like they shrunk down and are blood cells themselves.
  • Water parks: Immerse kids in an under-the-sea wonderland at your water park play space. Animal-themed play structures can pair with AR imagery of fish swimming by as kids learn about aquatic ecosystems.

Think About Your Audience

When creating immersive experiences, you also want to keep your audience in mind. After all, you’re looking to meet their needs and interests. However, you also want to make sure your own goals and objectives are included in your immersive play space. So, what do you think your audience’s expectations are of your immersive experience, and how can you meet or exceed these expectations?

Use these questions to help guide your thinking when it comes to developing an immersive play experience. Also, focus on making the experience personal. Even for group activities, consider how each person can interact with and enjoy the experience.

Keep It User-Friendly

The play experience needs to be easy to follow or use. Overly complicated instructions or equipment can make guests frustrated and ruin their experience. Immersive play experiences should be simple enough for guests to understand how to use them — especially if your target audience is kids.

When using technology, have the program guide the user through the process while still giving them the freedom to make choices, similar to a choose-your-own-adventure game. This way, kids still feel in control while also having clear instructions.

Create a Compelling Story

One of the best ways to get both parents and kids interested in your immersive play space is by creating a compelling story. By crafting a story, your play space design will also be more cohesive, as each part will work together to tell a full story.

Try to think about what makes your brand unique and build your immersive play space around it. This ensures a truly one-of-a-kind experience guests will only associate with your specific brand.

Have Guests Play the Main Role

While creating an immersive play space or your play space’s story, remember to keep guests as the central role. Kids don’t want to watch someone else explore space — they want to do it themselves. Making guests the central role ensures they stay engaged with the material. If you can, try to offer a variety of different activities so kids can feel in control of their decisions — like if they want to physically play with something or they want to try out a VR experience.

Additionally, within these activities, you’ll want to give kids choices as well. For example, during technology-based play experiences, give kids a choice on which route their spaceship, car or dinosaur takes.

Add Gamification to the Experience

While it’s important to include play spaces that encourage free or creative play, you’ll also want to include some more structured play areas. One way to do this is by creating a game or two within the space. Sure, a climbing structure can just be a climbing structure, or it can be a fun adventure where kids race to the top to see who can secure the treasure.

Special equipment like STOMP from Soft Play® allows kids — and sometimes even adults — to challenge one another to see who can get the top score, who can stomp the fastest and more. Games are fun for kids and offer types of play kids may not have considered on their own. That shows guests how innovative and unique your brand is compared to competitors.

Inspire Action

When guests are engaged with your experience, they’re more likely to follow through with whatever action you’re trying to inspire. Whether it’s increasing loyalty by having groups sign up to attend your immersive play experience again, driving word-of-mouth reviews to bring in new customers and increase your revenue or another business goal, immersive play experiences can help. However, if you don’t plant the seeds for these actions, you can lose out on these benefits.

Include various opportunities for guests to sign up for rewards programs or newsletters, advertise special discounts in various ways and places, or highlight whatever other action you want your guests to take.

Kennedy Space Center Immersive Play Experience

While immersive experiences are clearly beneficial to brands, how do you make an immersive experience that engages kids specifically? While kids love to learn and explore the world around them, they can become easily distracted or uninterested in long lectures. The Kennedy Space Center recognized this potential barrier for the kids visiting their center.

That’s why the Kennedy Space Center worked with Soft Play to create an immersive experience that would allow kids to learn in a playful and stimulating way. By connecting with kids in an engaging way they enjoy, the Kennedy Space Center can spark kids’ interest in space.

The Kennedy Space Center wanted to teach kids about the different aspects of space exploration, like controlling blast-offs or piloting a moon rover. Thanks to the immersive features created by Soft Play, kids are able to walk on Saturn’s rings, map a constellation, slide through an asteroid field and climb through a wormhole.

To provide kids with a unique, educational and fun experience, Soft Play developed the following immersive play features:

  • An asteroid slide: With fun light features, kids can dodge asteroids as they travel through space and end their journey at the lower level of the interactive play space.
  • Contained play towers: These play towers are multiple levels complete with unique obstacles and slides, interactive learning panels, and bridges that connect the towers.
  • A handcrafted solar system: Kids can interact with the solar system with these unique replicas that bring each planet to life with vibrant colors and varying sizes to accurately display varying planet proportions.
  • An interactive satellite game: Kids must work together to help NASA satellites gather important data and transmit the information back to Earth. Through this fun game, kids learn about the importance of space exploration and data collection.
  • A launch pad: With this unique launch pad, up to four kids can launch a foam spacecraft by stomping together to create a perfect liftoff. With added visuals and sound effects, this spacecraft launch becomes a fun and exciting activity.
  • Moon rocks and a rover: The foam-sculpted moon rocks and accompanying rover allow even the youngest space explorers a fun place to engage in the experience.
  • Space-time netting: A unique, trampoline-like netting visually represents Albert Einstein’s space-time continuum theory as space and time are woven together just like this net. Kids can enjoy playing or walking on this netting located on the second floor of the interactive play center.

By using artistic and interactive components, the play area teaches kids about various space exploration concepts in a fun, engaging, and enjoyable way. When kids are interested and engaged, they’re able to absorb and retain information which makes their learning experiences much more meaningful.

Through the variety of immersive play options, kids are able to make the most out of their time at the Kennedy Space Center. Check out the complete Kennedy Space Center case study to learn more about how interactive and immersive play transformed this center into a child-learning wonderland.

Create an Immersive Play Experience With Soft Play

At Soft Play, we’re dedicated to developing integrated entertainment and adventure experiences that work for your brand. Why keep your play area simple when you can have a unique, immersive, and engaging play space created specifically for your brand’s needs? Our team will work with you every step of the way to create an unforgettable experience you and your guests will love.

Start planning your immersive play experience by contacting our team today!

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