Issue #21

Playification

How marketers are recalling the joys of childhood play.

We know play is important for kids and their development. But research is pointing to the importance of play among adults to lower stress levels and boost creativity. The idea of play time has manifested itself in adult coloring books that have flooded the market. There’s even a preschool for adults in Brooklyn, NY, that offers arts and crafts and other activities. As the “analog” and throwback trends persist, more events are incorporating “play” into their agendas as a networking device and to create an escape.

And speaking of “escape,” one of those adult play tactics happens to be escape rooms, the wildly popular, experiential games that involve a locked room wherein attendees have to work together to solve clues to escape. Escape room facilities have popped up all across the U.S. and they’re also now popping up in events. C2 Montreal had one, and a Marriott property in Irvine, CA, recently incorporated an escape room into a one-off relaunch event.

Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) re:Invent conference in Las Vegas has an entire footprint devoted to play (and “Play” is listed front and center on the event website). This year the event offered broomball games in the Linq lot, and at the re:Play after-hours event: bubble soccer and dodgeball, rock climbing and video games and a giant ball pit filled with 140,000 balls. C2 Montreal’s outdoor plaza space featured a Ferris wheel that doubled as a networking zone.

The concept of play is popping up in consumer events and activations as well. Take Shock Top’s partnership with Camp No Counselors, the camp experience for adults. The brand last year hosted four Camp Shock Top events in scenic locations outside major cities. Campers stayed in cabins and took part in ropes courses, water trampolines, tie-dye, slip ‘n slides, color wars and, of course, evening parties.

In experiential activations, more playfulness. Like Zagat’s Tiny Café, which celebrated the launch of 2017’s top restaurants. The restaurant review brand “shrunk” different restaurants and presented mini dishes, sets and accessories of each one. Consumers then taste tested the tiny offerings (like tiny burgers and pizzas).

Play has enhanced photo activations, as well, like tiny rooms that have attendees cramming themselves into the space and posing on tiny furniture. Other playful sets include “flipped over rooms” that allow attendees to pretend as though they’re suspended from the ceiling or flying through the air, as Fujifilm incorporated into its Fujifilm Wonderland event in May to promote its Instax instant photo cameras.

Who knew playtime could be strategic.

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