I've stopped reading the Marketing Week (UK edition) - same authors, boring articles. I follow marketing and advertising blogs instead, most of them on Facebook. Saying that, recent article in the Marketing Week (which I linked to from a blog) titled "Fleeing to fantasy" spurred my interest http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/analysis/cover-stories/fleeing-to-fantasy/3026498.article?cmpid=MWE01&cmptype=editorial.
Article addresses a new trend, which authors contribute to the effect of recession, namely success of the fantasy brands or brands which offer their customers unusual immersive experiences, allowing to leave the day's troubles behind and inject elements of magic into ubiqutous day to day. Film industry is at the forefront, with its 'new' 3D technology, to which multi million selling "Twilight" and "Avatar" are the proof. Video games are another popular form of escapism. Games are becoming more and more realistic, gaming companies are experimenting with the immersion effect. You can now play not only on consoles and PCs but smartphones too.
The article mentions other examples, eg Secret Cinema in the UK when those buying tickets have no idea what and where they will see. They get emailed instructions for the viewing on the same day. Locations are unpredictable. The recent "Battle for Algiers" was shown in tunnels beneath London's Waterloo station. Location was made to look like Algiers of the 1950s, including prison and art installations. Viewers received instructions on the dress code. Which film they were watching was revealed only with the opening credits.
Courvoisier is another example. While aiming to reposition themselves as a young and creative brand, they held a number of innovative events, like recent "architectural punch" in London when a building was filled with punch made with cognac, and visitors floated amidst it on the fruit wedge floats (Google Courvoisier+punch+London images). Hedonism at the peak of consumerism, read - modern magic.
I can think of a few examples too. Cirque du Soleil, which by the way is not a new thing, Lady Gaga who one can only describe as 'out of this world', fashion which is all about magic and transformation and escaping the reality. And recently, announcement from from the Rubicon Group Holding that they have started construction of a $1bn resort in Aqaba, Jordan, which will be 'out of this universe' and will recreate Star Trek environment of the 23rd century. Plenty of examples, same concept - fantasy brand is all about experience, event, performance, tied to creativity, imagination, it's all about creating a club, belonging, it's fans, followers, not just consumers.
And marketers have the latest technologies. If you ever played with augmented reality applications, you know what's possible already. AR (augmented reality) codes are being experimented with by the innovative companies, especially those in the fashion and electronics industries. The latest example of AR codes use by SMEs you can find by googling mashable+augmented+reality+business+cards.
One can argue that rise of fantasy brands is due to economic recession. Magic attracted us always. There is research demonstrating a link between economic downturn and for example rise of interest to vampire stories (only in the last 2-3 years Hollywood and TV industry heavily exploited this trend). However, I see the main reason somewhere else, namely in the generational shifts (Generation X and Y taking over) and changing tastes of the consumer audience as a result.
Now, the subject of generational differences is close to my heart, yet I'll leave it for another time. Going back to the world of financial services marketing, I wondered how could a financial instituation, a bank or an insurance company, capitalise on the whole fantasy/ escapism phenomenon. Obviously, loans and savings are not as exciting as fairy tale characters and vampires. Financial products are complex, high engagement, boring and in reality usually entail negative experiences for the consumer - forget magic and fantasy, getting good service is magic enough. Yet, some innovative financial institutions are experimenting with the new technologies capable to inject elements of magic into customer interactions. Examples - US and UK banks servicing their customers via Twitter, virtual bank branch of an Australian bank on Facebook or virtual, unmanned branches of an American credit union where instead of bank tellers you find video servicing terminals.
Another area of potential application is creative promotion. No outstanding examples that I would be aware of, perhaps because financial sector was too busy dealing with the financial crisis in the last couple of years, assuming a serious and even tragic pose in the meantime. Financial marketers need to cheer up, smile, have fun. Here are just some of the ideas - association with fantasy brands, introduction of fantasy elements in branches, injecting magic into advertising campaigns by using fantasy characters, introducing the latest 'magic' technologies. Finally, product. Not much choice left for traditional banks there, especially in cards business, as non traditional players (namely mobile operators) are pushing the sector for innovation by introducing mobile wallet technology. Banks will need to start thinking outside of the 2D plastic. So, dear financial marketing colleagues, when have you been a magician last? Your customers are demanding some magic...