Throughout 2017, we’re taking a closer look at some of the concepts we highlighted at the beginning of the year. Our “Innovation During Disruption and Change” POV called out some of the shifts in technology, society, medicine and marketing that we see changing the world in which we work. One of those trends is immersive experience marketing.

Storytelling is as old as humankind. In addition to providing entertainment, it can foster personal relationships, teach life lessons, build emotional connections, and even inspire empathy and facilitate understanding. A good story draws you in, makes you forget about the rest of the world; it is, in a word, immersive. So it follows that tools that can help us create a sense of immersion — of being fully drawn into an experience — can also help us become more effective storytellers, and more effective pharma marketers.

Old Is New — and Different — Again
Storytelling is just as important as it’s always been, but how we tell stories has evolved. We used to sit around campfires and family tables to share our stories, but today, we often rely on technology to share experiences. And that technology is evolving at a mind-numbing pace. Take amateur photography, for example: we’ve gone from mail-away film developing, to one-hour photo, to Polaroids, to snapping photos on our phones and immediately sharing them on the social network of our choice. Many cameras even have WiFi capabilities, so we can share or save our memories directly to the cloud.

Brand experiences have also evolved, and so have our expectations about how we experience them. We now expect a brand to have something intellectually and emotionally compelling to offer if it is to gain our attention.

Over the years, we’ve seen a shift from advertisements that talk at us, to unsolicited direct mail campaigns, to point-of-purchase, to immersive experiences of a brand story. Where once, immersion referred to everything from public relations events to coupons, today, immersion is about the sensory experience itself. Immersion can inspire investment in a story — and, hopefully, in the brand creating the story. Whether an immersive experience is individual, shared, or both, it needs to hit that mark.

What Does Immersion Look Like?
Immersive experiences are probably best exemplified with tech like virtual reality, augmented reality, and video — whether live-feed, 360° or “on-demand.” Chatbots and gamification are other ways to draw people into brand stories.

Tech proponents claim that immersive technologies can bring us to a totally new frontier of storytelling — “the evolution from ‘storytelling’ to ‘story-living,” as one creative director put it. Brands need to drive immersive storytelling within their marketing efforts, because more meaningful experiences builds trust. And trust leads to brand loyalty. Is your brand offering the chance to live its story?