For the millennial generation, “escape the room” competitions have become one of the most popular interactive activities around. Taking a concept rooted in a pretty basic type of point and click computer game, team members are locked into an actual room, and must use various objects and clues that have been left in the room in order to get out. At the end of June, Ford used this trendy pastime to create an experiential marketing event to promote the Ford Escape.
What made Ford’s use of the pop culture craze unique is that rather than alluding to a popular activity, they actually expanded on the theme, creating a game that was more elaborate than the popular versions for which tickets sell out quickly. Additionally, the technology that is built into the Ford Escape was so integrated into the fabric of the game, that in order for players to succeed, they needed to pay close attention to the parts of the event that can often cause people to get distracted: product marketing.
The game was limited to 1,000 lucky participants, even though it was held in a massive 35,000 sq. ft. New York City location. As the name suggests, escape the room games generally require players to get out of one room in order to win, but for Ford’s event, this was expanded to the requirement of getting out of 5 separate rooms to achieve success. There was only 30 minutes allowed to finish the entire course, meaning that there was only 6 minutes allotted to escaping each individual room.
In order to get out of each room, the player would have to use knowledge of one aspect of the technology included in the Ford Escape. This means that during the pre-game information session, when players were introduced to the 2017 Ford Escape. Seated inside the SUV with a brand ambassador pointing out highlights the players all had a vested interest in paying close attention: their success in the game depended on it.
The game was designed by the master and creator of the original “Escape the Room” physical adventure games, Victor Blake. It was anything but a throwaway game, as many teams were not able to finish it in time, and so “lost,” but no doubt had a lot of fun even without victory. Prior to beginning the course, participants were filmed in a Ford Escape goofing around in front of a green screen. From there, the course began. Centered around needing to move through New York City locations, achieve professional success and make it in Hollywood, the game did not lack variety, but what made it truly stand out from all other escape the room games, was it required the participants to actually drive Ford Escapes. From driving to a “coffee shop” (within the building) to pick up a coffee for the bus, to getting a parking space and using the 2017 Ford Escape’s self-parking feature, the product that Ford was seeking to promote couldn’t have been better integrated into the actual event.
On the one hand, the event was touted as the ultimate alternative to a regular test drive. However, many of the participants are likely not in the market for a car at the moment, and were there to play the game. But as millennials, they are at an age where they are buying their first new car, or will in the next couple of years. What better way to put the Ford Escape firmly at the front of their mind when they are ready to make that purchase.