rainforest cafe experiences

Picture the scene.

It’s a week before Christmas and you’ve got no food in the house apart from half a jar of last year’s cranberry sauce. Rather than braving the supermarket, you decide to go out for dinner with your partner. Which experience would you rather?

Experience 1: You walk into a restaurant. You’re hastily asked if it’s “a table for two?” before being told to follow a waiter who’s disappeared with ninja-like speed. You eventually arrive at a table which is worryingly next to both the toilets and the kitchen, and – as you take off your coat – a menu is thrust into your hand. Before you know it, you’ve panicked and ordered goat’s cheese to start, followed by macaroni cheese, followed by cheesecake. You love cheese, but this is just Too. Much. Cheese. Understandably, the experience leaves you feeling pretty cheesed off.

Experience 2: You walk into a restaurant. You hear parrots squawking and tropical showers all around. You tentatively step across a rope bridge where a safari ranger emerges to greet you. “Come with me,” he says. “Your adventure awaits.” You arrive at a table positioned between a cascading waterfall and a majestic herd of elephants, proudly staring out at you from their jungle surroundings. You happily tuck into a healthy amount of cheese, while the lighting shifts from green to grey and a thunderstorm rumbles ominously overhead.

The first scenario was fictional (of course there’s no such thing as too much cheese). The second was real. This was my evening at the Rainforest Café in London. The restaurant is designed to look like an exotic jungle that recreates the sights and sounds of the Amazon rainforest through audio, animatronics, props and visual effects. The website promotes the café as a ‘spectacular dining experience with unique surroundings.’ It may not be for everyone but – with sight, taste, smell, touch and sound all stimulated simultaneously – it was undeniably a memorable experience.

The experience economy

Back in 1998, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore predicted that, in 20 years’ time, the B2C market would operate within an economy of experience, rather than one built on agriculture, industry or service. Instead of spending money on material goods, people living in the 21st century would prefer to use their hard-earned cash to buy memorable experiences with their families and friends.

Fast forward to 2018, and businesses like the Rainforest Café are popping up to answer this growing demand for an exciting customer experience. Just look at the rise of Ghetto Golf, Go Ape, Red Letter Days and Secret Cinema. Social media has arguably compounded the need for these unique, shareable experiences further. Our online selves are eager to post evidence of our trip to the food market, F1 driving lesson or spa day.

Interactive employee experiences

If Pine and Gilmore were correct – and experience is increasingly becoming the ‘product’ – then how can we use this idea to craft unique, engaging and interactive employee experiences?

“Public and work life has blended into one,” wrote Gordon Dowall-Potter, digital communications lead at E.ON, in the latest issue of the IoIC’s Voice magazine. “There’s no real distinction. And so there comes a higher expectation on internal communication to be at the cutting edge.”

Here at 44, just some of the interactive employee experiences we’ve created over the past year have included: four virtual reality rooms, a giant advent calendar for a strategy cascade, a Big Brother-style video room, a guinea-pig office takeover, and an interactive ‘inspiration’ wall complete with motivational quotes and pictures.

So with this in mind, and with a brand-new year of internal communications planning stretching out before us, here are our top three tips on how to have interactive employee experiences front of mind when it comes to internal communications projects and campaigns.

1. Define the objective – and then the experience
Think big (but perhaps not too big). An experiential idea may be something completely different and have real cut-through, but it may not link back to your original objectives. Don’t do something for the sake of it, but make a case for creating an interactive employee experience that has a real and relevant impact.

2. Make it memorable
It’s been proven that multi-sensory experiences can create more vivid memories. Alongside employee newsletters, social platforms and mass mailers, why not factor in content that stimulates more than one of the senses: audio, touch, even taste?

3. Think, FEEL, do
Storytelling and the power of emotion is a big tool within your experiential arsenal. Whether your desired reaction is nostalgia, laughter or pride, remember to use your knowledge of your audience to predict this feeling – and then be aware of how you’ll use this to cement key messages and measure the results.

Intrigued? Just get in touch to find out about our five ‘E’s of interactive employee experience and how we can help with your plans in 2019.

References: [1] Pine, J. and Gilmore, J. (1999) The Experience Economy, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1999 [2] Gordon Dowall-Potter, digital communications lead at E.ON, quoted in the IoIC’s Voice Magazine, January 2019 issue