I was disappointed recently, when I went to a public viewing of what was supposed to be a “virtual cockpit” at a consumer luxury product launch. Why?

The social media advertising that attracted me to make my way down after a grueling work week was that it was supposed to be a fighter jet trainer simulator, or so I thought.

I reached the exhibition, and all I saw was a big screen with a painted runway on the floor. The big screen showed various video clips, including commercial airliner jets which I am accustomed to, and some video clips of fighter jets and so on. I circled the exhibition areas twice, and found no physical simulator in sight.

Finally I discovered that the big screen was their idea of a “virtual cockpit”. All I could lament was that their marketers obviously have no idea what a cockpit means to aviators. I can blame their ignorance, but given the expense they put into the exhibition, they could easily have gotten more attention not just from aviators, but from the public, if they put more thought into creating immersive experiences.

What could a brand do to create immersive experiences in this instance?

Simple, 2 things.

Get expertise

To create an immersive experience such as one in a public space, the marketers (whether internal or contracted) should have relevant experience in the creative theme and concepts.

For example, if you are creating an aviation-themed show or exhibition, please find relevant experts who know about aviation, to create immersive experiences that at least compel, and have fair fidelity to the experiences your knowledgeable consumers might expect. If you are creating a medical exhibition for example, your team should tap on real-world expertise from medical professionals.

Expertise is not cheap, but it is not inaccessible. Rather than imagine concepts that bear no relevance or fidelity to the real world, marketers owe it to their brands to at least tap on some outside expertise, and to co-develop themes that would work, and become successful campaigns. Expertise would also help alleviate the possibility of errors due to ignorance (such as calling a big screen a “cockpit” when it is merely a non-interactive, simple video).

Real simulation

I am no stranger to flight simulation, having trained in FTDs (flight training devices) for both the Boeing 737NG and the Airbus A320.

Flight simulators have many different levels of fidelity. At the highest end, you have full-motion devices that simulate the physics of flight to create more realistic experiences for the aviators or aviators in training. The next tier would be fixed based simulators, also good for procedural training and for courses such as CRM (crew resource management). Flight schools for commercial pilots usually have all kinds of simulators, including fixed based and full motion devices.

There are also entertainment devices that are intended for business and personal entertainment, and provide varying degrees of fidelity. Some have motion, and some are fixed based. Some use projection, some use conjoined monitors, and some even use VR goggles (virtual reality).

For an exhibition, the typical big screen projection setup and the space rental in our locale would easily costs closer to tens of thousands to even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on where and how you use the space. Additional costs would be merchandising displays, staffing, and so on.

Instead of simply creating a passive, non-immersive space which does not engage your audience, you can easily reduce the budget for expensive big screens, and instead create immersive experiences through simulation devices, in this instance. You can certainly purchase consumer-level, entertainment simulators if you are a sizable brand, or lease such devices. With the advent of VR goggles, it is also entirely possible to create even more immersive experiences to your consumers at much reduced costs.

Here’s an example of a good-quality fighter jet simulator:

Needless to say, that product launch was not a success in my opinion. The product and its congruence with aviators would have definitely attracted me a lot more if it first engaged me as an aviation enthusiast, and thereafter, I would be inclined to know its product more. By not making a compelling first impression, I was not compelled to find out more, or become a customer. What’s more, the misrepresentation of its social media campaign, which although might be due to ignorance, did not help the situation.

So, the next time marketers want to create a compelling and realistic public experience, do at least two things, tap on expertise, and create immersive and interactive experiences. Nothing beats having your prospective customers experience something first hand.

Customers today are sophisticated and educated, they demand a lot more.