How is immersive co-creation boosting fan loyalty?

05 : 12 : 2017 Branding : Advertising : Marketing
Owned by No One by Robin Alysha Clemens, Netherlands Owned by No One by Robin Alysha Clemens, Netherlands

A new product needs marketing and it’s here that The KLF excel in heightening curiosity, teasing and rewarding fans through their unique style of engagement.

Kathryn Bishop, senior writer, The Future Laboratory

Yellow smoke streams across the high street from canisters hurled onto a bus shelter. People going home from work stop, their backs against shop fronts, to watch 99 people in plastic yellow rain macs march – chanting a mysterious mantra – through the evening rush-hour traffic. The 99 turn into a local square where a rusting ice cream van awaits them, laden with whisky and hand-made mince pies.

This is a momentary snapshot from an evening recently spent following the directions of British electronic band The KLF. An immersive experience that wound through east London’s canals and onto the eventual clamour of Dalston’s Kingsland Road, this band – famed for igniting debate when they burned £1 million of their earnings in 1994 – know a thing or two about creating an immersive marketing experience.

It might not be what they want to hear, but The KLF are experts in influencing their audience, and their followers cannot get enough.

After burning the money back in the 1990s, The KLF – aka Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond – essentially disappeared for 23 years. In 2017, however, they returned with a book entitled 2023: A Trilogy. Described by The Guardian as a ‘multi-layered, self-referential meta-tale’, this is a futuristic vision of our familiar world, instead steered by major global brand conglomerates such as FaceLife, AppleTree and Amazaba.

But a new product, whether it’s a record or a book, needs marketing and it’s here that The KLF excel in heightening curiosity, teasing and rewarding fans through their unique style of engagement.

Only 99 tickets were available for their recent London event, Burn the Shard. Those lucky enough to scoop one, including myself, were given only a postcode and a meeting time. At the resulting canalside venue, we chose roles for the night, put on a KLF-branded yellow rain mac, drank KLF ale and enjoyed a live reading from the book.

It’s well known that brands can build loyalty through experiential marketing, and The KLF manage to maintain their air of mystery while building a cult-like fervour among fans through stunts such as Burn the Shard.

From there, the 99 were immersed in the storytelling of 2023. Lined up in yellow, we traced the characters’ steps through the streets of Hackney. If asked by the public what we were doing, the only answer we were permitted to give was: ‘Going for Big Macs and fries’. If asked who we were, we could only say: ‘volunteers’.

At a time of heightened sensitivity, The KLF had 99 strangers marching through the streets with seemingly no destination, yellow smoke bombs guiding their path. A strange yet overwhelmingly addictive energy came with watching the unsettled reactions of passers-by.

For a few hours, we were part of something. Drummond and Cauty followed in their ice cream van, and at the end of the night we stood side by side to stick 50 giant posters stating 2023: What the fuuk is going on? on a wooden hoarding around a new building development – posters that advertised the book, should someone have Googled what it all meant.

It’s well known that brands can build loyalty through experiential marketing, and The KLF manage to maintain their air of mystery while building a cult-like fervour among fans through stunts such as Burn the Shard.

As The Future Laboratory’s macrotrend Revelation Brands outlines, at a time when we find ourselves increasingly trapped in online bubbles with brands competing for our attention, the chance to collaborate, be surprised, explore and make our own opinion of an experience, brand or place is something that money simply cannot buy.

And luckily for us, The KLF gave us a night of mild rebellion for free, except for a poster and an audio 12-inch relating to the book which – you guessed it – cost £20.23.

To read more about escapism through brand experiences, read The Future Laboratory’s Revelation Brands macrotrend.