Jimmy Buffett has really got me thinking: how can you make people feel something strong enough to keep coming back for more?

Last month, I attended one of his concerts in the lawn section of Chicago’s FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. The lawn section was completely new to the venue, and an excessive amount of rain had destroyed the recently laid sod – meaning I and thousands of other lei-clad folks spent a few hours standing in ankle-deep mud. But a strange thing happened: once Jimmy started strumming his famous island tunes and presenting a montage of tropical paradise images, everyone seemed to forget about the mire. The immersive experience of sights and sounds tied to the blissful environment of a warm ocean climate was enough to transport everyone to that beach in the Caribbean or to that sailing trip which they remember so fondly. Jimmy Buffett has built his brand by leveraging the fact that just listening to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” can transport Parrotheads to different place or time.

Can other brands achieve the same redolent effect?

There’s no doubt that these days, life moves at an increasingly breakneck speed (see trend FSTR HYPR), causing people to squeeze more into busy schedules and leaving them wanting to see and do things that they aren’t able to experience within the confines of their calendars. They’re struggling to fit in fun and leisure (see trend Play Ethic) and are seeking  experiences that enrich their lives as “stuff” doesn’t always cut it anymore (see trend Immaterial World).

As a result, people seem to be looking for immersive experiences that help them feel something reminiscent of a different time or place. It’s the same motivation behind the lure of a theme park, a themed hotel, and immersive plays like Sleep No More in NYC. For me, music in general always carries the ability to take my mind somewhere else.

Brands can use consumers’ desire to be transported to an alternate atmosphere to their advantage, and we’ve seen this happen in myriad ways:

  • If you want to experience nature and the camaraderie of sitting around a campfire but aren’t able to take a camping trip, there’s a bar for that (see Camping Cafés).
  • If you want to experience what the ride to Sturgis is like with a motorcycle gang, just test drive a Harley (see Do You Wanna Be in My Gang?).
  • If you want to experience glacier-filled Alaska, post up at an ice bar (see The Coldest Drink).
  • If you want to experience visualizing your life goals, a bank with a stage can help you act them out (see Inspired Banking).
  • If you want to experience shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store but lack the time, a retailer app immerses you in digital shelf replicas to bring the shopping experience to life (see Shopping With Your Fingertips).


There’s an endless list of activities that many people want to experience but lack the time to do. Giving them even just a taste of things like international travel, boating, relaxing on a beach, star gazing, being at a concert or playing sports could translate to brand affinity.

Tapping into consumers’ senses with the sound of music or the taste of delicious fruit could even allow “stuff” – not just the experience itself – to be immersed in the desired feeling. For example: remind consumers that the juicy pineapple they’re eating can make them feel the same way they do on vacation.

Many retailers are certainly seizing this opportunity (see trend Experience is All). What can your brand do? Think about the experiences you, yourself would like to be immersed in, and consider how your brand can help provide such an experience.