“We wanted to show up in a place where we’re uniquely differentiated, and we saw that there is a huge overlap between people who game and watch anime. Given that Anime Expo is the largest North American anime conference, we thought it was a really great opportunity to show up as a gaming brand but also show up authentically to immerse ourselves in that culture.”
-Aki Martin, Head of Marketing-North America Consumer PC & Gaming, HP
As digital natives, it’s no surprise that Gen Z’s interests lean toward screens, including the roughly 90 percent of the demographic that plays video games. But as PC gaming brand OMEN prepared to reintroduce itself to its target audience—Gen Z lifestyle gamers—the company discovered that a sizeable chunk of the demo’s screen time was also spent on watching anime. So to capitalize on the audience overlap and deliver on its promise to “Choose Fun,” the HP-owned brand made its debut at Anime Expo in Los Angeles with an enchanting booth experience that invited fans to uncover their “Spirit of Fun.”
Dripping in pastels and playful graphics, OMEN’s booth was designed to be both intriguing and inviting. Upon entering, attendees registered an RFID wristband (hello, data capture) on an OMEN device. From there, they embarked on an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure-style journey through a series of portals, each with a prompt designed to help them discover their individual Spirit of Fun: Magic, Adventure or Play.
Staying true to the anime community and culture throughout the experience was paramount for OMEN, as was positioning its activation as a memorable “backdrop” to the broader Anime Expo experience fans are seeking when they attend the convention.
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“We held ourselves accountable to say, ‘OK, we’re not going to push ourselves into places where it’s just let’s sell product, product, product.’ That’s not how we grab Gen Z’s attention, either,” says Aki Martin, head of marketing-North America consumer PC & gaming at HP. “How do we make it playful? How do we make it fun? And how do we invite the audience who are there to immerse themselves in the world of anime in a way that is authentic to them?”
Across three themed rooms, fans used their wristbands to interact with touchpoints by scanning them on colorful “jewels,” with brand ambassadors stationed in each portal to help guide the experience. In the cherry blossom room, vibrant faux cherry trees, rocks and greenery surrounded a small bridge that arched over a koi pond. Within the space, attendees had to choose how they would “awaken” the magical cherry blossom. After making the choice, they swiped their wristband on the jewel that matched their answer.
In the ramen room, a supersized bowl of plushy ramen ingredients invited attendees to literally jump in, making for a shareable photo moment. Participants also answered a new prompt and scanned their wristband to match the response, taking them a step closer to finding their Spirit of Fun. And in the “New Tokyo corridor,” which mimicked Tokyo’s back-alley markets, a three-shelf glass display prompted attendees to select a row of fantastical-looking items that would assist them on their journey.
Finally, fans encountered an extended reality stage, chose a backdrop and recorded a short video. They then exited into a creation station room featuring OMEN devices to add their own anime ending sequence to the content, with the option to share the final product on social. Before leaving, participants were assigned their Spirit of Fun based on their prompt answers, and given a pin representing that spirit as a takeaway.
Fans at home could engage with the activation, too. OMEN deployed a series of YouTube videos that mimicked the in-person, prompt-driven expedition and ultimately designated a Spirit of Fun (and accompanying graphic) to participants upon their completion of the experience. Adding an extra layer to the adventure for fans online, the brand transformed its influencer partner, streamer and cosplayer Kiera Please, who was also on-site at the expo, into an anime character who drove the whole journey.
The campaign results speak for themselves: 10,000 in-person participants, double the amount of YouTube subscribers and 4,500 emails captured.
“Rather than going to a gaming-specific convention or event, we wanted to show up in culture,” says Martin. “We want to be known as a fun lifestyle brand for Gen Zers who game, versus being this hardcore gaming PC brand… Lifestyle gamers tend to extend their gameplay into real life, and they essentially always ‘choose fun’ in any scenario. That’s an audience insight that we tapped into as we built our brand strategy. There are so many different elements of ‘fun’ that we can play on with this concept, so we hope to extend that into 2024.” Agency: Infinity Marketing Team.
Go Inside the Booth: