Saying digital marketers have a lot of options these days is an understatement. As habits in media consumption have changed, brands are reaching across mediums to tell stories that go beyond any single platform. Brands are publishing magazines, films cross over with mass market video games, and comic books are attached to multi-film-spanning franchises.
We’ve covered how musicians are reaching audiences on new platforms, but one cartoon band has set a new bar for developing immersive, interconnected, cross-channel experiences for their audiences.
Gorillaz is the joint project between musician Damon Albarn (frontman of ‘90s Britpop icons Blur) and visual artist Jamie Hewlett. Each release from the duo has its own set of stories told through animated music videos, comics, artwork, and the records themselves.
The group recently released its fourth LP, Humanz, with a campaign that spans almost every relevant social/marketing platform, allowing audiences to get enveloped in the new world they’ve created.
Not having pre-existing social channels comes with it’s benefits, and Gorillaz used this to their advantage when rolling out their Instagram page especially. Starting this fall, the band’s freshly minted @gorillaz handle served as the perfect intro to the band’s work for new audiences, and an exciting recap for longtime fans. The full grid was acted as a timeline of previous releases, with images and clips from music videos and iconic performances.
Grid-conscious, mural-style imagery is a compelling way to tell a story—it can act as a powerful statement of what you’re about and where you’re headed. That’s why brands like Land Rover have leveraged it to help create a more engaging social interaction with its audience.
But Gorillaz took it one step further—building upon this experience with four sets of stories that layered in narrative, showing fans what the band was up to between projects. The aftermath of their previous release, Plastic Beach, was shown in storybook-like images and cinemagraphs that gave visual representations of the narrative. While their storyline is outlandish and unique to their audience, Gorillaz makes a compelling case study for using breaking social media convention and using the platforms as more robust storytelling tools.
Enter the Spirit House
If social acted as an introduction to the Gorillaz’ bigger narrative, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experiences have been opportunities for fans to completely immerse themselves in the world.
While it’s easy to be skeptical of current state of VR and 360° content, Jamie Hewlett directed the band’s “Saturn Barz” video in a way that eases the audience into both the band’s world and the format of VR itself. The clip begins in a static environment, as users watch the opening sections of the video on a train with the band in a nearly still 360° environment. This was not only a great way to ease anyone into what might be their first VR experience, but allowed them to save the costs associated with rendering more environments than necessary.
When the band finally arrives at their “Spirit House,” the fictional setting where they “recorded” the album, the next few shots have a single focal point, making it less necessary for users to continually look around at their surroundings (unless, of course, they’d like to). With the current state of mobile VR headsets, where optimizations for stabilizing views can be somewhat lackluster, the smooth experience offered by Gorillaz should serve as a model can serve as a set of best practices for your first foray into 360° content.
The band has also made an extremely well-designed AR app that gives fans an opportunity to interact and explore the Spirit House at their own pace. The things you can interact with have a subtle television-static effect that helps them stand out in the world, which acts as a great way to make the interactive elements clear to users. This is a best practice for both AR and interactive VR experiences, as users can be easily lose interest or become frustrated by fumbling around the worlds you’ve created blindly.
Humanz After All
In isolation, a well-defined Instagram presence or a cool AR experience wouldn’t be groundbreaking, but Gorillaz has used these platforms to enrich the album itself and immerse the audience in the world they’ve created. For a record designed to be a celebration on the eve of apocalypse, Damon and Jamie have found the best way to invite everyone to the party.