Projection Mapping, More Than Just A Technique

Projection mapping is not a new technique. It’s a technology that dates back to the 1960s when Disneyland debuted its Haunted Mansion ride and used projection mapping to make fake, disembodied heads come “alive” with life-like human expressions. It was a tool that scared the heck out of riders, and inspired artists and creatives around the world.

Since then, projection mapping has been used by advertisers and brands to create stunning visual displays that evoke curiosity and stoke the imagination.

But beyond that, can a tool as powerful as projection mapping create fun and unexpected experiences that tap into deeper, more primal emotions — the kind of emotions that move people to buy a product or support a cause or tell their friends? Can it be applied to today’s fast-paced world of social sharing, where the endorsements of an online audience (who may not have actually experienced the live event) pack more of a punch than traditional advertising? More explicitly, can a decades-old technology be leveraged in fresh and innovative ways to meet business objectives?

We believe it can.

In today’s crowded and noisy marketplace, what helps brands rise above the fray and get noticed is their ability to elicit a visceral reaction – whether felt or expressed – from their audience.

And the tools used to achieve that should be used with that end in mind.

At the end of the day people buy stuff because it makes their lives better — they feel like it makes their lives better. We use emotion to help convey that. So projection mapping helps us tap into the emotional components using surreal elements.

Any emotional connection to any product is going to be a much better way to talk about it.

Real vs. Fake

Filmmakers, audio-visual experts, advertisers and marketers have all attempted to make the “unreal” real — to bring an element of “realness” to their fictional works, whether it’s a sci-fi film, a Vegas light show or a cosmetics campaign.

No matter how many times it’s tried, though, you can’t fake real. We know the light show – though an engineering feat – is a manufactured event; we know the villains in the movies are not really bad guys but great actors, and we know the gorgeous woman with the flawless skin is a paid model who’s been airbrushed and Photoshopped.

That’s one of the reasons marketers and brands love creating experiential events — because they allow real people to have a real experience that, if done right, elicit real feelings of connection with the product or idea being promoted.

The magic of designing and creating an experiential event is that it gives live participants the ability to feel something that’s real. They’ll never walk away saying, “Oh, that was fake.”

But how do you create those same real feelings with people who didn’t, or couldn’t, participate in the sponsored event?

In the case of the Honda Dream Garage, the answer was to artistically blend experiential marketing and projection mapping with traditional filmmaking and great storytelling to transmit the emotional connection that faithful riders have with their Honda motorcycles.

The emotional connection was elicited with projected imagery of open highways and country roads, then captured in a commercial that let viewers feel the bond each rider had with his or her Honda “toy”.

That commercial was then leveraged on other platforms — Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. — to extend the experience to viewers worldwide. It was taken “out of the garage” so to say, and put out into the world.

It’s what StarBeast likes to call ‘using the whole buffalo’.

Using The Whole Buffalo

Using the whole buffalo is when an asset is created and leveraged in such a way that it continues the conversation long after the event it over.

In other words, you’re not just going to let it be an event. Instead, you’re going to film it and give people Instagram moments and shareability and do things that let the thing, the asset, live on somewhere else.

When various technical and creative elements are combined holistically – always keeping clients’ goals and objectives at the forefront – then a campaign is truly successful.

Tools (whether projection mapping, or experiential marketing, or traditional filmmaking) should not be the focal point of the campaign. Rather, they are a means to an end.

Our goal is simple: any tool we use is to create some sort of emotional response.

What’s fun about projections and projection mapping is it allows you to inject that sense of magic in the moments, which creates a visceral reaction from people who are experiencing it.

Article by Nick Losq

As the Founder & Chief Creative Officer at StarBeast, Nick thrives on pushing the boundaries of digital technique to create visual stories that draw audiences in. He’s honored to have worked on campaigns for clients including Disney, ESPN, Vox Media, Blizzard, Overwatch League, Anheuser-Busch, Nike, Porsche, Acura, Honda, Guinness, HP and more.