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How to market a secret

This February, we’re super proud to release our new experience to the public, The Cabinet of Curiosities (you can read all about it in my previous blog post and our dedicated web page). The Cabinet is all about creating an exclusive, intimate experience for a handful of privileged participants, taking them by the hand and leading them into an evening filled with fun, sexy surprises, wonderous discoveries, and extraordinary stories. Add to this bottomless bubbles and thematic nibbles and you’ve got all the ingredients for a truly spectacular evening!

Our desire with the Cabinet has always been to keep it as private as possible. We want the experience to be shrouded in mystery, for people to feel like they’re being admitted into a truly exclusive place that not everyone gets to see.

And obviously, we would need some graphics to promote the experience, which is always a really fun (if sometimes challenging!) part of the whole process. It’s all about managing to figure out your desires and making those clear enough for a graphic designer to be able to take your idea and make it shine. Frances and I had briefed a great many artists when we worked in video games, so we are deeply aware of the importance of clarity and the value of being detail-oriented in conveying your ideas to a third party.

But how do you market a secret?

We did not want to use photos of our actors because people might assume those would be the characters they would meet, and the whole point of the Cabinet is that the characters change every month. And we didn’t want the poster to over-explain what the experience was all about, either.

We therefore broke our Cabinet down to its most basic components, based on our tagline: “3 doors. 3 stories. 1 extraordinary evening.” So then we thought, why not focus our poster on those 3 doors? We would make each door very different, to illustrate that no experience and no character will be alike.

And so our lovely graphic designer came up with this:

I think we can agree that there is such a thing as too much gold. 😅

The elements of the poster were gorgeous and overall it very much fit into ETC’s aesthetics, but after mulling over it for a few days, we knew we hadn’t cracked the magic formula yet. The poster didn’t say enough, while still apparently saying too much by putting so much emphasis on the doors.

With that… we went back to the drawing board.

We looked at our tagline again: “3 doors. 3 stories. 1 extraordinary evening.”

If the doors were too confusing, maybe we ought to focus on the stories. Books seemed to be the obvious illustration of that concept, especially since for now most of our characters are either historical figures or characters from classic novels, which in both cases involves perusing a great many books to find the best pieces of little-known trivia and the most overlooked stories.

But obviously, we’d need to add something to those books to make it clear this poster wasn’t advertising a new library. I’ve always loved the great intro credits of the TV series Only Murders in the Building, which shows silhouettes in various colored windows and hints at all the personal stories hidden inside the building.

We decided to mix the two concepts by inserting windows into a building made of books, and came up with this (very rough) mockup.

We really loved the concept, but it was instantly clear that despite the windows, the books were taking too much of the focus, making it look at best like an ad for a new novel about a mystery-filled community.

However, it was also clear that the windows with the silhouettes were a really appropriate illustration for what we aimed to convey. We realized that one of our worries had always been that people would not understand where the Cabinet was held since the specific place in Paris will change from month to month. We’d always assumed that simply showing a building would make for a boring visual, but the book mockup made us reconsider.

We, therefore, made a new mockup, trying to find a building that looked as much as possible like an Haussmanian hotel to keep strong Parisian vibes, and this is what we came up with:

We knew we had found the winning idea! The poster looked a bit like it was advertising a theater play, but since our immersive experiences are at their core interactive theater, that was perfect for us. We sent the mockup and our brief to our graphic designer and she worked her magic to create a more streamlined, less cluttered version that perfectly matched our brand colors and aesthetics to give us the final poster that you have seen on our social media:

We really love this poster, we think it showcases everything important about the experience (there are various very different characters, it happens in a private building, and the whole thing is elegant and fun) without revealing too much about what people can expect… just like this blog post, hopefully!

We hope you had fun seeing a little bit of how things work backstage, and that this post will entice you to visit our Cabinet of Curiosities soon!


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