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Projection Mapping: What Is It and Why Businesses Love It

Projection Mapping: What Is It and Why Businesses Love It
Credit: roibu/Shutterstock

In an effort to connect with your heart, mind, and wallet, big brands are working hard so that every minute of your day is jampacked with ads and multimedia touch points. One marketing tactic in their toolbox aims to create emotional and long-lasting impressions around events.

From sold out concerts to museums, some events are more memorable than others – perhaps due to stunning graphics, 3D or 4D experiences or interactive installations you enjoyed there. These remarkable experiences may have been the result of projection mapping.

Projection mapping is a video projection technology where video is mapped onto a surface, turning common objects – buildings, runways, stages, even water – into interactive displays. These surfaces become a canvas, with graphics being projected onto a surface, playing off of the surface's shape and textures to create a delightful experience of light and illusion.

"Projection mapping immerses consumers into an experience," explained Paul Whitney, executive producer at bluemedia, a Tempe, Arizona-based media company that specializes in experiential activations for some of the world's largest brands. "And research has shown that millennials, in particular, would rather invest in an experience than a product."

When projection mapping first kicked off, it was limited to flat walls. Today, companies that use it – often enterprises, but not exclusively – can think far bigger and more creatively. They're no longer limited to structures or specific materials.

"Today, we have more flexibility than ever. The technology has grown tenfold. Back in the day, many of the things we did were not possible, but [modern] software allows us to do cool things," Whitney said.

For example, Whitney mentioned a use case for a fashion show: Rather than using 30 mannequins with 30 outfits, projection mapping could be leveraged to show a variety outfits on two mannequins. Clients can now take on 360-degree dome projection, create immersive theatrical experiences, deliver show-stopping concert experiences, and deliver far more memorable impressions than traditional forms of media.

Projection mapping is no light expense, however. Activations can easily range from $150,000 on the lower end to more than $1 million. This takes into account the creative gurus, engineers, on-site resources and logistics it takes to pull it off flawlessly.

Also, plan for some lead time: eight to 14 weeks, depending on the experience.

Enterprises are willing to pay for the experience when they've amassed the participants, social media followers and brand recognition that make the ROI possible. They rely heavily on social media to piggyback on the event experience, creating massive buzz that reaches far beyond the event location.

"Activations can be permanent or semipermanent," Whitney said. "But brands will get 10 times more media when they create these immersive experiences."

Whitney has spearheaded projection mapping experiences from the Super Bowl to the famous Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood to a life-sized Noah's Ark that just launched in Kentucky.

As for the skeptics who question whether the investment is worth it, Whitney said they just have to "see it to believe it."

Joanna Furlong

Joanna Furlong is a freelance writer and content strategist based in Southern California. Her background is in digital marketing, but she’s been writing professionally for more than 10 years. She partners with startups, technology companies and small businesses across the U.S. to tell their brand stories through compelling content. And, she loves to report on the intersection where business, management and technology collide.