Monday, October 26, 2009

Brands as Immersive Environments

This past weekend I participated in the Nike Human 10K Race – a virtual race for runners from all over the world. As we have been discussing ways in which consumers engage with brands through immersive environments like, I thought it might be beneficial to attempt to recount my experience to you. From the outset, I want to emphasize just how strange it was to run a race (I use the term loosely) all by myself: no one to run with; and, no one to cheer me on. When I passed other runners in my neighborhood, I wondered whether they were doing the same thing I was. But all I could do was nod in acknowledgment. It was a rather strange feeling, I must say. I could have joined a “community” online, but that would have been a virtual experience, not a real community of runners to actually run with. I guess I could have attempted to locate local runners who were participating in the Nike Human 10K and run with them, but that seemed kind of like a weird thing to do. So, I ran a race alone. What place did I come in? 5,421. Doesn’t sound so good, does it? Five thousandth place. But then again there were tens of thousands of runners. So, it was only when I uploaded my run to the NikePlus web site that I was able to get a feeling of some satisfaction. I could locate my place at the finish, and I could compare my time to people from all over the world.  I walked away (metaphorically speaking) from the event with a pretty good feeling about the whole thing. But I can’t say I felt connected, socially networked. It wasn’t a bad experience, and since I use this website on a regular basis, running in a virtual race—in the end—was just an extension of what I already had been doing in this immersive brand environment.


Sara Hayward said...

I think the idea of this product is interesting, as well as the participatory "races," but I just think it is fueling this idea of a virtual reality, and it does not seem natural. I agree with it being hard to really get involved with this race, since it only seems real once you finish, so what is making you run? I guess this product is great for those who are really into running, and that is their target audience.

kdpiper said...

Dr. Alperstein, reading about your feelings and reaction to the NikePlus 10K somewhat reminds me of the emotions I have toward social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. (I have never been part of an actual brand's immersive environment, so this is the closest experience I have.) What I sometimes enjoy, and also sometimes dislike, about Facebook is that I am "friends" with a lot of old high school acquaintances. It is funny to think of them as "old acquaintances" since I have only been out of high school two and a half years, but it is true that I would no longer consider most of them true friends. They are people that I would never call or text because it would be too entirely random, but I occasionally find myself writing on some of their walls, or I find myself getting excited when they girl who sat in front of me for four years of homeroom comments on one of my photos. Facebook has allowed me to maintain these acquaintances that I could only ever feel comfortable maintaining through a virtual type of reality. But, I also often find myself wondering: Why? Why continue to "talk" to a girl whose phone number I don't even have, a girl who knows nothing about my life since high school except for what she learns through Facebook? Sometimes I have mixed feelings about online social networking. It can be an awesome thing to be able to know how my old classmates are doing at their schools and to see how they have changed (or even stayed the same) since graduation. But, what is the point of staying "friends" with someone I would never call up and ask to hang out? Do sites such as this inhibit our maturation after high school? Do they force us to hold too long on the past and force artificial relationships upon us?