How ‘The Escape Game’ Uses Branding To Stand Out In A Crowded Market

By Teddy Cheek, head of marketing, The Escape Game

If you’re a marketer in a crowded category, you understand the pain and agony associated with brand confusion. As the head of marketing for The Escape Game, I know I do. My category is CROWDED. Like, Disney World in July crowded. There are now over 2 ,000 escape rooms in the U.S., over 1,000 of those use “escape” in their name.

New Category + Lots of Competitors + Descriptive Names = Mass Confusion

The escape room category is exploding, experiencing massive year-over-year growth.

Because of the competition, we have been diligent about unique and cohesive branding from the beginning. However, no matter how you try to avoid brand confusion (like using strong logos and colors), it can still be a big issue. It’s up to marketers to make the most of the situation.

When Brand Confusion Happens…

Here’s how it plays out in my world:

My Aunt Julie: Hey! I played your escape rooms in Lexington. I love the Sherlock game!

Me: Oh that’s actually a competitor. We don’t have a location in Lexington or a Sherlock game.

Aunt Julie: Oh really? I thought they were all the same company.

Me: They aren’t. The industry is actually pretty huge. There are a couple thousand companies – some offering high-quality experiences, others…not so much.

So what could I do in this situation? One reaction might be to decide to distance myself from the category.

“We aren’t an escape room at all,” I could bellow.

“We won’t use that word on our website or in-store ever again,” I could vow.

Having customers confuse you with another brand is frustrating. But, here’s a word of warning: don’t be too quick to separate yourself from an accelerating category.

There can be a lot to gain from a crowded category if there is enough demand. I think “The Law of The Jungle” says it best: “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” There is a silver lining to be found when a concept is popular enough to warrant many competitors.

In my case, thousands of people search for an “escape room” every day in their city. Knowing this, I probably shouldn’t distance myself from the “escape room” term and call myself something else entirely. When people search “escape room near me,” they would be less likely to find my business if it were called “Teddy’s House of Real-Life Social Games.”

At The Escape Game, I just want to make sure I’m the one winning the most business. How do I do that? How do I make sure I’m converting on all the demand that the category is driving?

Two simple steps: Educate and Wow!

Educate People

Some competitor websites offer confusing and unclear descriptions of what an “escape room” is, in an attempt to stand out. Some even lead with riddles and puzzles above the fold on the home page (rather than a booking button!) My advice: clearly describe what exactly your company offers and what  makes it unique. Donald Miller, the CEO of StoryBrand, says, “If you confuse, you’ll lose.” Those are word I live by. Any marketer in a crowded space should live by those words, too. Start by just simply educating people on what it is that you provide. Be as pragmatic as possible.

Wow People

Thanks to the talented team of designers at The Escape Game and our parent company TEG Studios, we have epic games with amazing sets. It sure makes my job easy, because the quality of our games helps to separate us from competitors. It’s up to me to commercialize the efforts of our Game Team to further “wow” consumers. I make sure we have fantastic photography that make our games look as compelling as possible in ads or social posts. These pictures tell a story about the challenges you’ll face, and the emotions you’ll feel throughout the experience.

Many of our competitors lean too heavily on mystery and intrigue. That worked well for everyone when the escape room industry was a brand-new industry, with just a few major players. The sense of mystery drove millions to play their first escape game. Those days are gone, and now people want to find and play the best escape room. My content aims to “wow” customers, and show them that we have the most impressive games.

In an ideal world, you’d never deal with brand confusion. However, if this a challenge for you and your brand, make the most of it, and turn that generic traffic into your traffic!

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