Brothers wanted to celebrate its toffee apple flavour of cider, and what better occasion to do so than the weekend of 31 October. "We wanted to align our best-selling flavour with Halloween," says Aimee Hopkins, consumer marketing manager at Brothers. "We also wanted to communicate the story behind the brand and that we are a family-run business with a passion for creating exciting ciders."
Working with agency Miss Jones & Co, the brand created a haunted house experience with a twist: a blank canvas venue on London's Shoreditch High Street was completely revamped into the Brothers Fear Factory, which doubled as a stage to showcase its cider offerings to 300 trade partners, press and consumer competition winners.
Miss Jones & Co brought in preferred suppliers to work on the project. Logistics Unlimited handled AV, crew and overall event logistics, while Create Cocktails dealt with most of the bar needs. Entec Sound & Light designed and produced the atmospherics that put the fear into the factory. While the event space was being constructed, Miss Jones & Co set up a 'Twitter treasure hunt' online to generate conversation and encourage guests to imagine what the experience might consist of.
The spooky experience began before guests had even stepped inside, as a zombie 'Brother' ticked names off a list and drew open the entrance's black drapes. Toffee apple cider was available in the first room, as was a photo booth, complete with wacky Halloween apparel. Make-up artists were on-hand to add a splattering of blood to faces.
Guests in groups of 20 were then led past a CSI-style dead body outline and met the first character of the night, a Somerset cider brewer who warned them of an epidemic of madness breaking out in the depths of the factory. The group continued through the building, discovering an Insanity Laboratory and a Twisted Orchard filled with zombies and foliage that sprang to life. Cocktails and shooters could be sampled on the way.
The last stop was the Sinister Warehouse, a place to relax. Here there was a chance to try two other cider flavours and hot dogs from caterer Big Apple.
The evening rounded off with trip-hop group Smith & Mighty, whose Glastonbury set was a nod to Brothers' west country roots.
When the venue was clear, the team spent three hours cleaning up and de-rigging. Social media was kept buzzing long afterwards, as photos from the event's Halloween selfie wall, as well as mid-scream snaps, filtered into guests' Facebook and Twitter feeds. In the two days leading up to the event, as well as during, the brand saw a social media reach of 572,000 and an engagement level of 18,200.
"The actors were great, and the set design and execution looked fantastic. Anything that takes you out of your comfort zone creates a memorable experience," says Hopkins. The agency's creative director Caroline Jones agrees: "You could tell how successful it was by the smiles on people's faces and the energy in the room. The actors brought the venue to life."
Although the Fear Factory had a seasonal sell-by date, its success may have sparked a new interest in immersive sampling events for Brothers. "We learnt a lot, but the main thing is that we would have liked to open it up to more consumers, and perhaps even staged a paid-for event," Hopkins explains.
Caroline Jones, Miss Jones & Co
"Whatever you budget for, add more. There are a lot of hidden costs when planning an event, such as delivery costs, clean-up and additional security.
I would always allow for an extra ten per cent." Aimee Hopkins, Brothers
"I've learnt the art of serving sausages marinated in toffee apple cider, how much the general public are prepared to engage with actors at an event, and how much we can scare them."