The time frame: Early December 2017. The occasion: the Coles Marketing holiday outing. At noon, everyone packed up for the week and headed out to a magical place — The Escape Room USA, located in Fishers, Indiana.
For the uninitiated, The Escape Room USA is an hour-long puzzle-based challenge. A group of people enter a room and are presented with a story and an idea of what the objective is to escape the room in which they’ve been locked. With an hour to play the game, the team members begin to look for clues inside the room that will lead to their freedom. Once the final door opens, the team emerges victorious.
The group I was fortunate enough to be part of worked together in some amazing ways. While some of us worked on getting locks open, others worked on logic puzzles and math-related problems. The best part was that we could see our opponents in the room next door. This meant we could distract, taunt and tease the other team as we went along. This also led to some hilarious moments, such as when Brian came up with the idea to yell and cheer to throw off the other team. It worked wonderfully. As we looked over at the other team, they had no idea what we had just done. We hadn’t really done anything, but it bought us time and made for a good laugh. It even made the staff member in the room laugh.
Speaking of which, there was a staff member of The Escape Room USA in the room with us; I’ll refer to him as the room guide. He was mostly there to tell us if we were touching something we shouldn’t have been touching and he could provide us with hints — sometimes at a price. The team could get one hint for free if everyone agreed to use that hint at the same time. But we could also “earn” an additional hint if need be. Well, there was a need, and earn it we did. The room guide told us that for us to earn the hint, we needed to act like monkeys fighting. It couldn’t just be a couple of us acting that way — it had to be the entire group! A couple of us, namely Kevin and myself, were eager to goof off and act silly. Some of us not so much. However, it was quite comical to see members of the team let down their guard just a little bit to join in the humiliation.
At the end of the day, both teams got out of their respective rooms. Our team lost by a narrow margin as we just missed a puzzle that could have clenched the victory minutes sooner. But no matter who won or lost, we walked away laughing and talking about the great adventure we had just experienced.
What makes The Escape Room USA such an enjoyable experience? To us at Coles, we readily recognize the story-driven “hero marketing” tactic it employs. This business places the customer in the driver’s seat, allowing them to be the hero of the story presented to them. The customer drives the experience however they want as they whisk around the room finding the clues to push forward. Along the way, the customer may need to look for guidance and at that time, there sits the room guide to help them along like a wise sage. The scenario is an easy sell — let the customer be the hero and they will buy into the vision you have put in front of them. The Escape Room USA does this in such a wondrous way that everyone walks away smiling and talking about the adventure. The team here at Coles will certainly not forget this wonderful experience.