An Escape Room to Escape the Mundane: Case Study at ASU

Julia Kennedy -

Marketing & Aud Dev Associate

Museums housed within a university campus have big pros and big cons. When it comes to having a diverse audience, it can be both. This was the case for the Art Museum on Arizona State University’s (ASU) campus.

First and foremost, ASU wanted to attract students and young post-grads from the Tempe area to come to the museum, and interact with the collection in a new way.

To make this happen, ASU called us! Our solution?

We turned the museum into an escape room to capitalize on a non-museum trended idea to get people to really envision visiting and interacting with the museum differently.  This medium also allows for a much more interactive and participatory experience that actually tied people to the pieces as they worked together to explore the museum.

A simple event image that grabs your attention is a must. We used this for social media advertising.

We facilitated an experience that keyed on giving guests more agency at the museum, forged a team-bonding social experience, and allowed for fun photos throughout the space. Here’s how we did it:

Escape Room Elements

What elements do you need to make a great escape room?

  • A photo scavenger hunt with clue answers determined by participants.
  • E-mail and voicemail “code-breaking.”
  • Paint swatch to artwork matching.
  • Investigation of incredibly zoomed-in detail photos of artworks on display.
  • Pull-away activities and mini-tours facilitated by ASU Art Museum staff dressed as Escape “characters.”
  • A real steel security box with Escape keys locked inside.
  • A taco bar buffet to fuel the adventure.
  • And—of course—amazing prizes.
Some of the clues created to help our attendees on their mission.

Together, these created a variety of elements that made the whole event a unique, live experience. We included a narrative structure about the two thieves as well as roaming “characters” for the guests to interact with to help to connect all the elements together. It also helps to engage the guests by creating an experience that can’t be replicated in the exact same iteration again, making the experience that much more special!

Marketing on a Mission

To get a wide variety of attendees, it was important to market using a wide variety of media outlets. Essentially, we pulled out all the stops to promote the escape room. We helped ASU create a comprehensive marketing plan that outlined how to drive their outreach to keep in like the outcomes of the event.

Targeting an array of avenues was step one. The other key to bringing a new concept into the idea was creating the copy to entice a new audience to buy in. For the Facebook event, we acknowledged the trend, stated clearly what we were up to, and added a brief overview of what to expect to leave the audience wanting more.

You’ve heard of escape rooms?

We’re transforming the ASU Art Museum into a mysterious crime scene, trapping everyone inside. The only way to escape is to follow clues, complete activities, take fun photos, and solve a mysterious crime! Also, FREE FOOD!

Each team will have  a set of clues that will take you on a whirlwind adventure throughout the museum. Working together, you will use uncommon bits of evidence to explore exhibits, solve problems, and unlock hidden information. Each team will encounter personalities along the way that may—or may not—aid them on their journey.

Food, prizes, mystery and intrigue await all those who dare to enter.

The Results

“In three minutes we had a greater response for this than for any other event or program in the history of our institution.” – Andrea at ASU Art Museum

It’s often hard to find the appropriate level of engagement when building events in museums since you want guests to interact and engage with the art, but also have fun and enjoy their time with that art. But by balancing the activities to be challenging enough to allow teams to feel a sense of accomplishment and be able to be completed in the set time limit, it created and intense, memorable event in the attendee’s eyes.

This also was reflected online and on social media, where we saw a ton of user-generated content.

The event gained the most traction on Twitter and Instagram, easily tracking posts with the dedicated hashtag #escapethemuseum. Of the public posts, 30 tweets gained 59 likes for the evening, while Instagram dominated with 633 likes on 17 posts. Social media plays a continuing role in building a new audience because posts offers social proof – aka someone a user knows is there, and that event or space comes pre-vetted.

Want to learn more about crafting a great Escape Room experience? Julia and Peter from our Audience Development team sat down with the creators of the ASU Escape Room to dig even deeper into the ins and outs of how we made this event. Check out the podcast: 

What kind of events could you host at your museum to showcase the space differently? We want to talk to you about it! Email us at [email protected]

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