Consumer electronics brand Sonos is best known for its wireless speakers and home sound systems. Earlier this year, the brand commissioned research, titled "Wake up the silent home", which explored what was making homes go quiet, with everyone plugged into their own devices and seemingly eschewing social music in favour of individual experiences.
For Sonos, "the silent home" is a place where the absence of music exacerbates the stress and pressures of modern life; a home where people live side-by-side, but not together.
The brand wanted to take this insight to the next level, by immersing consumers into the world of Gorillaz, the virtual band created by Blur frontman Damon Albarn.
"We’re big fans of Gorillaz and have always admired the way in which they've pushed the boundaries of intrinsically linking together the visual and sonic dimensions of their imagined world," Jed Lewis, senior director global activation at Sonos, says.
Making a virtual world real
The collaboration took shape when Sonos realised that Humanz – Gorillaz’ fifth studio album – was being released around the same time as Playbase, its new home cinema speaker.
Working with agency Cornerstone, Sonos created an immersive audio and visual experience called Spirit House. The activation ran in April and May across four global locations – New York, followed by Berlin, Amsterdam and Shanghai. It aimed to take fans deeper into Gorillaz’s dark fantasy world via a digital mapping experience featuring spectacular visuals and surrounded by high quality sound.
Sonos had originally briefed the agency with the idea of creating a standout event for the launch of Playbase, but when Cornerstone came back with the digital mapping element, Lewis says it took the original idea to a whole new level.
"Spirit House was an opportunity to create a hyperreal world that fans could physically enter, focusing on the details of the band’s virtual home while bringing them closer to the listening experience in that space," he explains.
Guests entered a standard, quiet living room with a couch and Playbase, but when the lights dropped, the sound kicked in and the digital mapping began. The guests were instantly transported from a drab living room to an audiovisual experience that left them transformed by the music.
Meeting the global challenge
Building the experience in four cities was the major challenge. Sonos worked closely with Cornerstone to develop a "best-practice toolkit" based on the launch event in New York, as well as sending personnel who built and ran that original Spirit House to the other cities.
Jon Cohen, co-chief executive of Cornerstone, highlights why the two brands are a natural fit. "Gorillaz has always been built around combining incredible music with amazing visuals," he says. "With each release, they have elevated ways to experience their music, much in the same way Sonos continues to innovate and enable the way consumers can experience music and video in their own home."
According to Sonos, thousands of fans accessed the audiovisual experience and the launch highlights how it can create culturally relevant brand moments that integrate its product experience.
"We had the concept of what we wanted to build around Playbase first and then we found the right partner to build it together and bring it to life in Gorillaz," Lewis says. "That is the key differentiator between partnering on an activation and sponsoring one."
Findings from "Wake up the silent home"
- The Silent Home affects 67% of homes globally
- 46% of respondents said their household spent more time interacting with technology than with each other
- 68% of respondents noted a shortage of meaningful conversations at home – in China, the figure was 92%
- 62% of respondents said that an increasing proportion of their social interactions are in the digital world – in France, the figure was 53%, while in China, it was 85%
- 80% of respondents said they would like to spend more time doing activities in person with their family and friends