Retail Marketing Ideas from… Banksy?
I don’t remember Cinderella’s feathered friends ever doing that!
Welcome to Dismaland Bemusement Park, the “UK’s most disappointing new tourist attraction.” A dreary parody of a theme park created and curated by subversive street artist Banksy, Dismaland features a derelict castle, a toxic mini-golf course and the Grim Reaper in a bumper car. Fun!
Calling it “an art show for the 99 percent who would rather not be at an art show,” the elusive Banksy describes the work as a festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism.
“I guess you’d say it’s a theme park whose big theme is theme parks should have bigger themes,” he said in a statement.
Unsurprisingly, legal representatives of the Walt Disney Corporation are strictly prohibited from entering the park.
Derelict, unsettling and possessing all the charm of a neglected prison yard, Dismaland is aggressively political and oddly beautiful. Exhibits include a sculpture of a woman on a park bench being attacked by a cloud of seagulls, a sculpture of a trained killer whale leaping out of a toilet bowl, and a pond where visitors can steer model boats crammed with migrants. Banksy is showing ten works; additional galleries feature pieces by more than 50 international artists, including Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer and Jimmy Cauty.
The art is polarizing; interpretation is up to the individual. Which is why I’m not telling you what I think. Instead, I want to look at Dismaland as a master class in public provocation and interactivity.*
More aggressive than any in-store environment will ever be, Dismaland offers some bold lessons in connecting with people and creating memorable experiences. And by people I mean shoppers, and by experiences I mean in-store interactions. Let’s take a look.
Commit to the story. The black-clad, pink-vested Dismaland staff is a sad looking bunch. Snide and completely unhelpful, they spout twisted platitudes intended to poke fun at the have-a-nice-day friendliness of American theme parks: “Welcome to Dismaland. Get rich or try dying. Enjoy!” They may be bored, depressed and surly, but these saggy mouse-eared attendants never break character, guaranteeing a morose time for all.
Exaggerate a reality. Safety first may be a Dismaland motto. Entering visitors pass through a crudely constructed security screening, complete with cardboard x-ray machines, before submitting to a real search. Rude, power-mad guards order guests to turn, bend, hop and avert the eyes, while invasively checking for contraband spray paint.
Redefine a common experience. Like any great bemusement park, Dismaland has an artist on hand to create keepsake caricatures. But artist Nettie Wakefield isn’t interested in incorporating your favorite band or putting you on roller skates. She will only draw the back of your head.
Be fanatical about the details. Dismaland opened online ticket sales on Friday, August 21, and hopeful visitors encountered nothing but problems. On Saturday, park officials said online ticketing was unavailable “due to unprecedented demand.” At the park, people queued up early and waited hours, only to be told they were in the wrong line. I, and many others, do not believe these snafus weren’t intentional, but were indeed part of the Dismaland experience.
Challenge with humor. Like any great theme park, Dismaland offers games of chance and skill. However, these games are somewhat depressing and completely unwinnable. A favorite is Topple the Anvil by artist David Shrigley. Simply knock down the anvil. Using an anvil. The prize? An anvil.
*Banksy would hate this. Or maybe he would love this.