Today’s consumers are in charge: they no longer want one-way, one-size-fits-all brand experiences but instead desire to connect with their favorite brands through meaningful, authentic, two-way conversations. Today’s most iconic brands are building compelling consumer relationships by creating brand destinations, or brand homes—physical manifestations of a brand’s values that invite consumers to immerse themselves fully in the brand’s story, values and future.
These brand homes are very effective in building consumer loyalty through unique experiences where guests can become immersed, engaged and emotionally invested with their favorite brands. In fact, per a recent study, more than 59 percent of chief marketing officers recognize branded experiences as pivotal to deepening ongoing relationships with their audiences.
In addition, unlike traditional, interruptive marketing efforts like pop-up ads, commercials or social media, brand homes are fixed destinations that draw guests from around the world, often engaging them for two or more hours. When developed in conjunction with other marketing efforts, brand homes can deliver powerful business results and return on experience. And in some cases, they have even helped define a city story, support the local community and drive regional tourism.
Consider the remodeled Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Looking to expand its audience reach beyond baby boomers, the museum began diversifying its experiences, and on July 1 debuted a new exhibit, the Power of Rock Experience. It features a signature film of mind-blowing, once-in-a-lifetime performances from the Rock Hall vault, artfully created by the late renowned director, Jonathan Demme, in his final project. Additional experiences designed to draw in multigenerational fans include a summer concert series (complete with a beer garden and food trucks), and rotating exhibitions that explore the culture of music festivals and the role rock-n-roll has played in the history of politics and protest.
The Guinness Storehouse was named the top European tourist destination in 2014. The seven-story brand home experience, located at the brewery at St. James’s Gate in Dublin, allows guests to take a self-guided tour through the history of the iconic stout and includes a multi-sensory, immersive experience outlining the brewing process. Since the 2011 redesign, the brewery experienced a 35 percent increase in visitor attendance, a 26 percent increase in retail sales per capita, and a 47 percent increased food and beverage spend. In addition, net profit grew 240 percent, and most importantly, guests say they leave the Storehouse with a greater affinity and loyalty for the Guinness brand.
Taking a cue from Guinness, Jameson Distillery Bow St. debuted its 2017 brand home renovation on St. Patrick’s Day. The €11 million redevelopment of the Old Jameson Distillery transformed a 20-year-old visitor center into a communal, multi-sensory tasting experience where guests partake in one of four intimate guided experiences that expose them to the distillery process and include participatory experiences that give visitors the opportunity to see, taste and smell the signature whiskey. It’s a bucket-list worthy destination that is on target to attract a record number of visitors in 2017.
What makes brand home experiences like these so effective at building consumer loyalty? Three common components contribute to their success:
They engage all five senses. Unlike digital, broadcast or print, brand homes are unique multisensory experiences, engaging consumers in opportunities to interact with their favorite brands first-hand. Through these types of experiences, visitors can immerse themselves in the sounds, scents, tastes and touches through product education, tastings, signature aromas and hands-on engagement.
A single theme runs throughout. Rather than incorporating multiple themes, the most effective branded experiences are carefully choreographed around a single theme that take guests on an emotional, story-driven journey. At the Guinness Storehouse, guests are drawn in by the smells of barley, hops and wheat, the main ingredients of the renowned stout, setting the stage for a self-guided tour that takes visitors through the brewery’s past, present and future.
Shared, yet personal experiences. Brand home experiences are uniquely positioned to meet the individual needs of a diverse audience base by creating a personal experience that is intensely intimate. As one of many visitors, guests attach their own memories to these in-the-moment shared experiences, creating snapshots in time and a lifetime of memories. Take the Rock Hall. Who doesn’t remember their first music concert? Imagine an experience that takes you back to your first concert, your high school friends or a signature life event that was defined by music. That’s the true power of live experiences. When a brand brings to life live, emotionally-driven experiences, the opportunities are endless!
Brands looking to establish authentic relationships with their most influential consumers can use signature experiences to create powerful and lasting impressions with each guest, inspiring greater fan love and brand loyalty.
Christian Lachel is the executive creative director and vice president at BRC Imagination Arts.