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Creating a connection via experiential marketing

BRC Imagination Arts creative director Christian Lachel talks about the rise of ‘experiential marketing’ and why ‘brand homes’ have become the next big thing in the beverage industry

Christian Lachel BRC Imagination Arts

Decades of psychology research have shown that experiential purchases bring people more happiness than material purchases, in part because experiences are highly associated with personal identity, interpersonal connection, and social behavior. What does that have to do with beverage marketing? It turns out, quite a lot.

With so many notable brands fighting for market share in this industry, it’s no surprise that rising competition was recently cited as a leading business concern among beverage manufacturers. Meanwhile, consumers face more product choices than ever and have become savvier at tuning out the countless marketing messages they are bombarded with daily.

To break through the clutter and forge deeper, lasting connections with consumers, many of the world’s leading beverage companies are increasingly incorporating experiential marketing, such as brand homes, into their brand marketing strategies.

Brand homes, such as Heineken Experience, The Guinness Storehouse and the World of Coca-Cola, have the power to turn a brand into a physical destination. When executed well, they involve guests in a multi-sensory and communal storytelling experience. Using an engaging mix of visual storytelling, artfully choreographed soundtracks, intentional aromas, product sampling, and hands-on exhibitions, brand homes can help audiences gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of a brand’s heritage and values.

In addition to being effective platforms for creating deeper customer loyalty and generating word of mouth advocacy, brand homes can also open up significant new revenue streams.

Consider the case of the Guinness Storehouse, Europe’s most popular tourist destination that welcomed 1.5 million visitors in 2015. Following a major renovation in 2011, Guinness Storehouse attendance jumped 35 percent, retail sales per capita went up 26 percent, food and beverage spend increased 47 percent, and overall net profit increased 240 percent. Above all, more than 80 percent of visitors express a greater affinity to the Guinness brand after they visit.

Likewise, Heineken has achieved great success through its brand home, which has become one of Amsterdam’s leading landmarks, attracting 900,000 visitors in 2015. While the city’s tourism market grew 19 percent from 2009 to 2014, Heineken Experience attendance climbed 143 percent. Moreover, the destination’s popularity has enabled Heineken to raise admission prices by over 60 percent and increase retail sales per capita by 100 percent from 2009 to 2014.

Other beverage brands have taken notice. Jameson recently announced an €11 million investment to overhaul its iconic Old Jameson Distillery. The renovation will incorporate immersive experiences that bring the brand’s story to life.

There are three key components behind these brand home success stories, which all major beverage brand executives may wish to consider:

  • Brand homes engage customers longer than traditional advertising. Compared to 30-second television commercials and brief social media interactions, brand homes are uniquely positioned to captivate consumers for two or more hours, on average. At Guinness Storehouse, for example, visitors take their time making their way through seven floors surrounding a glass atrium shaped like a pint of the legendary beer. They travel on a leisurely multi-sensory journey through Guinness’ rich history, immersing themselves in the beer brand’s core values before celebrating over a complimentary pint in the brand home’s Gravity Bar.
  • Consumers opt into the experience. Unlike interruptive marketing tactics, consumers choose to visit a brand home and often travel great distances to do so. At a brand home, guests are primed to receive a brand’s message; they’re genuinely interested in learning about where their favorite products come from.
  • They are inherently social. While brand homes particularly appeal to young consumers and brand enthusiasts who are curious to discover how products are made and what brands are doing to make a difference, they tend to appeal to guests of all ages and brand affinity. Multi-generational friends and family members often participate in brand homes together, which significantly amplifies word of mouth potential. Case in point, after visiting the Heineken Experience and collecting the many emotional souvenirs it has to offer, 94% of guests say they would recommend the experience to a friend.

To be clear, brand homes do not replace other marketing tactics; rather we find they play an increasingly integral part in a holistic marketing strategy. As one of the only forms of marketing that can fully engage all five senses, brand homes complement a brand’s investment in mass media, digital and direct marketing to help turn casual fans into brand advocates.

The next 'big thing' in beverage marketing has been around for decades, and the companies that have invested in creating a compelling brand home experience have realized a significant return on investment. From driving authentic connections to developing brand loyalty and creating new streams of revenue, this experiential marketing channel has the potential to turn casual brand fans into lifelong loyalists. 

19 September 2016