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This chapter is from the book

Lessons Learned

Show business can create new kinds of experiences for customers by inventing new media for communicating or by reinventing more familiar ones. When these boundary-breaking experiences entertain and engage, they add value for both customers and companies.

The models that we've seen include:

  • Producing entertainment— like Dogtown and Z-Boys, BMW's online films, or the Fast Enuff Challenge—that delights your customers and grows out of their experiences with your brand

  • Plot placement— like the Mini in The Italian Job or Bulgari jewelry in The Bulgari Connection—which integrates your brand or product into a significant and engaging role in a story-line

  • Rabbits— like the Basics Furniture quarters or the Evian swimming pool—which invent new media that embody your brand and your message, and surprise and engage your customer

  • Reinventing boring media— like Harley-Davidson's annual reports with bike centerfolds or the McLean's direct mailing of coffee-stained issues—to transform drudgery into entertaining experiences that convey what is unique about your business

  • Web shows— like the Habbo Hotel—which foster real interaction with your customers by building on the communities they are already forming online

Each of these kinds of shows offers an ability to reach very targeted customer groups, and often at very low costs (or even a profit). But beware of low-customer involvement or the danger of being just more advertising noise rather than an alternative to it. To make sure your show really engages:

  • Connect to strong customer communities by supporting their own creative initiatives or providing them resources to create a show or tell their own story.

  • Discover opportunities to partner with customers or with experienced media producers.

  • Don't plaster your brand on every square inch of viewing space—whether it's a football field or the sidewalks of San Francisco; mindless repetition is not going to make your brand mean something to people.

  • Reinvent media as a way to add real value, not just to interject another piece of cleverness that you hope will "get past customers' defenses."

  • Know your customers and aim your show to reach them where they already are: the TV shows they watch, the reports they read, the night clubs they visit, the web sites they love.

The best of these shows, like live shows and immersionary space shows, involve the customer in the experience, in its development, and in spreading the word about a company's brand. But how does that word get spread? Who spreads it? And where does that magical customer buzz come from? Shows that involve company and brand evangelists of all kinds, will be discussed next.

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