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This chapter is from the book

Bringing the Brand to Life

Experiential branding requires an approach that goes beyond traditional brand development. It is more than logos and packaging, spot ads, and PR. Developing a destination that will bring a brand to life requires a team that understands the technology required—and one that also understands the pitfalls of facility operation.

The biggest abyss facing marketers interested in this approach is the possibility of creating a monster that only sucks money from the bottom line. This happens when the destination:

  • Relies too much on expensive technology, assuming that it is only the "gee whiz" that is important to the customer. Gee whiz lasts one or two trips. An experiential branding attraction will fail if it cannot drive repeat visitation. This was what led to the eventual downfall of the themed restaurant craze that hit in the late 1990s—the sites were fun, once or twice. Unless the food itself was great—which typically it wasn't—the customer only came once or twice, then moved on.

  • Cannot be easily or affordably "refreshed," that is, changed out to allow for new guest experiences.

  • Becomes a nightmare to operate, both from the staffing and product presentation perspectives. If the destination requires too many people to operate, the profits disappear from the bottom line. If guests become confused—traffic patterns are too complex; the environment becomes too crowded—they won't return.

  • Ignores the importance of staff training and motivation. All the technology investment in the world will not pay off if, in the end, the guest's final memory of the place is an encounter with a slack-jawed employee too interested in chatting on the phone to answer a question. The staff must be a part of the entire experience of the brand, matching the brand values, whether the product is shooting for hip, traditional, historic, or simply entertaining.

  • Does not offer the guest something of value. Consumers are quick to recognize that which is no more than one big commercial, with nothing in it for them. The experience must entertain and/or educate.

To avoid these problems, marketers working toward a brand experience must begin the process by utilizing experts in the areas of retail design, technology, and operations. These experts should be brought in at the very beginning, while the brainstorming is occurring. While roadblocks should not be put in the way of the creative process—"we can't do that because"—the process does need to be informed by the realities of budget, availability, and operation. Most important, the marketing team must take into account the experience afforded by these professionals in their work on other projects. There are many projects that have inspired marketers to jump on the me-too bandwagon that are being kept afloat simply for reasons of ego—not because they are actually accomplishing the goals of the brand.

In creating a successful project, there are 11 basic stages the team will go through to reach their final goal.

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