THINK Contributor

Why it’s time experience design enters your marketing mix

By , November 28, 2016

Dark rides and themed experiences used to be the province of theme parks. Today, brands are using the power of narrative, special effects and multimedia to draw consumers into a deeper and more engaging experience. It’s so prevalent, in fact, the Themed Entertainment Association (the industry association for entertainment designers) has added a category that recognizes the world’s top brand experiences. Here’s a closer look at why it’s time to think about how experience design can be part of your marketing mix.

Successful Examples of Brand-Driven Experience Design

What does a successful brand experience look like? The Ford Rouge Factory Tour at The Henry Ford, for example, won a Thea Award last year for an experience that describes itself as a “Journey into the center of America’s greatest manufacturing experience.” A manufacturing facility may be about as different as you can imagine from the standard Disney or Universal theme park experience, but the tour was created by BRC Imagination Arts, a company that routinely partners with top theme parks and brands. Adding the tour increased attendance at The Henry Ford by 17 percent, and it’s quickly become a top-rated attraction in the Detroit area.

Another example is Coca-Cola’s Moments of Happiness experience at the World of Coca-Cola attraction. Coca-Cola already maintains a massive brand experience, including exhibits, a large gift shop and a tasting room in Atlanta. Moments of Happiness is the refreshed pre-show visitors watch prior to entering the full attraction. During the six-minute video, key happy moments in people’s lives are showcased along with Coke products. It’s designed to evoke strong, happy emotions before guests continue into the rest of the experience.

What Brands Should Think About in Their Own Efforts

How can brands bring the fun and magic of theme park-like attractions to their own customers? Here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Learn from the best: Entertainment design is both an art and a science, with many established examples of what works. Look at a range of different experiences for inspiration: theme parks, museums, interactive experiences, theatrical events and existing brand experiences. With themed entertainment there’s a focus on evoking a certain type of experience, and then using layers of detail to achieve that. Every element — from color to sound to scents to technology — can help you bring that story to life. Get a sense of how different approaches can help you tell your brand story.

Integrate technology for maximum reach: Brand experiences increasingly incorporate technology in innovative ways. From special effects within broader experiences to using Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality to add new dimensions to interactions, technology is taking the guest experience to another level. Brands are also creating apps and digital experiences that extend the relationship from a physical experience to remaining connected through mobile devices.

Embrace the power of storytelling: A brand experience should be anchored around a story. Narrative helps visitors connect with your brand in a lasting and meaningful way. Whether it’s taking a deep dive into the history of your product or service or exploring the role your company plays in solving a bigger problem, use narrative structure to really engage people’s interest.

Look for hands-on opportunities: Another way to increase engagement is by looking for hands-on ways to connect with your audience. For example, many large breweries have embraced the idea of themed tasting rooms. Many of these rooms are full-fledged experiences with storylines, technology that helps educate visitors about the product and more. Find ways to get people to engage with your product, whether it’s trying it live or simply watching different elements of the manufacturing process.

Partner with an expert: If you’re committed to exploring the role of themed entertainment in telling your brand’s story, consider partnering with an expert agency. There are several established companies in the space with strong track records of working not only in entertainment, but also in designing and creating successful brand destinations around the world.

As customer expectations rise for what the customer experience can be, marketers need to draw from a wider toolkit. By thinking about how your brand can be used  to tell engaging stories that go beyond the page, it’s possible to create unforgettable brand–customer interactions. Whether you focus on technology or choose to create a full-scale customer experience, the tools of themed entertainment can help make your vision a reality.

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