This article first appeared on Campaign by our Head of Connected Experiences, Christophe Castagnera.
Once the sole preserve of luxury goods and wineries, brand homes are emerging as a powerful tool to navigate the changing world of brand, channels and customer relationships.
Brand homes are not quasi-theme parks or glorified production facilities reaching a very localised market. A well-thought-out brand home experience can be the basis of a valuable marketing platform to build strong and lasting customer relations across a wide net.
They have the benefit of coming in all shapes and sizes, unique to each brand, depending on the category, location and nature of its story. From attractions to museums to retail, there is no single formula for a brand home – rather each destination is designed to meet the specific marketing and commercial needs of that business.
The key to using brand homes to drive brand value is in adopting a marketing funnel approach to building a relationship – with each step adding ever more connection, engagement and interaction so the depth of the relationship grows, and lifetime value is achieved.
The first stage is engagement, which is predominantly content-led. Here the brand home should be viewed as a content hub that can be shared more widely to demonstrate how people engage with the brand.
In Cognac, France, Maison Martell's Indigo bar is a beautiful space for people to enjoy Cognac-based cocktails. Frequented by locals and tourists alike, it can be used to show the fun, social aspects of the brand and shared across social media, as well as stimulating visitor-generated content. While local alcohol advertising restrictions must be followed, the marketing potential of this brand home spreads far beyond the domestic market.
Similarly, Samsung KX is an established tech hub – a retail shop combined with a lifestyle destination – that is an excellent platform for showing people interacting with each other and exploring the products. It allows Samsung to show the product in a lifestyle context.
So, whether the brand home is based on an origins story, a production process or a retail experience, it is the launchpad for creating engagement through a more fun approach that builds social content. And by hosting events, it becomes a platform for media amplification.
"43% of brand home visitors go on to buy the brand's products more frequently following their visit."
The next stage – which takes the relationship deeper and further along the marketing funnel – is advocacy and building connection through face-to-face conversations.
In this respect, COVID-19 has forced a welcome dimension to the experience with the rise of virtual, as well as physical, use of brand homes, demonstrating their versatility.
So while brand homes such as Guinness Storehouse or Jameson Distillery, Bow St. in Dublin, have the benefit of being situated in established tourist destinations with all the additional visitors that generates, even brand homes located in less accessible places can broadcast experiences from their base, to reach people beyond their domestic market.
The brand home can be a hub for virtual brand events, shows and broadcasts that may still employ hosts, tours and other aspects to capture punchy content, with a "peak" event moment creating a focal point for the broadcast.
As well as physical visits, brands can add digital visits that build on the content used for engagement in the first stage. While a virtual event may lack some of the sensory aspects of the brand home, with additions such as product packs sent to people's homes – more in-depth engagement can still be reached.
And we can measure this engagement – there is the traditional NPS measure, but we also encourage clients to think in terms of "engaged minutes". This goes beyond viewer or visitor numbers to create an engaged minutes calculation – how many people came (virtually or physically) and for how long? So, while the first engagement stage gives a brand reach, this second advocacy stage provides the depth.
"73% of people would choose to visit a brand home virtually."
The third and final stage in this brand home marketing funnel is the first-party data stage – the means to expand into lifetime relationships. For some brands – in categories such as automotive, airlines or financial services – customer data is relatively easy to attain through purchasing, services or subscriptions. But for FMCG or tech brands, for instance, gaining first-party data is more challenging.
This is where brand homes can help. By offering a paid-for or a "freemium" experience, people's data is exchanged for a tour or other aspect of the visit. In this way, data is collected through a proper value exchange (following the right legal frameworks such as GDPR).
And there is the potential to go one step further – to collect that data and turn it into an ongoing relationship, by using the brand home as a membership platform. Soho House has adopted this model very successfully and the Vivo Lab concept store in Shanghai, China has used its brand home to build new customer relationships and co-branded experiences to cross-over between customer segments.
Imagination carried out research speaking to more than 6,000 consumers across the UK, China and the US about the effectiveness of brand homes. It found that almost half of brand home visitors (43%) go on to buy the brand's products more frequently following their visit.
And even among people who have yet to visit a brand home, 69% of consumers believe they make a brand more desirable and interesting. People are now comfortable with a hybrid world – 73% of people would choose to visit a brand home virtually.
Brand homes offer marketers a unique aspect to their toolkit that separates them from their competitors; they create the perfect funnel to move people from "I don't know your brand" to "I'm a friend of the brand" and all that relationship can offer to lifetime brand value.
If you’d like to find out more about our Brand Homes value audit or want to start a new conversation about yours, please feel free to get in touch with your local office.