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19 Jan 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

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Attractions Management Handbook - Destiny – Luxury Brands

Feature

Destiny – Luxury Brands


BRC’s Christian Lachel gives the lowdown on how luxury brands can create a deeper emotional bond with their customers – and how attractions can use this approach to drive revenue

Christian Lachel, BRC Imagination Arts
In the Stylised Forest installation at Story Garden, trees emit sounds when visitors get close to them photo: © AMOREPACIFIC
Art and luxury brands are often deeply connected – the perfect fusion for McQueen’s ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibit PHOTO: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Fashion designer McQueen’s touring exhibition on show at the V&A in London during 2015 PHOTO: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Swarovski has created a bespoke attraction in Austria dedicated to its luxury brand
Swarovski Crystal Worlds highlights the brand’s artistic design and identifies it as being museum-worthy photos: © ALEXANDER PROEFROCK
Swarovski Crystal Worlds highlights the brand’s artistic design and identifies it as being museum-worthy photos: © ALEXANDER PROEFROCK
Visitors to Bombay Sapphire can engage in a full sensory experience during the gin cocktail masterclass

Experience Over Acquisition
The luxury brand landscape is rapidly changing, with a corresponding shift in consumer values. While luxury brand sales have quadrupled in the last 20 years, indications are that – with the exception of some notable market pockets with a better economic outlook – the global growth rate is slowing, and some brands are even beginning to lose ground.

On top of that, shifting consumer habits have resulted in a decrease of traditional store visits by 20-30 per cent year-on-year for many luxury brands; a difference that is barely covered by E-commerce1.

Not surprisingly, these shifting habits are strongest in the millennial generation populated by digital natives with increasing buying power. A Luxury Institute survey of US consumers with a minimum annual household income of US$150,000 (£97,890, e134,730) found that although the majority of Baby Boomers still prefer to shop in a store, only 40 per cent of ‘Millennials’ expressly select a physical retailer. The vast majority of Millennials (72 per cent) would download a branded app for luxury purchases2.

This doesn’t mean that Millennials only want to interact with a brand online. In a new landmark study, Bauer Media found that a whopping 71 per cent of Millennials agreed with the statement: ‘I’d rather tell people about something I’ve done than something I’ve got’.3 To this generation, an emotionally engaging experience is paramount.

These trends present great opportunity – and savvy luxury brands are innovating new ways to connect with their customers. Several are seeking the expertise of experience designers who can create a bespoke, compelling and memorable experience or destination that forges a deep, lasting emotional bond between the brand and its clientele.

Defining ‘Luxury Brand’
The best way to identify a luxury brand starts with a single word: Beyond.

A luxury brand is greatly desired by many consumers, but only an elite few – those with resources beyond the ordinary – can afford it. Luxury brands connote superior design, craftsmanship, heritage and lifestyle. They engage the emotions of consumers beyond more commonplace brands. Consumers may adopt everyday brands, but they invest – financially and emotionally – in great luxury brands. They are proud to be associated with these premium brands.

Creating Luxury Brand Centres
Just as a luxury good or service must be beyond the ordinary, a successful luxury brand centre requires going beyond the expected to create something that is unique and quite personal. There are three key principles to consider.

1. Mythology, Ritual & Storytelling Matter
• Ever since humans have shared stories, they have frequently focused on the quest for something that is beyond reach. There have always been stories about the great search for the gold, for the elixir of everlasting life, for the unattainable. As luxury is beyond general reach, there is an essential mythology around it. As an experience designer, I want to find that deep brand story and put people in the centre of the experience. The audience cares more when they understand and participate in the story. The luxury brand centre can entice guests with the most innovative tools of theatrical immersion and sensory effects, but an experience with emotional resonance must begin with the human heart. It must tell a mythic, timeless and immutable story. It must find that ‘sweet spot’ where the heart of the brand aligns with that of the guest.

One memorable way into a story is through ritual. For example, visitors to Story Garden by AMOREPACIFIC in South Korea begin their experience with the ritual sharing of green tea in the lush botanical gardens, before undertaking a carefully choreographed journey with a distinct emotional arc that trusts the discerning taste and values of the guest. The revelation comes about in each guest as they engage and participate in the story. Visitors come away feeling inspired and enlightened, feeling that they can make a difference in the world, and feeling a strong, lasting bond with the brand.

Likewise, Porsche has created a singular ritual by inviting customers to pick up their new car directly from the assembly line in Germany.4 These Porsche owners instantly gain a greater appreciation for Porche’s craftsmanship and a deeper affinity for the company.

2. Experiences are Key for Luxury Clients
• Savvy luxury brands know that engaging the senses through artful and meaningful experiences can create a deeper emotional bond with the brand. This can happen even when a consumer does not (yet) own a tangible piece of the brand. It is in our DNA to assign higher value to companies or individuals who provide us with exceptional experiences, who take us on a satisfying emotional journey.

There has long been a deep connection between art and luxury brands, and several luxury brands have sponsored or curated special museum exhibits. Recent examples include Alexander McQueen’s ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibit at London’s V&A Museum, March to August 2015; Louis Vuitton’s ‘Voyages’ at the National Museum of China; Christian Dior’s exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai; and Ralph Lauren’s antique car exhibit curated from his private collection for Les Arts Decoratifs Museum in Paris.

These special experiences highlight those brands’ legacies and artistic design, and clearly identify the brands as museum-worthy. A few luxury brands are even creating entire bespoke museums or attractions dedicated to their brand. Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Austria invites visitors to embark on a glittering fantasy, while the Audemars Piguet museum opening in Switzerland will immerse customers in their storied heritage of watch-making.

3. Unique Experiences Build Brand Loyalty & Boost Bottom Line
• Luxury audiences expect and even demand unique experiences. Brands that successfully create these bespoke experiences are not designing them to appeal to the masses; their purpose is to connect with the special handful in a meaningful, lasting way. A prime example of a very special experience designed for the select few is the new Bombay Sapphire Distillery Experience at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, England.

My agency, BRC Imagination Arts, consulted with Bacardi International Leadership and Heatherwick Studio to assess the vintage village site and determine an artistic approach to bring the Bombay Sapphire story to life. We focused on the natural botanicals and romance of gin, as well as uniting the compelling history of this luxury brand with the heritage and unique story of the mill. One element of this brand destination is the gin cocktail master class, which invites small groups to engage in a full sensory experience, followed by a lesson in how to craft their own cocktails from a master mixologist in a beautiful customised bar.

Such memorable customised experiences not only provide emotional engagement, they also instil brand loyalty and increase the spend rate; in fact, the deeper the perceived experience, the more profitable it is to the brand. For example, in a recent study of 3,000 personal and business travellers, the perceived alignment of a hotel’s values with their own was the foremost factor in brand loyalty and the key driver of profits.5

Brand Destinations
As the luxury industry seeks new ways to continue its growth, I believe we will see a lot more luxury brand experiences developed as destinations. We’ve just tapped the surface of this exciting new relationship between brands and their customers. It’s all about celebrating the unique, and about emotional engagement. Each brand experience must speak directly to that specific audience and to the values of that specific brand.

Our job as experience designers is to marry the values of the brand with the values and the heart of the audience, bringing the two together in a meaningful experience.

1. Pedraza, Milton. “Luxury Institute’s Seven Trends Shaping Luxury in 2015”, Luxury Insitute News, November 11, 2014: http://luxuryinsitute.com/blog/?p=3018

2. http://luxuryinstitute.com/blog/?p=3100

3. www.thedrum.com/bauer/marketing-millennials-importance-experiences

4. www.theguardian.com/media-network/2014/nov/25/luxury-goods-marketing-ferrari-le-labo

5. Frawley, Andy. “Why Brands Need to Measure Customer Experience and Engagement”, Advertising Age, March 4, 2015: http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/brands-measure-experience-engagement/297426/

STORY GARDEN – A CASE STUDY by Christian Lachel

A luxury brand centre that successfully creates emotional engagement with the audience is Story Garden by AMOREPACIFIC. Opened in 2013 at the South Korean skincare’s headquarters in Osan, the visitor attraction tells the company’s story via an interactive, multisensory and multimedia experience produced by BRC Imagination Arts.

What was your vision?
“We began with three principles to guide us: it begins and ends with an engaging, charismatic, timeless story; the storytelling engages the senses to create a deeper emotional bond with the guest; and every element of every show and exhibit creates the kind of unique experience that builds brand loyalty and affirms the decision of the guest to love the brand.”

Tell us about the immersive elements?
“Story Garden reinvents the very concept of a brand centre/factory tour. We created a place that immerses guests in a story-based experience that includes sight, sound, touch and scent. Guests find an emotional story of AMOREPACIFIC’s mythic journey from the humblest beginnings to one of the world’s most successful skincare companies. This journey resonates with the timeless values of familial love, the heroism of serving others, and the rewards of creating a community that achieves abundance through industry.”

How does the story unfold?
“We really wanted this to be a walk through the core values to give guests an emotional sense of AMOREPACIFIC’s foundation and mission. We crafted the unifying theme: Asian beauty is a gift that can transform our world. We then turned the theme and values into a choreographed series of sensory experiences, including exhibits, immersive media, interpretive art installations, and contemplative spaces that engage all the senses.

As AMOREPACIFIC is rooted in Asian beauty and nature’s wisdom, we began the experience in a botanical garden. We created a customised musical score, including a new company anthem and a Korean pop song, as the soundtrack to an uplifting journey that builds an emotional bond between visitors and the brand.”

What is the
narrative strategy?
“No sell, no promotion, no bragging. We immerse guests in a mythic human story that touches every heart: aspiration, struggle and triumph of the human spirit that empowers AMOREPACIFIC consultant’s customers.”

Explain its success
“Like the best luxury brand centres, Story Garden is perceived as a generous gift from the chair to the world. What began as a place for beauty partners and employees has now, by popular demand, been opened for public tours, six days a week.”

Tell us about the THEA accolade?
“We are thrilled that Story Garden was presented with a THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) for elevating the experience of a brand visitor centre to the highest artistic and emotional standard.”

 



Immersive media is just one method used to tell the AmorePacific story
 


Christian Lachel
 

Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2015 issue 1

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