“Today, customers take product quality and positive brand image as a given. What they want is products, communications, and marketing campaigns that dazzle their senses, touch their hearts, and stimulate their minds—that deliver an experience.” - Bernard H. Schmitt, Experiential Marketing
Current marketing best practices tend to revolve around the concepts of consumer and employee engagement. But in this over-marketed, always-on world, audiences are becoming more adept at tuning out the excess noise. How can you cut through the clutter and create a unique experience that is both reflective of your brand and meaningful to your audience?
More and more, companies are turning toward the opportunities afforded by developing their own corporate museums. And whether you are looking for a large-scale museum which is open to the public, or simply individual exhibits within corporate office space, it is important to take advantage of the storytelling opportunities that this type of platform provides.
"In the hyper-connected, over-marketed, product-saturated environment of 2011, storytelling is the one true differentiator for brands. Connecting on a level beyond transactional and awareness is the key to building and nurturing lifetime brand relationships, and experiential marketing is the means to achieve that."
— Experiential Marketing Summit 2011
Every company has its own story to tell, and oftentimes it can be challenging to tell in traditional ways. A corporate museum provides an interactive, highly-engaging opportunity, which opens a dialogue with customers and guests. Visitors can create memories, which they will then associate with your brand. And because of this good experience, visitors develop a greater appreciation for your brand story, ultimately leading to them becoming more receptive to your other marketing efforts. It follows that this will increase a prospect's desire for your product.
Apart from the external marketing communication benefits, museums can also play a valuable role in employer branding efforts, leading to an increased sense of pride and loyalty among employees. Additionally, they can be used to educate new-hires as a key component of company on boarding activities.
Like with any marketing effort, the standard rules still apply in the world of corporate museums. Before hiring an architect or searching the storage rooms for objects to display, first ask yourself the following questions:
The importance of knowing and understanding your target audiences cannot be overstated. Only when you understand who they are and what they need can you best construct your story in a way that is relevant to them—both the message you are sending and the platforms you use to deliver that message. One of the things that make corporate museums such a unique environment is the ability to pull together different mediums in one space—Web-based, print, video, social media, multimedia and environmental displays, just to name a few. Utilizing a particular medium simply for the sake of doing it is bound to lead to disappointing results. It's is crucial to first understand how your audience is best equipped to receive your message, and save those platform decisions for the end of the planning phase.
Once you know who you are talking to, you then need to determine the best way to tell your story. Oftentimes that means going to someone on the outside who can provide the proper perspective. Within a company culture, there can be a desire to put everything on display in order to satisfy the differing agendas of various divisions and business units. The danger of this approach is that you may come across as being unfocused. Remember that your closeness to the subject matter may keep you from having an objective eye regarding the importance and significance of certain story components. If you were writing a book you wouldn't fill it with notes, outlines, and preliminary drafts. You need to be always mindful who you are speaking to and why your story matters to them. What are the elements they care about? Are you talking to school children? The casual building visitor? Partners or vendors? Employees? Foreign dignitaries? Or all of the above?
Furthermore, be certain that your story feels authentic to the company, and isn't merely what you want to be but instead what you actually are. A corporate museum is reflective of the culture and values of the company that creates it. Be wary of telling a story that doesn't ring true. It can come across as disingenuous, and will lessen the impact.
Always remember what makes the museum platform unique. Museums allow visitors to interact with your brand in a hands-on level that simply isn't possible with most other communication platforms. Take advantage of it. Look for ways to make it meaningful by asking your visitors to create remembrances of their visits and share their experiences with their friends.
Embrace technology. Touchscreens allow users to interact with information in new ways. Create a museum app that continues to engage them after they've left you. Leverage social media opportunities like twitter hashtags, location-based check-ins, etc., so users can share their experience with their own networks, increasing your visibility exponentially. And consider creating a web-based version of the museum for stakeholders in other locations, as well as providing an experience specific to that medium.
And finally, keep it fresh. Just like with any other medium, you want to give visitors a reason to come back. Don't let the story get stale. Your company doesn't stop existing the minute the museum launches. There is nothing worse than looking like your company stopped mattering and being relevant years ago. The beauty of embracing technology is that updates are easier and much more cost-effective. At least one time per year look at ways that you can update the information and displays. Explore ongoing events that can be hosted within the museum that could continue to bring in traffic. And most importantly, it is important to have a follow-up strategy in place before the first visitors walk through your doors. How are you going to capture their information while they are there and how do you plan to reach them once they leave?
When done in a smart way, corporate museums provide a storytelling opportunity that is unique. They can be both a celebration of a company's past as well as a look toward its future. They honor employees, explore what is unique about a company culture and give visitors reasons to remember and care about a brand. And by creating an environment where people can truly interact with your brand on their own terms, you bring your story to life in a meaningful way which they will long remember.
“Experiential Marketing: Changing the way you relate to brands.” Adweek Special Supplement
“Experiential Marketing Best Practices,” PMA. http://www.pmalink.com/?p=813
“The Manifesto,” International Experiential Marketing Association. http://ixma.org/manifesto.htm
Experiential Marketing Summit 2011
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