Inside the Trend: Brand Experience Centers
Whether it’s an activation at a sponsored event or a pop-up in a city center, brand experiences have historically involved some discernable form of sales strategy—until now.
Welcome to the era of brand experience centers, upscale public hang spaces that are becoming the newest way to attract consumers in a pressure-free environment. They’ve been cropping up in Europe and Asia for years, but with younger generations demanding experiences over material objects, the “meeting house” concept is finally catching fire in the U.S.
From the Porsche Experience Center to the Lincoln Experience Center to Intersect by Lexus (whose New York City location opens in 2017) and beyond, luxury automakers are at the forefront of the up-and-coming brand experience centers trend. In addition to helping attract the hip, affluent millennial demo, experience centers allow brands to connect with consumers on passion points outside the automotive space.
Art installations, coffee bars, retail concepts, cultural events and other lifestyle elements—with a few shiny vehicles sprinkled in—are all part of the mix, enabling brands to interact with potential car buyers on their own terms, without the hard-sell tactics of the traditional showroom. Whether consumers are in the mood for fine dining, a quick meet-up with friends or a musical performance, upscale automakers are ready to serve it on a silver platter in hopes of making their brands more memorable.
As the movement gains momentum, other industries are developing their own versions of brand experience centers, too, often blurring the lines between retail and experience.
Samsung 837, a massive 55,000-square-foot space in New York City’s Meatpacking District, looks like an average telecom store from the outside. But inside, it’s a digital playground and meeting space where the only thing visitors can purchase is a bite of pastry or a cup of coffee from its on-site café. Technology from virtual reality to smart home appliances are available to view and test out, but a series of lounges and collaborative work spaces allow visitors to utilize the space without laying a finger on a single product.
Lululemon’s Hub Seventeen follows suit. Although the space is located in the retailer’s flagship location in New York City, the 3,500-square-foot Hub is dedicated to community collaboration and events. Consumers are invited to “share, discover, collaborate, and connect through a series of unique programs” including fitness classes, workshops and a speaker series. The space includes a kitchen, community tables and a living room area all designed to create an inviting environment where consumers can absorb the brand at their leisure.
As the experience center concept grows, many companies are tapping into what many event marketers have known for years—hard-sell tactics no longer work. The future of branding lies in creating immersive destinations where the consumer drives the experience.
Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker
Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Northeast powder hound. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. VP Marketing, Doodle owner and cocreator of my daughter.