Christian Lachel is executive creative director and head of marketing for BRC Imagination Arts, a world-renowned experience design agency that turns brands into destinations. The agency has created some of the world's most popular brand experiences, including the Guinness Storehouse factory tour in Dublin, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour in Dearborn, MI, and the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam.

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I invited Christian to Marketing Smarts to discuss how physical "brand homes" fit into the increasingly digital marketing mix, why brand homes increase customer loyalty and drive revenue, and how you can create emotionally evocative experiences that help consumers fall in love with your brand.

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Christian:

Look beyond naming opportunities: Create emotional experiences that tell your brand story (05:23): "We just finished a project with the...Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin, and we created a project called the Selig Experience.... It's really a fan story, because Bud [Selig] is kind of the for Milwaukee and the Brewers...but it has such resonance with the audience. They get to see themselves as part of that story, of bringing a small-market team, bringing a great ball club there, and really becoming the heart of a community...a real great love story with major league baseball. And bringing those stories to life [is] different than just putting the name on a stadium. It's a very engaging way that can touch the heart and allow people to...see the brand in a way that they've never...engaged before. And people are looking for meaningful experiences. They want something that touches them, that they can...get their hands on and...really engage with."

Brand experiences aren't just about buzz: Track your ROI (12:44): "There's never one right way [to measure ROI], right? We're using a lot of different processes depending on the brand.... For example, with Heineken, we actually give people some incentives to...extend the relationship with Heineken. The Heineken Experience has created another retail store in the center of the city. They additional beer at a bar with a discount. We see that people go to those things. They're actually turning in those tickets. They're actually in the additional retail spaces. But then a lot of them do opt in early on through digital engagement when they come into the visitor experience. They say 'I want to have a relationship with the brand.' We follow up with them.... We look at those influencers and...get feedback from them.

Don't focus exclusively social analytics: Some brand fans still mail love letters (13:39): "In the case of The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, we did a film that debuted last year called 'Moments of Happiness.' People write. Letters come in about how the film has affected them emotionally.... Sometimes, you don't even have to try to force it, because it's created...a memory with...their loved ones. They want to tell you about it. They opt in to share it on...various social pages. But a lot of times, we're still seeing traditional letters."

Brand experiences aren't just for B2C brands: B2B brands can create experiences to connect with their audiences, too (27:45): "We've had the good fortune to work with a lot of companies on the business-to-business piece. Last year, we opened a project for AMOREPACIFIC called The Story Garden, and The Story Garden was, essentially, a tour of the factory in Osan, which they call 'the Beauty Campus.' (They don't call it a factory: it's a 'Beauty Campus.') AMOREPACIFIC is the largest skincare company in Korea.

"The chairman...wanted to create...a series of experiences for the beauty partners—his employees—but also for the business partners, and people who he wanted to generate relationships with, from a B2B or even a B2G (business to government). As part of this journey, he imagined a place that would tell the story of the company so that when he's talking to another business about a partnership or expanding somewhere, that they understood the deep values of the company and the shared values that they had together, because you need a partnership, you need a distribution network, you need all those things."

Don't tell potential partners your brand story: Show it to them (29:12): "The Story Garden started off as a place to inspire, to tell that story, to create deeper emotional connection to the brand for primarily beauty partners, business partners, and governments in different countries and regions where they really wanted to build a relationship with in order to expand their ability to sell their products. We're finding that that really resonates. Often, you go into a room and you get a PowerPoint: 'Here's what our company is and here's our values.' But when you can walk into a story and feel it, and understand the deep values where it comes from...and walk out and see the kind of care that was put into that changes people. It changes the [nature] of the business-to-business transaction."

To learn more about BRC Imagination Arts, visit, follow the company on Twitter, or check out one of the brand experiences they helped create all around the world (such as the Ford Rouge Factory Tour).

Christian and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by...

Special thanks to production company Candidio, an efficient, affordable video production platform allowing marketers and communicators to collaborate and curate video content, with help from a team of professional, on-demand video editors for the finishing touches. Check them out!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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