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May 28, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

From stouts to dolphin swims, experiential marketing is where it’s at.

When I first went on the Guinness Storehouse tour in summer 2010, I was in awe of how interactive the exhibits were, how delicious the Guinness beer looked, how adorable the advertisements were and, more than anything, how I was craving a pint of Guinness for the first time ever.

But now, nine months into my public relations master’s program at Boston University, I see the Guinness Storehouse tour for what it really is — a clever, effective and engaging marketing ploy that worked flawlessly on me. But that doesn’t ruin it at all for me. In fact, evaluating the advertisements’ target audiences, and appreciating the brand engagement strategies (pour a perfect pint, feel the real ingredients) makes the Guinness Storehouse tour ten times more fun, because I’m a PR nerd like that.

In perusing the eight factory floors with my PR knowledge from BU, I found multiple marketing tricks that I never noticed before.  I won’t list them all, as most of you probably care more about the beer on brewery tours than the marketing tactics behind them. I guess that’s normal.

But for those of you interested, here are three of the marketing strategies I saw:

  • Corporate social responsibility: By showing Guinness’ CSR initiatives, such as the ‘One Million Challenge’ of providing one million people annually with clean water, it is building its “giving back” reputation which makes consumers more likely to purchase the product because they can feel good about buying it, along with many other positive CSR effects.
Guinness CSR initiatives
  • Nostalgia: When Guinness Storehouse visitors view the advertisement exhibits, those of an older generation will experience Guinness nostalgia, being taken back to their first encounters with the brand through classic ads, bringing forth pleasant memories and a connection to the brand via these memories. Also, those from a younger generation admire these classical ads and want to be a part of the Guinness tradition, be it learning about the brand or buying the drink. Both of these possibilities lead to a happy Guinness marketing team, as younger generations are becoming repeat, loyal customers.
  • Part of the Dublin experience: When people think of Dublin, Ireland, oftentimes Guinness comes to mind. Talk about great brand awareness. Then, when tourists can actually go and become part of this oh-so-Dublin tradition, they are not only aware of the brand but begin connecting memories of Dublin with Guinness itself, which down the road will lead to purchasing the product, be it at home to remember a great Dublin trip, or upon returning to Dublin to have the same fantastic experience.

During my summer 2010 visit I went to the storehouse the first weekend, and it became a staple in my Dublin memory bank.

And a final, possibly most obvious reason I know Guinness’ marketing is effective? I sure remember Guinness tasting better last Dublin visit. This shows me that after being drawn into the Guinness brand community via seven floors of creative marketing (and an eighth floor to taste), I enjoyed the beer and did exactly what Guinness would want. I became a repeat customer, which is gold in the marketing/PR world.

So cheers to you Guinness, you have the brand engagement marketing down pat. But Guinness isn’t the only company using experiential marketing. In fact, while writing this post I was reminded of a grade school trip I took to the Florida Keys with my family. In between frolicking on the beach and shopping for “stylish” swimsuits (style and sixth-grade girl, in my case, was an oxymoron), we went to the Dolphin Research Center to learn about and swim with dolphins.

The DRC is a nonprofit organization that raises money for – you guessed it – dolphin research. At the center you can tour the facility and swim with dolphins, which is not only a blast, but also an incredibly effective marketing/fundraising tactic. They are making money off the tours/swim sessions, and at the end of the visit, for those who fall in love with the dolphins (me, within seconds), you can adopt a dolphin through a donation.

The sequence of tour, become brand loyal/engaged with the dolphins and then, right at your peak of enjoyment offer you the option to help out your new pals (via donation of dolphin adoption), is a pretty flawless marketing strategy. Even at age 10 it worked on me, as I donated my huge life savings to adopt a dolphin.

So from learning your favorite brew to splashing around with dolphins, experiential marketing is one of the best approaches for engaging consumers to build brand loyalty and overall success.

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