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Brand Homes - A New Competitive Landscape

13 July 2022
bitter oak barrels used during distillation

This article first appeared in Campaign.

Diageo recently announced a £73m investment in a new Guinness microbrewery and culture hub in Covent Garden. Last month, Coca-Cola opened a permanent store in London. Brands are increasingly seeing the value in creating destinations where customers can experience the brand through all the senses.

Brand homes have long been an effective way of engaging with diehard fans – just take a look at the growth of whisky distillery visits in the past decade. But as brands in more diverse categories strive to build compelling offerings aimed at tourists and more casual customers (who might one day become loyal fans, fuelled by an amazing memory), they find themselves competing not just with other brands in their sector, but with a plethora of other activities and entertainment.

Car museums might find themselves competing with a new generation of track days, where visitors don’t just look at the car, but drive it. Alcohol brand homes might now be fighting innovative micro-pub offerings and rural retreats for attention. Technology brands might find themselves contending for time with science museums.

The challenge facing brand homes is working out how to “face outward” like those rival experiences. They are often more switched on when it comes to variable event programming, marketing in their area and offering clear experience packages to suit wallets, tastes and mindsets.

The rules of what makes a brand home proposition successful are shifting, and brands are having to work harder to offer something unique. But if they do find the right recipe, the commercial and brand opportunity can be huge.

A new formula for success

Brands thinking critically about how they can compete must consider how they generate value from their experiences in four ways:

Commercial value

What are the different ways brand destinations can direct revenue from experiences? This might include retail offers, food and beverage and other services, or programmed events. The Bombay Sapphire Distillery is a great example of this, offering a wider variety of programmed events, experiences and merchandise on-site to meet visitors’ different tastes.

Cycling brand Rapha also does this exceptionally well through its “Clubhouses” concept. A blend of brand home, retail and coffee shop – each cafe serves locally sourced produce reflecting the region it’s in. Good coffee is integral to cycling culture, and while customers can pick up cycling apparel here, most of the space is dedicated to the cafe and building a haven for the community of cyclists who visit. Rapha clubhouses strike the perfect balance of driving commercial value through multiple revenue streams and imbuing the essence of the brand and its community.

Brand value

What is it about this experience that will make it unmissable, unique and something that will drive brand awareness through PR, UGC and advocacy in the long term? Brands like Jack Daniel's and Guinness have brand homes that transcend the physical space, and act as world-renowned bucket list destinations, permeating all brand communications and advertising – acting as threads that connect back to their DNA.

Corporate value

What role does the destination play in positively serving wider stakeholders like investors and driving B2B relationships? Le Logis – the spiritual home of Grey Goose – creates this value through exclusivity. Visits are by invitation only, for up to 1,000 people a year, with visitors invited to stay in the themed rooms, each paying homage to vodka production. A desirable, luxury place to invite important customers and investors, and a mythical spiritual home for the brand.

Community value

How is your brand home adding value to the local society, environment and economy? Fondazione Prada is an example of a brand anchoring itself in nurturing the next generation of talent. Equally, Carlsberg is developing the former home of its world-famous breweries in the heart of Copenhagen into a vibrant and diverse new city district. When Carlsberg City District is fully developed in 2024, the area will comprise 600,000 square metres mixed with homes, offices, retail shops, cafes, restaurants, schools and different cultural and sports institutions.

Whether it’s amping up an existing destination, or creating an entirely new experience proposition, brands need to think critically about these four opportunities to compete in today's saturated experience market.

Nick Blenkarne, Head of Strategy

Nick Blenkarne

Head of Strategy, Imagination London

As Head of Strategy, Nick is responsible for laying the strategic foundation for inspiring brand experiences working with clients such as Visa, Major League Baseball and LG. Working symbiotically with creative and project delivery teams to deliver insight-driven campaigns grounded in experience, and amplified by compelling content and smart uses of social. With a focus on effectiveness, he employs a mix of planning tools and techniques to ensure those experiences are both solving business problems and adding value to customers.