Erik Hauser of Swivel Media asked a rather simple question on the Experiential Marketing Forum yesterday, wanting to know what marketing "experience" EMF’s readers have had recently. The question sparked a recent memory for me, specifically, a restaurant I passed in Chicago on the way to a Steel Pulse show at the House of Blues on State Street. That restaurant was called The Weber Grill Restaurant, and yes, it was a grand bow to experiential marketing and the future of brand marketing.
The restaurant is an homage to all things grill-related. It, and two other locations, are extensions of the Weber Grill. The brand already owns the backyard for many consumers. Now it seeks to make the grill into a gourmet experience. The Weber dining experience is boyued by Pavlovian sensory inputs that gets carnivores to imagine the same steaks, ribs and other BBQ fare on their very own Weber grill outside in the yard. The brand is truly experienced by the experiential marketing. It’s also a pretty good revenue driver for Weber, which gladly serves up $40 steaks and $8 well drinks at the restaurants. Wow. It’s marketing with immediate ROI — about 100 tables turning over five times each night. (Nevermind the business lunches.) We’re talking the Midwest here. They love their grills.
The Weber Grill Restaurant is an extension of experiential retailing, such as the recent "pop-up retail" trend that has been making marketers rethink the way consumers want to experience the act of shopping. If two-thirds of all purchases are unplanned, as Paco Underhill contends, then why should retail be so static? This is a trend that sees a $200,000 lease of a vacant storefront in NYC turn into $10,000,000 worth of unpaid media exposure, as it did for Purina when it opened the Meow Mix Cafe last summer. This is the trend that allows an organization like Vacant to become a retailing pioneer, much like the London Fashion Bus or Target’s pop-up stores.
So when is Nike going to open a hotel for the athlete-traveller? I would gladly pay double for a hotel room if I could shoot baskets before going to bed, take laps in an in-room jet pool, buy an official Olympic jersey at the gift shop, watch an Uzbeki wrestling match on TV (or any sporting event in the world at the moment), and work-out in the most state-of-the art facility in the city, go to an indoor driving range. Imagine the cool staff uniforms, wearing the freshest gear. Imagine the conceirge being able to get tickets to any game in town. Imagine Gatorade and Vector bars in the mini bar. Imagine running into sports pros in the elevator.
Can’t a guy dream? When, Nike, oh when will you do it? Everybody else is going to. It’s pure experiential marketing, y’all. Think of Camp Jeep. Versace has a hotel. Why not you too?