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Visitors aren’t guests—they’re customers. A properly designed experience should build loyalty and sell bottles. Don’t just wing it, design it for maximum return.

A consumer visit is your greatest opportunity to communicate your brand identity and build customer loyalty. But achieving business value requires thoughtfully designing an engaging and compelling experience. While a distillery visit might look like a hybrid between having guests into your home and a factory tour, an experience isn’t either of those. Rather, an experience is a series of engaging and educational moments which tells your brand story and builds to a conclusion which encourages the participants to take action.

EXPERIENCE IS THE NEW MARKETING “Experiential Marketing” runs under a slew of names, but the basic premise behind them is the same: When people deeply engage in entertaining sensory and educational experiences with your brand, they are more likely to become customers and brand enthusiasts. A quality experience is engineered—so much so that there is an entire industry devoted to experience design. One of the larger distilleries even outsources full management of their visitor program, not to a guest services company, but to an experience design firm. Since a visitor experience is an element of your marketing strategy, before you can develop the experience itself you must have a fully developed brand identity and flavor messages for all your products. You’re designing the answer to the question, “How can consumers experience my brand?”

THE ELEMENTS OF AN EXPERIENCE To be fully effective an experience must temporarily take consumers out of their daily lives and transport them wholly into an exotic domain. Unlike at any other time or in any other setting, during a visit you have complete control over every aspect, from the environment to the timing to the activities and message. But before you can exert that control you must determine what elements the

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experience should have and how it should unfold. An experience consists of five elements: Sensation + Action + Location + Education + Story. The key to each element is uniqueness. What can someone see/ smell/hear/touch/taste and do at your distillery that they can’t do elsewhere? What’s special about where your distillery is— geographically, historically and locally? What can you communicate that’s different than any other distillery and how can you communicate differently? And finally, how does all that uniqueness reinforce your brand’s story?

SENSORY ENGAGEMENT Humans are sensory creatures always seeking new and novel sensations. Physical sensations also engage emotions and solidify memories making them a key to long-term engagement. A distillery environment is a sensory wonderland. Look for sensory opportunities that are outside of visitors’ daily experiences and, preferably, unique to you. Some basic ideas:

»»Look high up at a tall column still or out across a field of grain. »»Smell malting, fermentation, distillation or a maturation warehouse.

»»Hear the pounding of a mill or a bung being hammered in. »»Hold a freshly filled bottle or feel the heat coming off a still. »»Taste heirloom grains, botanicals for gin, limestone water or new spirit.

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Artisan Spirit: Summer 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

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