How Marriott and GE Built Audiences Through Experiences

September 8, 2015

In 1990, there were only eight channels to reach someone – events, direct mail, fax, TV, radio, phone, billboards, and print magazines and newsletters. We didn’t have a lot of competition for someone’s attention.

But today we do.

Marketers constantly battle to prove how we’re “better” than the competition and we’re terrible at it. We’ve created so much noise, and we constantly interrupt people for the sake of our selfish interests – to sell them something. We’re losing ground faster than we can gain attention because we have it all wrong. We’re interrupting people, rather than delivering something of value.

We don’t understand that people won’t waste 30 seconds on an interruption but they’ll spend 30 minutes on a great experience.

Are you interrupting your audience or are you creating a great experience?

Think about this…

Marriott French Kiss

Marriott’s Content Studio produces short feature-quality films that reinforce the brand’s focus on creating experiences for a travel-minded audience.

If you’re a travel buff, like me, there’ always time to talk about a fabulous experience or a new destination. That’s exactly what Marriott understood when they created their content studio – a destination for people who love the travel lifestyle.  They traded a focus on 30-second interruptions for creating 30-minute experiences that amuse, entertain and inform their audience about travel.

When you watch Marriott’s movie French Kiss, they aren’t telling you how many rooms the Paris Marriott has, or how far you have to walk to the Eiffel Tower. Instead of marketing the amenities of the hotel, they’re creating a romantic story in the city of love. By making you feel something for Paris, by association Marriott makes you feel something for the brand.

Quit Interrupting
Smart companies know they have to create distinguishing brand experience if they want to forge deep relationships with audiences and woo them to become customers. They know that trying to out “better” their completion is expensive and doesn’t work like it used to. And it’s too focused on their brand and selling rather than adding value to their customers.

For B2B companies to tell a different story, marketers have to think about what feelings they want people to associate with the brand and work backwards from there

Inspiration, Innovation and GE
GE Garages is an excellent example. The company looked at where great ideas that changed the world got started. They saw some of the best companies in the world sprouted out of an idea that someone built in their garage – HP, Apple, Microsoft. Drawing on these kinds of transformational ideas, GE believed that they could build a bigger version of the startup ecosystem and then connect that with their own labs for greater innovation.
GE Garages

They started with the idea of how to make people feel inspired to innovate, and then they created an experience around it. GE Garages is designed to reinvigorate America’s interest in invention, innovation, and manufacturing. They’ve created custom projects, curated speaker sessions and workshops in the midst of fully equipped fabrication labs, including hardware such as laser cutters, 3D printers, injection molders, Arduino kits and others. GE Garages means people have the opportunity to work with technical experts and partners to learn more about advanced manufacturing processes, and bring their wildest ideas to life.

Innovation is something that GE is instilling in a much larger community by inspiring people to think about what’s possible.  They accomplished this by tapping bright minds outside the company and then collaborating with them to become a creative part of solving big problems.

By inspiring people through GE Garages, GE makes people feel inspired by its brand. It’s the association of the emotion with the experience that creates the association of the same emotion with the brand.

How to Build Experiences Like Marriott and GE
The same approach that worked for Marriott and GE works for companies of every size. Here’s three keys that helped them become successful that you can do yourself:

  1. Tell a story bigger than yourself. Marriott and GE stepped back from what they sell on a daily basis and asked what their industries really wanted. Marriott’s audiences wanted to feel adventurous and connected to the travel lifestyle even when they’re back at the office. GE’s audiences wanted to feel like they could make a difference with their great “garage” idea that could lead to something bigger. Then both brands built communities around these big ideas.
  2. Chose to be different, not better. Sally Hogshead said it best: “Different is better than better.” Trying to convince your audience that you’re better than the competition focuses on what you want to say as a brand, not what matters to your customers. One-upping is exhausting and expensive. Different captures people’s attention.
  3. Create a long-term experience, not a short-term campaign. Is there an end in sight for either Marriott or GE? Not an obvious one. Both efforts may stay true to their current direction for years to come or they could evolve into something very different over time. What’s clear is that neither were designed as a quick hit.

Ask Yourself…
You know your audience is tired of interruptions. But what’s the opportunity you have to create an amazing experience?

How do you quit interrupting 30 seconds at a time and start engaging 30 minutes at a time?

How do you move from selling hotel rooms to travel experiences? From selling jet-engine brackets to inspiring an industry of innovators?

Let me know. I’d love to hear your story.


About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author