Craig Lovin on Corporate Visitor Experiences

The August 18 session at the 2016 SEGD E&E Exhibition & Experience Designevent in Washington, DC led by Craig Lovin(Creative Director at the World of Coca-Cola) and Alexandra Holland(Enterprise Strategy & Communication Leader at Johnson & Johnson) will bring a fresh perspective on corporate visitor experiences, how they differ from museums and how they are evolving. We asked Craig Lovin to tell us a little about the World of Coca-Cola.

"Successful corporate visitor experiences are different from museums in that they are concerned with connecting the brand and the consumer," says Craig Lovin. "World of Coca-Cola was an early pioneer in experiential marketing. Hershey’s Chocolate World was one of the first; Guinness Storehouse, which came later, is one of the best tourist attractions in Europe." 

Before these experiences, companies that make consumer products put their goods on shelves, sponsored events and advertised. They had no other way to connect to the public except perhaps a plant tour, and opportunities for tours were reduced over time as controls over visitor and food safety expanded. Within these corporate visitor experiences, people have a great time and enjoy the exhibits, but there's no question the featured stories are meant—even if in an increasingly subtle way—to strengthen a visitor's perception of the brand and the company's reputation.

 At the World of Coca-Cola, Craig Lovin's team measures visitor response to the experience, conducting quantitative and qualitative research, focus groups and surveys looking for trends, mindsets, what people like and why what they would like to see on another visit. Important scores are “did the World of Coca-Cola meet your expectations” and “would you recommend the World of Coca-Cola to a friend?”

"We're not just measuring their perception of the experience but wondering if it affected their perception of the brand," says Lovin. “We really listen to what visitors say. And, that plays into social media, which has replaced traditional advertising and is the new word of mouth. We scour sites like TripAdvisor. Then we ask people: did the experience change how you feel about Coca-Cola?"

The team uses the resultant data to justify making new expenditures or rolling out a new exhibit. Exhibits have changed with people's expectations; audiences today are very interested in the behind-the-scenes operations of the business, sustainability and corporate responsibility. One classic story about corporate Coca-Cola's attitude vs. people's interest:  Andy Warhol famously painted Coke cans and bottles beginning in the early 1960's. Looking to “protect the brand” Coca-Cola lawyers sent him a cease and desist letter. The matter was dropped when corporate leadership awoke to the positive publicity that Warhol's art gave them. Years later, the World of Coca-Cola displayed Warhol's paintings in its fine arts gallery—together with the letter on loan from the Warhol Foundation.

It's not all about viewing exhibits, of course. At the entrance to the World of Coca-Cola, visitors are offered a Coke in a take-home aluminum bottle with a twist off cap (and asked to keep the cap on in the galleries). At the end of their visit, they enjoy tasting and comparing about 100 different beverages from around the world.

How does attendance at a corporate visitor experience compare to that of a museum? Craig Lovin doesn't know the answer for experiences across the globe. But he says, "The Louvre has more than 9 million visitors a year. The World of Coca-Cola has 1.2 million and growing. Over the July 4th holiday weekend, people waited up to an hour to get in." He's satisfied with that level of interest.  

Who, along with Craig Lovin and Alexandra Holland, will be leading sessions about Exhibition and Experience on August 18? In earlier articles, we featured the work of session leaders Kevi Louis-Johnson,Clare Brown and Wendy Evans Joseph.They are among the award-winning designers and thought leaders in the experiential graphic design field who will lead focused sessions geared for designers, curators, technology integrators, fabricators, brand managers, design faculty and students. On August 19, enjoy experiential tours of unique DC institutions like the White House Visitors Center and the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as an Experiential Scavenger Hunt, led by global museum design consultancy Gallagher & Associates (Washington).


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