Defining Home: How We Created A Custom Experience For A Luxury Brand’s Client

Carly Syms - VIP + Marketing Manager

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How do you define home? What does it mean to you? Maybe home is a small cottage in the woods with no neighbors in sight for miles. Maybe home is a luxury high-rise in a major metropolis or a three-bedroom, two-bath house in suburbia. Or maybe it’s none of those things at all.

The idea of home is an intensely personal concept and it means different things to different people. With all of the different ways to interpret it, it can be a challenge to determine how best to market products for the home.

Not long ago, we were approached by a business whose client was a large luxury company headquartered in France. Executives from the luxury company were coming to New York City for a three-hour meeting to connect over the latest market research. The presentation focused on the home luxury market; more specifically, the execs wanted to learn more about how millennials perceived the concept of home.  

An employee of the company giving the presentation had previously attended our VIP night tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and she loved it! After the tour, she reached out to say she hoped we’d be able to work together in the corporate world in the near future. About eight months later, we got the chance to put together an awesome brand hack not just for her company, but for their high-end customer.

Kate tells the story of a hotel in the NYC skyline.
Kate tells the story of a hotel in the NYC skyline.

Our client was under a lot of pressure to ace the meeting, as the executive team was flying in for just this quick presentation. With only three hours to wow them, she brought Museum Hack in for half an hour to help shake things up and do something the execs would never expect.

How we “hacked” a customer’s brand

It was time for us – a company comprised mainly of millennials – to do some thinking about ourselves. The focus of the presentation was about millennials at home. The luxury client wanted to learn more about how to market their home products to the audience and it was up to us to help define the way millennials approach home. How does this group think about home? What are they buying for the home? What luxury items do they buy? What do they want in a home?

And how could we take this information and showcase it in a fun, engaging way?

Those were the questions that faced Kate Downey, VIP Tour Guide and Creative Lead. Kate, a millennial herself, did some research into the millennial concept of home before putting together a presentation that used the period rooms housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to highlight the ways the idea of home is changing for this generation.

The period rooms in the museum show different ways people used to decorate their homes. Kate focused on the Rococo rooms, the Shaker rooms, and the Frank Lloyd Wright rooms. Each was specifically chosen for the presentation based on their unique, differing elements of design and how those relate to what home means today.

For example, the Rococo rooms are ornately decorated and they’re full of gold, while the Shaker rooms feature a more utilitarian and sparse style – and Frank Lloyd Wright is somewhere in between these two extremes, as he wanted everything to be minimalist, beautiful, and have a purpose, while still representing status and luxury.

The period rooms helped show how home and the concept of home is changing for millennials. Many millennials can’t afford rent on their own, let alone a mortgage, and in this day and age of Airbnb and living with roommates much longer than usual, people have to find other ways to create the home experience than just being in a space and calling it theirs. Kate put together an interactive activity for the group to help explain the concept of home – which is more of an idea for many millennials than a physical place.  

How to put the brand hack into action

So how does that help this luxury firm that wants to know more about how to market home goods to a millennial audience that thinks about home differently than past generations?

We put together an exercise to demonstrate one way we believed their marketing efforts could make an impact.

Kate told the story of a Picasso painting that was destroyed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art about a decade ago when a woman tripped and put her elbow through the art. While all Picasso paintings are valuable in their own right, the value of this particular piece jumped after it was damaged. We asked the group to think about why that might be.

The painting now had a great story.

To help illustrate the idea behind storytelling for the home, we paired up the visiting executives and asked them to look at three random household objects that Kate had brought with her from her apartment – a soup ladle, an alarm clock, and an eraser. Teams were tasked with coming up with stories about these items. Studies have shown that when objects have a story attached to them, their value rises. A project done in 2009 had creative writers come up with stories about objects; those objects were then listed with their stories on eBay – and they sold for almost a 700% higher dollar value than what they had been bought for.  

The executives work on creating stories for objects.
The executives work on creating stories for objects.

Designing a marketing plan for the brand

This activity encouraged the executives to think and talk about the actual – and literal – value of storytelling. For millennials, it’s less about what they have and more about the story behind what you have and how that impacts their sense of home. Whether that’s the scent of a candle, the feel of a blanket, or the armchair in the corner – the significant objects in millennials’ lives are the things they’ve attached stories and experiences to.

Before our presentation ended, we walked the group outside onto the balcony overlooking Manhattan and told the story of a luxury hotel in the skyline. When it was built during the 1800s, this hotel was the tallest in the world thanks to a recent innovation that allowed for steel beams to be raised and provide structure of a certain height. This hotel the group was looking at was at the forefront of the industrial revolution – of a change in technology. We’re now in a similar change – a digital revolution – and technology continues to change our lives in new and sometimes unexpected ways. Millennials are riding that wave and adapting their behaviors accordingly. The afternoon ended with Kate’s parody of ‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as she sang about her experience at home and how, to her, it’s wherever there’s WiFi.

“We had a great time!”

Both the executives and our client loved the presentation. Our client felt the presentation added a lot to the experience and it was an engaging way to break up the rhythm of a longer presentation full of marketing and analysis, while the executives remained excited about the day long after they left New York City.

“It was a great presentation!!! Both parts – the home fragrance expansion and Museum Hack. Would love to have the presentation. Merci!”

“My turn to thank you for a very interesting presentation where we learned a lot and we had a great time, too. Please thank all of the US team on our behalf.”

We loved working with our client to help energize their presentation. Do you have an upcoming event that’s in need of a boost? Do you want to learn how to think about you own brand in a new, creative way? We’d love to talk! Send us an email at [email protected] or give us a call at 1-800-210-9676.  

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