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Yes, You Ought to Be in Show Business

Every company could learn something from the events and entertainment industries. Here's how to create a "must see" business.
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Your business might not be a restaurant or a nightclub or an amusement park. But I would argue that most businesses still need to be see-it-to-believe-it businesses, whether the owners realize it or not.

My company, Situation Interactive, recently hosted an event called The Magic Behind Must-See that featured talks from experts in the worlds of soccer, nightlife and visual art. What struck me was how they had insights that went far beyond their own industries.

I would argue that every business is a see-it-to-believe-it event, and a company's success is invariably tied to how customers respond to the experience.

Take a bakery as an example. It might produce good bread but still fail because customers don't feel special when they buy the baked goods, are not struck that the business is anything original, and pretty much feel stuck in the ordinary while they are there.

So have you created a business brand that is "must see?" Here are three traits your company needs to have:

The audience itself becomes a central part of the experience.

Over the course of nearly a decade, Major League Soccer took a sport that few truly followed in the United States and created an amazing sporting culture wholly dictated by its fans. How did they do it? MLS executive David Bruce says it was about engineering a strategy that put the audience first. MLS built entire stadiums that created an intimate fan experience, versus packing in as many fans as possible to boost revenue. They made a point to recognize groups lobbying for new teams in their cities, and then they created clubs to fill the demand.

Bruce, who is senior director of brand and integrated marketing at MLS, suspects that soccer became sort of indie, and it presented an opportunity for the Gen Y demographic to shape a movement and make it their own. They've made their fans each feel special, a central part of the experience. So it is no wonder they have one of the fastest growing avid fan base out of all major active U.S. sports leagues.

The experience is something you've never seen, heard or felt before.

Before he dreamed up The Box, one of NYC's most exclusive nightclubs, Randy Weiner was interested in biochemistry and math. Most people consider that a far cry from the avant-garde performances he's known for nowadays. (He's also a producer of NYC's immersive experience Sleep No More.) But for Weiner, it often all boils down to biology in some way shape or form. He provides non-stop late-night dance and burlesque performances that draw audiences into something they've never seen, felt or heard before. He argues that exclusivity, combined with a truly original experience, delivers a visceral reaction that only amplifies the gravitational pull of "must see."

The experience changes the way you see and engage with familiar things.

Kellie Honeycutt hopes that no New Yorker can look at the Brooklyn Bridge without thinking about waterfalls. That's because in 2008, her organization, The Public Art Fund, orchestrated a massive installation of waterfalls in some of the city's most iconic locales.

PAF was also behind Discovering Columbus, Tatzu Nishi's experiential art installation that put viewers in a living room with a statue of Christopher Columbus--70 feet in the air! For PAF, alteration of reality is key and changes the way people interact with their everyday environment. People flocked to Columbus Circle to see the piece, and Honeycutt is willing to bet some of those visitors are now commuters who see a statue at the center of an intersection a little differently.

Bruce, Weiner and Honeycutt found success in their industries through giving people a home, shocking the senses, and changing familiar environments, drawing on psychology and basic human instincts.

Follow their example and your business will soon be a "must see" company, too.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Jan 22, 2014

DAMIAN BAZADONA | Columnist | Founder, Situation Interactive

Damian Bazadona is the founder of Situation Interactive, a digital marketing agency spotlighting see-it-to-believe-it experiences for the top brands in theater, arts, travel, tourism, film, television and sports.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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