An awe-inspiring customer experience begins with the story--the story you tell your guests and employees, and the stories they share with their friends. In its new marketing campaign--Welcome to the Show--MGM Resorts seems to have found the recipe to wow their guests.

The first video clip in the new corporate branding campaign for MGM Resorts doesn't show the inside of a Las Vegas hotel, casino, or the Bellagio fountains. It starts with a campfire. The text reads: "Mankind was not meant to be bored. We built campfires to tell each other stories."

MGM's marketing team did their homework. Anthropologists say when our ancestors gained control of fire, it marked a major milestone in human development. Firelight extended the day, and instead of hunting and gathering, they told stories. Storytelling is in our DNA. The savvy marketers at MGM know this and have built an entire television and social media campaign around the idea. You might have seen the ads already during The Voice, Dancing With the Stars, or The Big Bang Theory. You may have seen the print ads in The Wall Street Journal, on billboards or in ubiquitous social media posts.

MGM resorts has launched a massive marketing campaign and story is at the heart of it.

Here are three key marketing lessons any entrepreneur or business leader can take away from the MGM campaign to create jaw-dropping experiences for their customers.

1). Take the time to identify what your brand really stands for

When I was writing my first book on communication skills, I had a transformational experience while speaking to then-Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz. I was the first to mention the word "coffee" in our conversation. "That's because we're not in the coffee business. We're in the relationship business, building human connections," Schultz said. I realized that the most interesting communicators don't talk about their product as much as they explain what the product means to the lives of their customers.

The first sentence in MGM's new print ad is: "We are not in the hotel business." Instead, they are in the "jaw-dropping business" and the "holy s*** business." Its mission, according to the campaign, is to "entertain the human race." That's quite a mission. For customers and employees, it's far more intriguing than a hotel that offers a clean, comfortable room and amenities like spas, casinos and shows. People aren't inspired by features; they crave experiences.

2). Don't forget to inspire the employee storytellers

In conjunction with the customer-facing ads, MGM created internal employee-focused videos and training programs to remind its 77,000 employees such as the housekeepers, servers, dealers, and chefs that they are part of the show. In one video, a narrator says:

"We are the people of MGM. We are the ones who make them laugh, make them cry...we don't all live in the spotlight, but none of us live in the background. We are magicians, artists, performers and illusionists...This is our stage. The audience is waiting. We are the entertainers. We are the show."

According to Lilian Tomovich, MGM's Chief Experience Officer (yes, it's her real title), "What the campaign is really about is that entertainment is a fundamental human need." Another fundamental human need is purpose, to feel as though we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves. MGM hasn't forgotten this, and clearly intends to make their employees a part of the experience. Far too many brands promote their products or services, while neglecting the emotional connection that guests want to feel with the brand through its people.

3). Make your mission clear

I know MGM's mission is "to entertain the human race" because it's the one line that's consistent across all of its marketing platforms: print, television, social media, and its press releases. According to Tomovich, the mission "communicates our clear aspiration to be first in the minds of consumers as a company that offers the most comprehensive entertainment experiences."

Tomovich was once asked how her background in financial services (marketing at MasterCard) prepared her for hospitality. She said her skills were transferrable because "The entire world has rotated this idea of the experience economy. Everything shared is around the experience, storytelling and sharing the unique perspective."

The MGM marketing campaign is a good reminder to entrepreneurs and leaders in every field that customers do, indeed, want experiences. Experiences set brands apart. Experiences create brand evangelists. Welcome your customers to the show.

Published on: Sep 27, 2017
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