A Brand Immersion Experience Gone Wrong

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All sorts of marketing learning can occur on vacation.  Between the dinners out, exploring new neighborhoods, and maybe more than anything……entertainment for the family (primarily kids), can provide a lab for real life execution of business.

Sometimes it’s easier to evaluate other businesses when you are away from the daily grind.

Our city vacation in Atlanta started with Legoland Discovery Center.  My 6 year old son lives for Lego’s.  I loved them too growing up, much more than video games, and being a business geek I was anxious to see them pull this off.

  • Housed in an up-scale mall in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.  It didn’t hit me at first, but this was a “sign” for that was a bit odd.
  • Admission (purchased on line) was $11 per person, $15 live.  A tad on the pricey side I thought, but I guess it’s all relative to other “entertainment” options like a zoo or museum.
  • Plenty of decorations, a small section of carnival rides, play mats, a jungle gym and a small movie theatre.  And an over-priced rip me off snack bar, of course!
Legoland Atlanta

Image Credit: Buckhead.patch.com


  • First, the kids loved it.  I guess we can end it there, since that what matters right?  They spent 2 hours playing on the jungle gyms, running around, shooting the Lego cars up and down the ramps.
  • Parent’s, not so much.  Our take-away was that it’s a step up from the play center you’ll find at Mcdonald’s, just better branding and some neat displays.  And the obligatory “gift shop” at the end.  Certainly not the first spend of $’s we’ve experienced that under-delivered, and it won’t be the last.


There are very few brands that can pull off a standalone “experience” aside from their core product.  This is what Lego is trying to do, create a stand-alone entertainment option, generate some $’s (assume they are aspiring to at least break even) and create another point of interaction with their brand.

This could be one of the most ambitious feats in business.  There is a reason very few try it.  Because it is HARD, it’s not the core business and it raises expectations significantly, and that creates a danger zone.

I couldn’t help but think what the CEO or CMO of Lego would think if they wandered through Legoland Atlanta the day I did.  I am sure they would be asking themselves some basic questions….driven from the choices that were made before they built the center….

  • Does this represent our brand well?

  • Are we “wowing” are customers and providing excellent value?

  • Are we LISTENING to what customers are saying about their experience?  (social media has given plenty of real feedback!)

  • Are we better off with it or without it?

Brands need to be careful thinking they are bigger than what they really are.  Very few brands can approach a risky venture with high expectations with a “passive” approach.  It requires, in short, a massive dose of HUSTLE.

On the same trip, we experienced the exact opposite of Legoland, an up-lifting, unforgettable experience I’m happy to recomend and return too: World-of-Coca-Cola.


Is it fair to compare Legoland with Coca Cola’s version?  On the surface, it’s fair to assume Coca-Cola has the financial resources to outdo almost any brand.  But that’s just on the surface……I believe the outcome would have been the same if both brands were given an identical budget and told to “go build it.”

Have you ever been to a local town bakery that has a line a block long, while your big box national supermarket bakery doesn’t seem to have been shopped for 2 days?  Who has more financial backing?  $’s are sometime a lazy way to attribute success.

Creating experiences that BUILD a brand, not erode it, first begins with choices.  Than the real work begins.



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