Spent the day in NYC yesterday with the family and experienced FIRST HAND what "the brand is the experience" means.
First stop was American Girl - the store. These people have perfected experiential marketing and taken it to an entirely new level. You can not only buy a doll that "is" just like your kid, you can get clothes to match so your kid is wearing exactly what the doll is wearing. Sick, but apparently effective.
Next up is the salon - no, not a salon like at Harrod's where your kid's hair gets styled, but a salon where your kid's doll's hair gets styled... yep, you read that correctly! They had 7 or 8 stylists lined up making those dolls beautiful.
From there, we headed upstairs where they have a "cafe" where you can dine like an aristocrat. Complete with a high-chair for your doll, I couldn't actually believe what I was seeing.
You can also buy dolls that are culturally appropriate and era-focused (Early American, Indians, Hispanics, etc...). You can help but notice that American Girl has created volumes and volumes of books that tell stories and explain what it must have been like to be a girl in those settings. The bookstore (downstairs) also has a collection of books which are focused on teaching/training girls on how to behave (Miss Manners watch out!), how to behave at a party and of course, personal diaries.
The live music and story time completed the experience. Finally, on the way out, my 2 daughters picked up a "portfolio" (a little red book) and put mini doll brochures of all the dolls that they want to buy inside. On the train on the way home, the actually played with these brochures as if they were the dolls themselves. Kudos to the American Girl marketing machine. Thank God my girls are so well behaved - it could have gotten ugly trying to get out of there not buying anything.
Last but not least, my 6 year old asked me if there was an American Boy's store... good question kid!
From there, we ate lunch at the Stardust Diner (I think that was the name). Talk about the brand experience - I had a "Classic Mo's" burger that had the same kind of sauce they used in the '50's (and still use I think at McDonald's - it's call a Big Mac folks). The waiters here actually sing and do a floor show (sort of), and the entire place is chromed out and very 50's. We drank Vanilla Coke and ate burgers and listened to a fairly decent rendition of some great 50's and 60's songs. Not a bad time! Too bad the burgers didn't cost what they cost back then - $13.50 I think is what my double burger cost. Wow.