Marketing Brand Immersion: How to Build a Tiki Hut Bar with Rockwell Tools


As a marketer I want to understand my clients, the brands, and their consumers, the customer.  So I built a Tiki Bar.

Brand Immersion in Motion

Brand immersion can be done through an online discovery, review of analytics, and landscape analysis. It also can be done through a brand immersion call where a client walks us through their brand guidelines, mission statements, guiding principles, and image libraries. Meaningful marketing immersion takes it a step further to experiencing what the actual customer experiences. It’s the difference between reading sheet music in your head and understanding the chord progressions, tempo changes, and dynamics (hello, Beethoven) to actually playing a piece on your instrument.

That’s why I was elated to have the stars align and a project at home that would allow me a full marketing brand immersion experience, which isn’t always possible. Some brands just don’t allow for the same type of authentic experience. For example, I may never put myself in the shoes of a government contractor looking for an automation solution. In these cases, we leverage internal and external insights to the best of our ability.  But most of the time, it IS possible, and presents an opportunity to really get in the same mindset of the consumer to help represent the brand effectively.

Why Build a Tiki Hut?

My husband grew up in St. Thomas, USVI and moved to San Diego as a teenager. I grew up in San Diego where beach culture is huge and Tiki-themed establishments are abundant. San Diego hosts an annual conference, Tiki Oasis, a celebration of all things Tiki, and I have several friends who anticipate in this fun event all year long.

When we moved into our current home, we planted a banana tree in the back yard. One banana tree turned into a forest in eight years of occupancy and we had to get control of it. I came home one day to a hand-drawn concept of a Tiki Hut and realized a big opportunity. Let’s get our hands on some tools from our client, Rockwell Tools, to understand the experience of a customer!

How to Build a Tiki Hut?

First, we had to prepare the build area. This meant removing the banana trees, which takes a lot of digging.

Secondly, we had to level the bricks on the patio. We couldn’t have bar stools that made you lean before you’ve been served a frozen concoction.

Then, we started to plan the design and gather tools. We landed on a design with a metal, corrugated roof with a wraparound bar on one side and a horseshoe game observation area on the other side. We found we’d need the 4-1.2″ Compact Circular Saw to help us cut the side panels and wraparound bar, the 20V Max Lithium Brushless Hammer Drill for getting screws in and nicely sunken into the wood, and the JawHorse Portable Workstation to help us have a safe, stable surface when we went to cut our larger posts.

Before we started any of our build, we protected the wood with Thompson’s Water Seal to make sure it stands up to the weather or, more likely in San Diego, the spilled drinks.

We carefully placed our posts to make them plumb, square and level. This process alone is challenging, but critical!  You don’t want an uneven bar unless you are in the Olympics.

We set the base of the deck after the posts and used the hammer drill to make sure there weren’t any screws sticking out to catch bare feet.  Then, we measured out our walls. Once we had the walls measured, we could use the circular saw to help cut the sides to the appropriate sizes.  Next, we measured out the bar top. Those cuts were definitely trickier!  Finally, we hung roof beams and placed the corrugated metal roof atop the hut.

The big elements were in place, but we had to cut several smaller boards to help us reinforce the bar top and put on some finishing touches. The JawHorse was our go-to tool to complete the job successfully.  After the framework was finished, we were able to start the fun part – decorating!  We went to our local Tiki expert (doesn’t every town have one?) and selected grass skirting and Tiki masks.

Tools to Tiki: Brand Immersion Lessons Learned

I was able to learn about the product features, hands on. I saw how they were easy to use, quick to set up, and extremely sturdy. More importantly, I learned brand immersion can be fun and rewarding, and better yet, you have a personal relationship with the brand.

I also understand the DIY audience more. It’s really rewarding to see your vision come to life and have an accomplishment you can see on a daily basis. We are already discussing if we want to place a second Tiki bar on the other side of the horseshoe pits!

I recommend all brands ask their agencies to get as deeply involved with your product as possible to help them understand the experience and all marketers find a way to make the experience as authentic as possible. This helps build empathy and understand where people may need extra information to overcome common obstacles. Ultimately, it’s a way for the marketer to shift from brand concept to brand consumer.

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