By creating unforgettable experiences that turn consumers into brand devotees, George P. Johnson CEO Chris Meyer ’87 is reinventing marketing.
By Georgy Cohen
“Traditional marketing tactics,” says 1987 SHA grad Chris Meyer, “are about creating awareness.”
But for Chris, awareness is not enough.
So he spends his days thinking about how to make marketing more than just something you hear or see, but something you can smell, touch, taste, and feel—or even wear, drive, climb, or build.
In short, Chris believes you should be able to live it, so the barriers between you and the brand fall away, leaving you with a genuine experience—the most powerful marketing of all. That’s why he is CEO of George P. Johnson, a leading global experiential-marketing agency.
“Experiential marketing is important because it’s about building relationships,” says Chris, who has been CEO since 2013. “It’s about creating connections—emotional connections—between people and brands.”
George P. Johnson, founded in 1914, creates immersive, personalized experiences for Fortune 500 clients including Fiat Chrysler, IBM, Gulfstream, Toyota, Salesforce, Honda, Cisco, Pepsi, Under Armour, and more. Some of these experiences and events include the annual Salesforce Dreamforce conference, which attracts over 150,000 attendees and is the biggest technology event of its kind, and Camp Jeep, a program where people actually ride in vehicles and talk with product experts as they experience how the vehicle performs in different landscapes and environments.
Chris says his interdisciplinary, business-focused curriculum at SHA uniquely prepared him to build a successful global marketing organization. And by applying the principles of hospitality through his leadership at George P. Johnson, Chris is redefining the industry.
“The foundation of education that I received at Cornell really made me understand the importance of people. And at the end of the day, we’re in a people business. We deliver things, we make things, we create things. But it’s all driven by people,” he says. “All of the basics that allow you to exceed guest expectations apply to our business.”
When Chris reflects back on his education at SHA, which afforded him the opportunity to draw knowledge from across Cornell’s academic offerings, he sees a rich, multidimensional experience with broad application across industries.
“I think hospitality is no longer just about hotels,” he says. “Hospitality is about experiences. It’s about sports marketing. It’s about hospitals. It’s about retail. It’s about anyplace where people are paid attention to and people spend time.”
Chris says one of the biggest challenges in the experiential marketing space right now is finding qualified talent—and he is looking to Cornell students and graduates to help fill in the gaps.
“It’s an exciting industry,” he says. “It’s an exciting time.”