25. How do you turn a shopping trip into a brand experience?

9 Nov

Anyone can open up a store and sell a product, but it is the experience the customer has in that store that will keep them coming back. A store can create an experience out of a shopping trip by converting their brand into a visible and tangible space. They must take the core values that make up their brand and replicate them throughout the shopping experience. This can be created with the set up of the store, employees, lighting and design, products, aroma, and general feel of business.

According to Scott Bedbury, author of A New Brand World, “you can’t brand a company that doesn’t have soul.” Bedbury has managed brands for many companies including Starbucks and Nike. One of his most important projects with Starbucks was to transform their store into the coffee experience. After months of research, Bedbury learned that the company makes 70 percent of its revenue before 2pm, which means they should be concentrating on the morning and early afternoon. After traveling and visiting coffee shops around the world, he realized that he wanted to turn Starbucks into a conservative American interpretation of a European coffee house, and a “key part of the ‘coffee experience’ for many consumers was the atmosphere and the conditions under which they savored this emotionally charged beverage” (Bedbury, 49). It took this research to figure out what Starbucks had to potential to be. When you walk into as Starbucks they all they all have the same feel because they each represent the Starbucks brand. The lighting is low, warm and inviting. They have seating for studying or doing work and they also have comfortable seating to read a book or have a conversation. Starbucks plays contemporary, yet comforting music in the background that can also be heard on the patio. It always smells good and is always clean. Decorations and coffee specials reflect the seasons and nothing is more exciting than your first red holiday cup of the year. Starbucks’ employees must go through a thorough training process to learn how to represent the brand. Separated, these small changes may seem insignificant, but together they create and image and a following. The brand gains trust because every store has the same felling of warmth and reliability.

Another store that turns its shopping into an experience is Hollister Co. Hollister is a clothing company that calls itself an “American lifestyle brand”. The brand is designed for teens who desire the casual coolness of southern California. Hollister is designed after its elaborate pseudo-history about a preppy Yale grad that discovered California after avoiding the corporate world. Even the “established in 1922” logo that appears on their merchandise is fictitious to go along with their image. When you walk into a Hollister store you feel like you are walking into a surf bungalow in Laguna Beach or Malibu, CA. The ceiling and walls are covered in palms and California flags. Old Persian rugs lay crisscross on the floor. The seating area is a combination of mismatched furniture and surfer magazines. A live feed from Huntington Beach plays on a large screen by the fitting rooms and a surfboard hangs behind the register. The lights are dim and new-age, alternative rock music is pumping from the walls. Most shoppers over 30 can’t handle being in the store for more than five minutes without getting a headache, therefore you always see a few dads reading a copy of Longboard Magazine in a lawn chair on the “front porch”. This design and layout is not for everyone, but Hollister can be found on every high school campus across the nation. The store not only allows a place for teens to buy hip clothes, but it give them the true surfer experience. Just being in the store makes you want to immediately change into a pair of cutoff shorts, surfer tee and flip flops. This image works for the store and Hollister was ranked as the second best teen clothing brand behind a long list of actual west coast companies in 2008 by Piper Jaffray. Hollister also has a “look policy” that requires its employees to follow a strict dress code that includes there colors and clothes they are allowed to wear. This all together creates an image and an experience that can be found in every Hollister Co. store across the country.

Apple is another company that creates an experience when you step into their stores. Apple is where it is at today because their CEO, Steve Jobs, understands the importance of marketing. According to Mary Neumeier author of Zag, Apple is successful because their  “communications reveal very little waste” and “the same images that are used in TV advertising are also used on billboards, collateral pieces, trade shows, store environments, and retail packaging” (Neumeier, 92). This idea is so simple and can be used by any company. Apple mimics its store after its products. The store front is clean and usually either white or silver with huge, clear windows. The store is white and clean. The products are spaced evenly and uncluttered. Everything is available to touch and play with. Even their employees are dressed the same in simple t-shirts. There isn’t even a busy register and line, each employee has their own pocket Apple product that can ring a customer up. “It starts with a zag, and continues by aligning all the customer experiences with the zag” creating the ultimate package that “stands out from the clutter” (Neumeier, 92). Apple’s packaging aligns with this idea of being simple and straightforward. Even their commercials are on a solid color background. Being in their store creates a technologically advanced experience that causes customers to desire their products.

Any company can create this environment in their store if they have a strong enough brand. Creating an experience is all about using the brand and transforming it into a physical place. The best way to think about it is by imaging the brand as a person. For example, if Apple was a person, what type of clothes would they wear? Where would they like to shop? What kind of music do they listen to? What does their bedroom look like? If a company can give definite answers to these questions then they have a strong enough brand to create the ultimate shopping experience.

Work Cited:

Bedbury, Scott, and Stephen Fenichell. A New Brand World: 8 Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Neumeier, Marty. Zag : the Number-one Strategy of High-performance Brands : a Whiteboard Overview. Berkeley, CA: AIGA, 2007. Print.

Photos courtesy of starbucks.com, americanradioworks.com, and triplenetmarcus.wordpress.com




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