Tag Archives: brand strategy

What it takes…

Brands want to be innovative and catching with their customers. They seek to connect on an emotional level. Designers need to deliver concepts that can facilitate this goal. Creating such a strategic design takes a lot of very deep considerations – for the brand, its back ground, history, people, message,operations, sales, intent and culture – and for the customers, who are seeking innovation and a unique experience.

A good strategic brand concept  for a store translates into designs at all scales that are custom tailored to the brand, its expression to the customer and its operational requirements.We task ourselves to invent environments that facilitate truly unique consumer/user experiences.

I will illustrate this along the following case study:

My first substantial task with MAC Cosmetics was to create a new retail store environment for them. The brand is rooted in professional make up artistry with a strong emphasis on individual creative expression.

mac cosmetics design

MAC Cosmetics design

Our first considerations were explorations as to what the environments, in which make up artists work, looked like and what did and did not work.It was clear that we needed something that was adaptable and flexible to suit the individual needs and promote the artists. A sort of open stage with a flexible arrangement of functional fixtures and tools. In response we developed a modular fixture system that could be re-arranged to endless configurations by any one without the use of tools.we sketched, drew and built models until we knew what worked.

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For the feel of the space we wanted it to be unique to the brand and the products, so we needed something that linked the environment to the idea of products applied to skin. We wanted it to be recognizable that this environment is made to showcase make-up and no other product. So we considered the theme of skin and its organic characteristics. We invented a material to skin our modular fixtures so that consumer would have a memorable touch sensation when getting in contact with our fixtures. Those top skins were equally modular so they would not impact the flexibility of the fixtures below. In line with this idea we developed displays from an animated scenario of attractors that simulated the interaction around the fixture through customers. It created organic displays, onto which we organized product along elevation lines similar to the lines found on maps of mountains.

Image converted using ifftoany

 

 

 

 

counter top wireframe

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all displayers

 

The long design process eventually led to beautiful sculptural objects. Some of the we lit from below to accentuate their shapes.

 

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lipstick copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further we developed accessories like hand mirrors with an organic look and touch to emphasize the theme of skin and beauty. The concept needs to apply at all scales. They were paired with sensor activated water fountains that emerged from the counter top skin creating another impactful organic moment.

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The space itself also needed to speak the same formal language so we created concept touch points through out the store such as areas where we”peeled” the floor off the ground to form an organic enclosure for privacy or  “melted” the ceiling to a softer, organic form or poured a thick 1″ layer of clear Urethane on the floor, to soften the hardness of the space. We choose finishes that contrasted and gave a dynamic quality to the space. The fixtures ended up being built from cement board and a custom formulated Poly Urethane. The space had elements of concrete and acrylic, rather neutral for it to function as a presentation stage for the sculptural fixtures.

 

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The whole effort of 4 months of design, 8 months of development and 4 months of construction resulted in an engaging, unique and innovative environment.

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MAC Cosmetics / New York

 

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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retail tech outlook

The big news over the past couple of weeks in the retail and fashion tech space was of course the concept of Amazon drones, but multiple other stories grabbed the headlines too. Here’s a highlight of the best ones…

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  • IBM’s Watson explores the great e-commerce unknown with The North Face [AdAge]
  • What Instagram Direct means for fashion brands (as pictured) [Fashionista]
  • Barneys creates holiday .gif guide to appeal to younger consumers [Luxury Daily]
  • Harrods’ Christmas Weibo campaign engages London’s Chinese tourist influx [Jing Daily]
  • Karmaloop targets millennials with YouTube and Snapchat holiday plan [AdWeek]
  • Kmart’s ‘Ship My Pants’ gets the Dickens treatment for Christmas [AdAge]
  • Native advertising: the pros and cons [WWD]
  • Designing the next generation of wearables, with women in mind [Fast Company]
  • With 3-D printing, clothing that leaves out the sewing machine [NY Times]
  • Mallzee is a Tinder-esque shopping app that lets your friends play fashion police [TechCrunch]
  • Start-up Thread is building a scalable personal styling service, blending human stylists and intelligent algorithms [BoF]
  • Instagram is the ‘best platform for brands’ in 2013, beating out Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ [Venture Beat]
  • Retailers look to their best customers, not bloggers, as the new influencers [Fashionista]
  • Gap’s ad with Sikh model Waris Ahluwalia defaced with racist graffiti, drawing incredible response from company [Huffington Post]

(Reblogged from Fashion and Mash)

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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all bespoke

Many brands have evolved over many years after establishing themselves in the market. Once the positioning is solid they reach out for a greater consumer share in the need of bigger market share. It’s a tricky decision process for brand leaders as they have to decide to expand beyond their core position. Luxury brands have been observed to create sub brands to address the middle income customer, watering down critically their brand  sometimes dangerously close to  a brand image loss by alienating their core high end customer. The (sub) brand is suddenly found in outlet shopping malls and similar giving access to a customer that the high end loyalist would prefer to distinguish themselves from.

However  we can see an increasing contrary trend of brands expanding upwards  to balance out the offering and getting back the ultra exclusive clientele. The key word is “bespoke”, quite the original concept of “couture”, where goods are being customized for the customer. Below is a most recent example about what Prada is doing.

September 20, 2013

Prada’s Made to Order Collection Finishes Worldwide Tour in Milan

Prada RTW Spring 2014

“Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.”

Photo By Stéphane Feugère

Prada RTW Spring 2014

“Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.”

Photo By Stéphane Feugère

MILAN — The “Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.” No, it’s not the working title of a new fashion-satire TV show, but an initiative Prada has been developing quietly for some time. The most recent addition: furs, a lineup of 35 intricately crafted coats in mink, sable and long-haired goat.

The collection has been on a worldwide tour since April, touching cities including Singapore, Moscow, Prague, Beijing, Tokyo, Beverly Hills, London, Dubai and Paris. The last stop is Milan, where the collection is on view — and for sale — through today at a frescoed early-20th-century villa on Via Melzi d’Eril. The property is owned by Prada and was the site of Miuccia Prada’s first fashion show in 1988.

The ground-floor salons were redone for the event. Furnishings include an arrangement of Prada’s saffiano leather trunks in onyx black and Verner Panton sofas reproduced exclusively for the house. Prada herself chose the major art pieces on display, including works by Enrico Castellani, Emilio Vedova and Damien Hirst.

This by-appointment-only initiative allows top customers to order designs unavailable at retail and to have those pieces made to measure. Delivery is within two months of the order. In addition to the furs, the program includes sizable ranges of custom handbags and shoes.

The feather-light furs, made in-house and by hand in Tuscany’s Fucecchio, include mink with hand-cut strips sewn into a chevron motif; sable with tulle lining, and stretch fox (worked on elastic net) lined with chiffon. Each solid-hued style is available in a number of colors; the hibiscus-motif from the recent cruise collection, in custom combinations. Similarly, the accessories are offered in various materials, 25 colors each of crocodile and ostrich, and 35 of silk. Shoes can be soled in black and pink, to which clients can add their initials, either embossed or studded.

The project focuses on two aspects of the Prada’s luxury oeuvre: craftsmanship and superior service. “Our aim was to create an environment that could express the quintessence of how luxury can be absolute and exclusive, as every single detail can be personalized,” said Stefano Cantino, Prada Group communications and external relations director.

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illusion in retail

As retail transforms increasingly into a world of leisure and entertainment today’s designers have to be able to craft environments able to tell stories and to amuse. Retail is standing in for the historic circus, constantly re-inventing its content  to entertain people with surprising effects and acts. The product is no longer the only intent of the visit when the retail space has become a social market place to meet, exchange, learn and discover. Cool hunters are out to be the first ones to discover the uncovered, unusual and unexpected.

Visual effects are tools that we borrow from theater design because they can support a story with a lasting emotional imprint. Sometimes a simple tactic can create a surprising illusion that fully transforms an environment to a fantastical un-real world. While such techniques usually have a short life span (once you have seen it, you are over it) they certainly contribute for the brand to be talked about. Like the buzz around an artshow.

Such effects can be found increasingly executed through new technologies of all kinds but my experience has told me to stay away from high tech solutions in retail as they are usually not suited for 20hrs of operations 7 days a week and when they break it leaves a very dull space behind. The tactics I am referring to are low tech with high impact.

To illustrate I am listing some  examples here below:

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comme des garçons in New York

Marking Entry: The futuristic entry into this store stands in opposition to the building. It is a threshold into a different world behind like the entry to a fairy tale.

Viktor&Rolf-Upside Down Store - Milan

Viktor&Rolf-Upside Down Store – Milan

Inversion: An even more literal take on the fairy tale this entire store was build upside down.

Camper New York

Camper New York

Repetition: An iconic products defines the whole environment.

Pop up store LVMH

Pop up store LVMH

Villa Moda - Dubai

Villa Moda – Dubai

Texture: Color pattern desorient and define the geometry of the space.

das brot - wolfsburg

das brot – wolfsburg

Ad absurdum: The unexpected use of roofing material on the inside.

Zeferino - Sao Paolo

Zeferino – Sao Paolo

Proportions: The distortion of the proportions creates an extreme spatial feel.

MAC Cosmetics New York

MAC Cosmetics New York

Unexpected behavior: Architectural elements peel away, destabilizing the environment.

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despresso – New York

Illusion: The space has seemingly been rotated to the side.

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Maison Magiela – Miami

Stage set: Fake doors & paper thin walls show an unreal setting.

Godiva - Tokyo

Godiva – Tokyo

Fairy Tale Effects

It is with such tools that designers can create memorable results which provoke internal reflection and intellectual engagements that create discussion, criticism and attention, all aspects that a brand would normally wish for.

 

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the importance of the experience

Human perception is built from experiences. Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event. The word “experience” may refer to mentally unprocessed immediately perceived events.One may also differentiate between physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and virtual experiences.

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For all matter the experience is directly connected to the emotional memory imprint we take a way from a lived situation and therefore of essence when pre-defined to achieve the goal of connecting a human to a specific situation, space, object or story.

When we design spaces, whether they are for residential or commercial purposes, we are setting the stage for the experiences that will happen to people, who will be using them. In the case of a theater the stage is exactly tailored to the story of the play with the goal to support or even enhance the story.

Retail, for example, is not much different. The more defined the story is, the more specific the space can be designed to enhance it. It is therefore essential to successful retail design to go beyond space and furniture planning, to a place, where the story, that will be told, is defined primarily.What good is a pretty store if the story is not told well and no emotions evoked?

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The story, that defines the brand, is ultimately what will drive the experience the brand wants their consumers to have.

At omni//form we have developed this process over years.We story board,animate or write out the experience. It involves a deeper understanding of human behavior, trends and fads in various cultural context. We try to think like the people, who will use our designs and research their likings, preferences, habits and rituals. For that we constantly update our global consciousness of cultural and sociological developments and trends. It allows us to create a vision around the scenarios that we have to accommodate and gives us a leading principle to the design development.

I believe that good design starts with interest for its user. It emerges out of consideration to create experiences that leave a positive emotional memory. That is what will make everyone return for more.

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who do YOU think could improve their retail experience? – leave us a note.

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world

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merchandising strategy for multi brand environments

There are many different ways and strategic rules about store merchandising.

The food industry has probably best mastered product placement to maximize productivity through consideration in ergonometrics, easy of product access, visibilities, category management, adjacencies and shelf life as can be found in every better food market around the world. We can learn a lot from these strategies.

the leading example

the leading example
food merchandising

The human factor plays the most important role. In the end the products are to be sold to us humans and we have certain constraints in where we can reach, what we can see. We usually shop with an underlying need. Most consumers in a store are either looking for a specific type item or they browse to find a solution to a need (like a gift for someone or a dress for a night out or a hunt for a suitable accessory). In the professional world we call these “consumer need states” and I think that these serve really well as merchandising strategies.

Specifically in a multi-brand environment. A classic way of merchandising such a floor would be to give each brand its own space. Think of a department store and you can visualize how each brand has a dedicated area within its department. The problem with that is that it does not respond to the consumer need.

the traditional department store setup

the traditional department store setup

For example: A customer enters a department store’s men section with the need for a tuxedo. Every brand lives in its own silo, hence he is forced to look for the same item over and over again to compare as he moves from brand to brand. It is also difficult to compare choices as the various models he finds are not next to each other. Instead why not merchandise the floor according his need state? In this example it would be better to have all tuxedos together with all the accessories needed for a black tie event one area. Brands can still be sub-distinguished within that area to keep their identities. So the ties & bows, cuff links, shoes, belts all live adjacent to the tuxedos as it is done in supermarkets with pasta and pasta sauce.  It will not only make the consumer’s life easier, but he will also be more engaged to buy more because the whole “look” is laid out in front of him.

Or why is a customer, who comes for a blowout and style to the hair salon in the department store, not offered a makeup consultation or shown make up products at the same time to achieve a complete look? Or why can’t a business man, who looks to outfit his next business trip, find everything he would need to pack for in one place?

Shopping is partially entertainment today. To entertain we need to tell stories to people. Theme worlds are just that.  Customers will do much easier in a preset themed area than having to piece it together by themselves. So, while some stores have adapted such concepts, we wonder why such a setup cannot be found more often? Wouldn’t it make shopping in department stores so much more convenient and enjoyable?

merchandising themes (need states)

merchandising themes (need states)

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic design firm
with specialization in global retail concepts and roll-outs

http://www.omniform.us

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roll out strategy

When retailers decide to take their brand abroad they know they must implement  a strategy of brand identity that represents them at best and stays relevant in the very diverse world of global retail. For a while the formula has been to develop a scheme that prescribes a predefined look at point-of-sales and as many standardized guidelines as possible to assure consistency in the brand message wherever they would go to open a new store.

What we realized though after a few years of this practice is that the world of retail started turning into a dull and very uninspiring scenario: everywhere you would go, you would see the exact same carbon copies of store concepts. Merchandising and window displays were the same and consumers could not differentiate any longer if they were in a mall in China, the US, Brazil or the UK. On the other side the local markets felt like they were imposed a retail scheme that, while representing the brand at its best, did often not really click with local consumers.

What was missing was the integration of cultural context.

Today we are looking at international roll-out designs with a different perspective. We like to design retail scenarios that follow a strong brand concept, previously developed at the heart of the brand. However, the declinations throughout the world are developed with cultural relevance to the local markets. These sometimes small variations to the original concept are key elements to hit the love-mark with a customer. Consumers in foreign countries have different shopping habits. We all follow cultural rituals, we have learned from early on, influenced by our heritage and culture. So it is no surprise that things are done differently in Japan or in Saudi Arabia than in the US. It is more likely to create a successful retail environment by learning these behavioral variations and adapting them into the design concept.

When we took Mauboussin, the french jeweler from Place Vendome in Paris, to Casablanca such adaptation seemed necessary. Even though there is a long-lasting affinity between France and Morocco there is a strong difference in the cultural context as well as behavioral patterns. Led by tradition and religion the role of men and women are very different from the western model, hence the shopping rituals, especially for jewelry – often a prestige object to show affection between the two – had to be taken into consideration.

So for this store we made two major adaptations that I list here as example to support my theory above:

1. we included a women only tea salon. The idea was to encourage women to come on their own as we provided a “safe” environment for them. This unit is attached to the retail store, which enables women to meet with their friends and family without male company and combine that with a shopping experience, which otherwise would be less accessible.

2. we removed the cash desk from the sales floor. This creates a decent environment, where money transactions are being conducted in privacy, secluding the sensitive part  from the communal shopping experience. A very important scenario for male customers in this cultural context, who do not want their shopping partners to see what they are spending.

In addition we adopted local materials and construction techniques in some areas into the design to create recognition to traditional crafts and therefore connect to local customers on an emotional level. For example the facade was covered in broken tiles, a technique found in many residences in Morocco, enriched with sparkling pieces here to make it look precious. Interior walls were covered with Tadelakt, a rich plaster and application method unique to this country. Further we created lace covered moldings on the wall reflecting on the rich local culture of embroidery. All of this did not distort the image of the brand but instead gave it a meaningful interpretation. Now, 2 years after the store opened, we can attest that our strategy was successful as the store has become a staple in its hometown.

Exterior facade cladding realized with local broken tiles

Exterior facade cladding realized with local broken tiles

Interiors - Tadelakt and lace molding

Interiors – Tadelakt plaster finish and lace molding

Tea Salon

Tea Salon

Mauboussin, Boulevard Al Massira Al Khadra, Casablanca, Morocco

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brand upgrade

Following up on my previous post I feel obligated to mention the new Victoria Secret Flagship UK Store on New Bond Street around the corner, which just recently opened up. This strip, which is known for luxury retail, has now been conquered by a “masstige” retailer. Certainly this must be seen as their high-end version to justify this location. The upgrade is done with a chic facade all in black, showcasing theatrical window displays introducing a nightclub/cabaret theme that features the infamous angel models in stage light settings.

To encourage  full accessibility and break down any possible barriers of customer hold back towards expensive looking environments the proven formula of wide open doors leading into a dark mysterious space pumping with music, as seen in their sister brands such as Abercrombie&Fitch or  Hollister,  is also applied here. The customer sees the most glamorous part of the store from the entrance, the fragrance area, boosting crystal glass, mirrors and lots of reflections in the dark.  A grand oversized video wall of beautiful girls literally pulls anyone in, who cannot resist to the sexual undertone of this palace of senses. The cabaret theme carries throughout the store in variations, its darkness allowing to remain unrecognized while giving way to intriguing illusions of perfect beauty and sexual retail fantasies.

Retail theater at its best.

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Victoria Secret London

Victoria Secret london -video wall

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Get them in! strategic planning_part 1

One of the most important questions for every shop owner is: how do I get customers to come into my shop? I would like to analyze two very different strategic approaches on how a storefront design can support a potential customers decision.

The first storefront example is the one of the stores omni//form designed for French jeweler “Mauboussin” in Singapore (see previous post for more on that store).

First we took a very atypical approach to the storefront by making it floor-to-ceiling glass. Jewelry stores are usually closed off or “shielded” to convey secured value and provide privacy to a customer, who is ready to spend money. This brand’s aim is to deconstruct that old fashioned notion and instead to reposition itself as being fashionable, young and accessible. The openness of the facade is the first tactic to convey this message.

The second tactic is the logo. It’s the far communicator. Its size is readable from across the street. It sits on a bar that not only illuminates it for better reading but that also guides the eye to the entrance door. The logo acts as an underlined title to the display window area below.

Next is the store front content, which is structured in 3 layers or tactics:

1-The immediate window display plays on the notion of discovery. Open displays -“treasure boxes”- are setup for discovery and tease the viewer with select merchandise. They are internally lit and thus each create a highlight that draws attention.

2-The feather curtain acts as a back drop to the window displays to isolate them out of the interior context but simultaneously allows a peek into the vestibule of the boutique because of its sheer quality. The space behind is conceived around a central cascading chandelier fixture over product displays, which serves as focal point. This visual magnet can be “previewed” from outside to generate interest and desire to enter and explore.

3-The interior of the store can be glimpsed at from outside through two openings from the vestibule. This is crucial for a jewelry store that would typically suffer from what I call “threshold angst” as a hesitance to enter in fear of being engaged with an environment that does not suit the customer’s financial status. In this case the guard is down and customers can see what it is like inside, deconstructing the angst upfront. It also re-enforces the notion of an all inclusiveness supporting the brand message of accessibility.

The overall theme for this design was accessibility and discovery in a attempt to recruit a broader customer range.

A very contrary example to this is a store front we designed years earlier before the brand decided to change its positioning. This store was built in New York, on Madison Avenue. The aim was to convey exclusivity and a secure environment for precious goods. It was in line with the expected customer in this neighborhood, where the most exclusive stores settle and people come to spend money.

regis pean+omni//form strategic planning example

Here the logo was reduced to a decent hint to communicate exclusivity.

The storefront communicates a curated selection of merchandise but does not offer additional layered information.  The inside of the boutique remains an experience to explore for the ones who dare or belong.

The entrance is marked by a bright and sparkling opening in the otherwise dark store front.  Full glass doors offer a peek into a glitzy vestibule, which leads the way to the real entrance door further in. The passing of two door thresholds was introduced to re-enforce the ideas of safety and privacy.

The shop window displays draw attention similar to the first example. Bright lights create contrast and highlights for the eyes to fall on. Brand iconic treasure boxes are opened up for discovery. Here is where the brand communicates its offering. But additional information is very limited: cropped openings in the back drop around the displays allow for a peek into the vestibule behind and the ones, who look carefully through the center opening, as it aligns with the entrance door behind, are rewarded with a peek into the boutique. The goal was to  raise interest and desire to explore the tease. The theme in this example plays on intriguing luxury for the Madison Avenue customer.

Both examples show how strategic design tactics can create very opposite effects while achieving the same goal: to get customers into the store!

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Tell a good story!

I came across this great article on storytelling which I will simply paste in here below. This is very relevant where Design is supposed to bring marketing ideas to life. -Enjoy!

“Storytelling” has fast become a bit of a buzzword in the marketing world, particularly as brands struggle to set themselves apart and keep consumers engaged in the age of social media. However, storytelling in marketing requires a focused approach. It is no longer a matter of assembling and broadcasting top-down product strategies to attract consumers. The rapid acceleration in the digital space means that customers want to engage with brands in a personal, interactive way.

Here are a few tips that companies should use when defining or refining their brand story:

Get Perspective and Mean It

Every company brings its own history, vision, and attitude to its work, whether it is in the fashion, manufacturing, or public sector. Campaigns must grab attention with a distinct point of view—i.e. a sense of purpose for the marketing initiative—and arrest consumers with focused content, interesting graphics, and memorable elements.

Point of view in marketing campaigns does not have to be a regurgitation of an entire corporate vision. On the contrary, it should be a snippet, a tidbit, or a personal story. It is most important to leave consumers in amazement at what they just experienced and thus with a sense that your company stands apart from competitors.

Have a Plot and Not Just Famous People

In addition to a unique point of view, brand campaigns need an overarching plot to link elements of a marketing strategy together. Again, this does not need to be epic, but should have a solid beginning, middle, and end.

Advertising often falls victim to the celebrity complex of having a famous person doing a selected activity while somehow engaging with the product in hand. Perfume ads are particularly guilty of this approach. Campaigns need to answer the consumer question, “Why should I care?” in order to be effective and stimulating.

Be Bold, Not Just Creative

The adage of thinking outside the box is obvious, but marketing strategy now more than ever needs to be audacious, authentic, and flexible to register across platforms. Messaging should be true to a brand’s vision yet tailored to a product’s unique characteristics.

The ongoing London Olympics is a perfect example of a major marketing failure on the part of many advertisers. While some have worked to build athletes’ stories into the fabric of their normal ads, they often lose a sense of brand purpose in the effort. For instance, Proctor & Gamble’s ads dedicated to mothers provides a memorable backdrop to the Olympic stories of athletes and are highly effective at generating consumer emotional response. Yet, these ads arguably edge towards a brand identity crisis because they leave you trying to remember what the company makes and how the commercial connects to it.

Jessica Quillin, Ph.D., is a co-founder of Atelier 36, a strategic consultancy focused on solutions for the luxury, fashion, beauty, and lifestyle industries.  You can follow her on Twitter @Atelier36.

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