March 6, 2018 / Industry

Brand Cathedrals

Why are retailers still seeing the internet as a threat? It’s the best thing to happen to stores since the concept of a shop was first invented.

Since the Greek Agora, the challenge for retailers has always been the same: how can we display as much sellable stock as possible in a way that tempts the customer to make a purchase?

The challenge has always essentially been stock versus sell.

How to balance using every inch to hold as many products as possible, versus the use of space to actually aid with communicating what you are selling and creating temptation.
 
Imagine if you could have told a Roman, selling garments in the forum, that he could use a distribution system that allowed people to easily find and buy his products without having to feature a single one in his stall? That he could use every single square inch to sell as none would be wasted holding stock. Do you think that would have scared him? I’ll give you a clue: he would have bitten your arm off.
 
In his book Sapiens, A brief history of humankind, Yuval Noah Harari asks: 
 
“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism?”
 
He then goes on to answer: 
 
“… You also educate people thoroughly. From the moment they are born, you constantly remind them of the principles of the imagined order, which are incorporated into anything and everything. They are incorporated into fairy tales, dramas, paintings, songs, etiquette, political propaganda, architecture, recipes and fashions.”
 
The fact is that brands are imagined concepts, just like a religion, or a even a country, and creating a lasting connection with your customer involves communication on very many levels, including through store design.
Many brands are great at advertising, marketing and social media but, if we are learning from arguably the world’s most successful beliefs: how many have a cathedral? A place in which people can really immerse themselves in your brand, fall in love with something and really permanently become part of your movement?

We need to be so thankful for the Internet's kind offer to take over as your store room and start to think what we can be doing with all that extra square footage we have been re-given.

Suddenly the place that people used to have to come to pick up products, elevates to the arena of restaurants, galleries and museums, a place that people want to spend time either on their own or even come to meet with others. Retail design is now more important than ever.

What can we be doing in-store that we simply cannot achieve online?

Human interaction, immersive experiences that people will share and remember, creating environments that people want to spend time in and learn about your products, planning to create change that makes them want to come back again and again, finding innovative and interesting ways to communicate everything that your brand has to offer both physically and emotionally.
 
Is the idea of treating a brand in the same way as a religion controlling, or even deceitful?
 
Yesterday evening, during a mood-boarding session, we printed thousands of images and laid them out across the boardroom table of our New York office. Not only did we get a great result but I was amazed, as I have been before, how a group of people can all look at the same content and all have such unique individual perspectives. Bring these unique perspectives back together and you start to see the heart of the fascinating concept that we developed together.
 
This reminded me of another part of the same book that I refer to earlier, in which Harari talks about why the human race has developed so successfully. There are bigger, stronger animals out there, even ones with relatively larger brains. It is sapiens’ ability to constructively work together that has lead us to the top of the food chain. This fact instantly explains why it is that we all innately want to be part of something.
 
Do I want to be part of the #BalmainArmy? Yes.
Do I want to go and see what Aesop have done in this specific city? Of course I do.
Do I want to go and experience Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – The Louis Vuitton Exhibition? Twice.
Am I surprised that Glossier have just surpassed Apples record of sales per square metre? No. I am not.
 
What can we learn from all of this? 
You need to think about building your brand’s cathedral.
And we would love to be part of that collaboration.