Talking Brands: What brands could be a great fit for an engaging retail experience?

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes picks the brains of Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler and Jim White for their suggestions of IP-driven in-store activations.

Primark’s shop in Manchester is a really good example of a retailer making the most of their shop space, blending in additional activities to draw consumers into store and – I guess – keep them there for longer.

I know they also have a vintage clothing concession in-store as well which has allowed them to tap into the growing interest in vintage clothing and upcycling. HMV is also a good example of a retailer that uses their estate proactively to immerse themselves into the local community and to dial up their credentials. In their case they host gigs featuring local bands; a great link to their heritage in music.

I think there is definitely scope for more branded content in shops with cafes and restaurants being good examples. I can imagine FMCG companies being interested in this, as well as entertainment companies. A brand owner like Unilever would potentially be able to deliver a multi-brand opportunity. An entertainment brand like Peaky Blinders could translate well into a barbers or a tattoo parlour.

Ian Downes, Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler, Jim White

There’s also scope for retailers to link up with local sports clubs or museums. In Oxford, for example, I can see good potential in a city centre retailer working with The Ashmolean Museum to create a ‘mini museum’ linked to an exclusive product range developed with the museum. This could dovetail with a specific exhibition or theme that resonates with the local community or visitors.

I also think trends like personalisation provide good opportunities for retailers. Brands like Snugzy have operated pop ups in retailers like Selfridges. I imagine this sort of thing being an attractive feature for retailers, not least as it could create a distinct point of difference. I can also see scope in more specialist categories Iike pet care… A Gromit’s Dog Grooming Parlour, for example!

Ian Downes, Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler, Jim White

As the Primark’s Central Perk example shows, licensing can help create a unique retail experience and deliver content that engages with consumers. I expect to see more examples of this type of development in retailing soon.

To get more ideas as to what these experiences might look like, I asked Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler and Jim White for their suggestions for IP-driven in-store activations.

Richard Pink, Pink Key LicensingRichard Pink, MD, Pink Key Licensing
It’s extremely tempting when asked a question like this to focus on your own brands… So I will!

The obvious one for me has been the idea of Kellogg’s breakfast experience. Many people walk past or into these retail outlets first thing in the morning and there’s such an array of breakfast options – cereal, porridge, cereal bars, breakfast smoothies, as well as a traditional fry-up – the whole concept almost writes itself.

I also believe that, from a retail perspective, it’s a real traffic builder guaranteed to drive early morning shopper footfall for weekdays and weekends. It’s also scalable to work in large and small retail outlets.

Ian Downes, Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler, Jim White

The important thing about an idea like this is that it has to have authenticity to work well – this is where the idea behind Primark’s Central Perk won out, as it has a genuine experience at its core. Elsewhere, Anya Hindmarch does this concept extremely well, converting one of her own retail spaces into a number of different retail outlets and changing it five or six times a year.

The important thing is that the outlet that ‘pops up’ is genuine; it’s not a gimmick. Yes it has a twist, but when I visited her ice cream shop, it looked like a permanent feature. Four weeks on and it’s a fully kitted out stationery shop!

The ice cream concept also makes me believe that there is something that could be done with the SLUSH PUPPiE brand. Its interactive, fun and works for parents and kids alike. It has great memories for all about trips to the seaside when you were a kid… A seaside store within a store – boasting a selection of SLUSH PUPPiEs – sounds like an excellent way for a retailer to drive footfall on the weekend when families are out shopping together.

Ian Downes, Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler, Jim White

Caroline Mickler, Caroline Mickler LtdCaroline Mickler, MD, Caroline Mickler Ltd
“How The Beatles have married music and merchandise in a truly immersive and dynamic retail offering” is a headline that should become a reality.

We all know the emotional connection that music has with people of all ages and backgrounds. The Beatles’ body of work and its sheer diversity is unquestionably unique and their music is as relevant today as it ever was. When The Beatles released new music, no one knew what to expect – it was always exciting and visionary, immediately becoming the soundtrack for the times… How exciting would it be to bring that talent and energy into a truly engaging retail space?

Retailers have seen the benefits of collaborating with The Beatles. Both Harvey Nichols in Dubai and Bloomingdales in New York have run major Beatles in store projects. Each window in Harvey Nichols paid homage to individual album covers, enticing consumers into the store to enjoy a curated range of Beatles merchandise, as well as walk around a gallery of Beatles photos. Bloomingdales hand-picked top designers – from Paul Smith and Marc Jacobs to Turnbull & Asser – to design exclusive pieces for exciting Beatles boutiques in their stores. So successful was the project that it was repeated a further two times.

Ian Downes, Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler, Jim White

Now, with the extraordinarily sophisticated levels of technology and AI available to retailers, the opportunity for a visionary retailer to create an immersive and visceral experience for the consumer is here.

Imagine a contemporary take on the popular listening booths found in record stores in the 1960s… Only the ‘listening booth’ of today could – with the use of AR headsets – connect the consumer with not only The Beatles’ music but immerse them in a visual wonderland utilising film and performance footage from throughout their careers.

Elements of this could then be utilised to create the backdrop to a contemporary shopping experience that not only offers physical product, but also allows the consumer to create custom POD product. It would be perfect for that truly personalised shopping experience.

Ian Downes, Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler, Jim White

Jim White, Brand Development ExpertJim White, Brand Development Expert
In today’s retail landscape, innovation is essential in capturing the attention of consumers and enhancing the shopping experience. As inspiration, I’ve collected some initial creative ideas and thoughts for authentic future brand collaborations that elevate the retail experience.

Much like Central Perk at Primark, retailers could incorporate somewhere to eat or drink based on popular shows or movies…What about a Hogwarts/Hogsmeade-inspired café from Harry Potter? Or a Mos Eisley cantina juice bar from Star Wars? Maybe even Benny’s Burgers diner from Stranger Things?

Ian Downes, Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler, Jim White

If retailers were to join forces with gaming giants such as PlayStation or Oculus, they could establish VR corners. These interactive areas would allow customers to immerse themselves within their favourite movie or game landscapes, making shopping an adventure.

For brands that promote creative play like LEGO or Play-Doh, stores could host workshops where customers can design and take home their creations – in LEGO’s case, not just creating mini figures, but proper big sets would be amazing! Similarly, through an educational lens, collaborations with Crayola or Adobe could have art zones where customers can create artwork, learn digital design or attend art classes.

It makes me very happy to hear that HMV’s flagship store will soon be returning to Oxford Street and I’d love to see more collaborations with record labels across retail to promote talent. It would be great to see live music zones, where indie artists can perform and customers can sample the latest albums like a mini MTV Unplugged or Tiny Desk Concert in-store.

With the popularity of Barbie, Lol Girls and Disney Princess, I can envisage successful collaborations with popular beauty brands like MAC or L’Oreal leading to branded salons or spa experiences.

Ian Downes, Richard Pink, Caroline Mickler, Jim White

Partnering with sportswear brands like Nike, Adidas or Under Armour could lead to workout zones, where customers can try out sportswear or equipment in real workout sessions or even attend short fitness classes.

It’s vital that brands continue to do everything they can to align with sustainability principles and I can see those promoting eco-friendliness like Patagonia, Lush or The Body Shop hosting workshops on sustainability, up-cycling or DIY eco-products. Brands have a serious responsibility and opportunity to set the example.

For travel brands, festivals or shows, imagine a zone where customers could get a proper feel for different cultures, try out travel gear, get travel advice or attend talks – Cotswold Outdoor, Lonely Planet, Northface or Berghaus would be all be a great fit.

Before my brain starts to melt in this lovely UK Indian summer heat, thanks for reading and hope these ideas are helpful and provide a few sparks of inspiration!

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