One of the last projects I was a part of in Vancouver was a campaign called The Weak Shop for a dairy marketing board. Basically to inform teens of the sustained energy benefits of milk over surgery alternatives we created a product line of inventions for those not drinking enough milk and therefore feeling a little weak in need of some help to get through everyday tasks.
All these products were taken through to a prototype stage with an industrial designer and the first few have been manufactured or available for download. Oh, and we did some ads promoting these things as any product line would do.
But my favorite part, and the most difficult, was opening up a real live retail store. Digital, film, overseas manufacturing and software production were combined far easier than opening up a retail shop. Above is a beauty shot of our purposely not overly polished shop late the evening before opening. We categorized the retail store as part of our earned media element – which actually was almost all the budget as we paid for very little media. Essentially we made things - physical and digital - that earned engagement. Each could stand on its own yet worked together. Earned media to us consisted of PR, social media and anyone we enticed enough to walk through the door of our store.
It is interesting seeing the shift at the moment back to physical things as part of an digitally enabled ecosystem of a campaign/brand. This campaign specifically was targeted at teenagers. We had embedded ourselves in high schools and homes to get an honest sense of how teens are using media. There was a lot of information available on the subject but we wanted a deeply tangible and applicable understanding.
Not surprisingly, teens in the market of our research were all over this internet thing. Duh. But we really noticed a complete lack of “medium of choice” as markety types like to say. They index high against nearly all media channels. They just go where something interesting is, and that can come from anywhere. At times from multiple places simultaneously.
We also noticed, reflreshingly, teens spend a tremendous amount of time talking to each other and hanging out figuring out what they “gonna do.” Yes, despite the endless deluge of industry articles with “death of xyz” headlines teens actually hang out, talk to each other and awkwardly try to fit in while figuring out what they want to be when they grow up. In particular at school where despite phones in everyone’s pockets they spend 98% of their time looking each other in the eye (at least those with a bit of confidence) and talk. Laugh, kid, joke and share things they did, do or saw.I have a hunch if you replaced the word teen in the prior two paragraphs with the word "human" the findings probably hold true.
The store was amazing.
It was like real time campaign and ethnography all in one. This post by designer Ben on Portland’s
pop up program got me thinking again about retail. Not just as a sales channel but the ultimate marketing
channel. In North America farmers
markets are popping up in every neighbourhood – one can presume to satisfy the
need for good food but also the physicality of feeling part of an event with
real people milling about. It is amazing the power of an interesting and welcoming shop to draw folk in just to mill about and be curious.
When retail pop up type things seem to work best is when the feel like an honest expression of the brand. Not a money grab or cookie cutter execution by some street team specialist hired out of an archaic budget line for “below the line” activations.
However, the real idea that enabled anything was the creation of a product line true to the brand and its business problem. Which is why I love the VB Drinking Chips.
Increasingly as the quality and functionality of broadcast, web and mobile all merge together they increasingly become what they are - just various forms of media. They are all swimming in the same pool. All are incredibly powerful but also all kind of the same. Getting out of the media world and into the physical world when done well seemingly is the killer achievement. But like most things when done best, it probably seamlessly uses the physical and media (replace media with ‘digital’ if you like) worlds.
Or at least that seemed to make sense while we did it. And if you are wondering, yes, business results have been good. Very good.