Digital Brands Going Brick & Mortar – Live Session 6/25
There’s an irony in the concern that brick and mortar is doomed to slowly erode: Some of the largest global brands are very intentionally giving birth to their brands in the physical space – in real life. Their challenge is, “How do we impactfully engage the consumer when the consumer only knows us on-screen or online?”
Google and Nickelodeon are two such examples whose thinking and executions offer key lessons for any brand. Why? Because this type of migration requires a deep understanding of what a brand stands for and the key elements of what makes a brand compelling to its consumers, says Alex Vera, Director of Creative Services at IDL Worldwide and the July 25th BrandSquare presenter on the migration of digital brands to a brick-and-mortar presence.
This goes well beyond the brand’s visual attributes and intellectual property, to what truly makes those attributes connect with the shopper and the fan. When you’ve hit on this, the transition from digital to physical is so transparent it’s almost self-evident. But when brands simply migrate their literal assets to the store setting and expect them to cue their deeper values, it’s very easy to miss the mark.
For example, Google opened its first branded retail environment – actually a shop-in-shop – in London this March. In so doing, they thought long and hard about a key element of their persona – the notion of playful innovation. Yes, Google is a tech powerhouse underneath, but think of its two core brand beacons: the ever-changing “GOOGLE” logo on its search engine and the barely human but very lovable Android for its smartphone business.
Google took this sense of playfulness and adventure to heart and delivered it in-store not just in the shop, but in their store fixtures as well. Google used a laminated wood texture that introduces a natural feel, and brought in their primary colors through a stained application. This appears in a broad range of executions, which feel comfortable and warm whether through the use of wood, lighting or accents.
The result is a retail persona that’s tactile and welcoming, and a tone that invites the sense of childlike exploration that matches what we’ve come to love about the brand through their search engine, Android platform and Google experiments delivered in the digital space.
When you walk in to the shop and see these technologies brought to life, the experiences close the loop that the retail presentation started, with the presentation providing context and color to their relationship with the consumer. Google has found opportunities to interpret its brand physically without sticking too rigidly to its traditional brand guidelines. When the shopper combines his or her understanding of Google’s vast technological expertise with this very tactile, inviting context, the result is a surprising and delightful experience that meshes the human with the digital, elevating the brand in ways that support its digital persona.
Nickelodeon’s migration to a physical space shows the same kind of deep understanding of the brand’s persona. Nick is a longstanding, iconic American brand with roots in the earliest days of cable TV and an overwhelming popularity with young people. But how did Nick interpret its evergreen properties and characters in a chaotic competitive environment for the first time? By delivering them very cleanly.
For its installation in the Times Square Toys“R”Us, Nickelodeon color-bombed the entire space orange – one dominant color drawn from its core brand. This is brilliant, because it’s on-brand but not necessarily what you expect in this context from the loud, boisterous, hey-you-can’t-do-that-on-TV home of SpongeBob SquarePants.
Nickelodeon chose to stand out with simplicity, to ID the brand and mark the space, then employ the medium it knows best to digitally implement the characters we know and love, on big bug-catcher video screens. There’s a surprising amount of physical space between the various installations, so that the orange context isn’t cluttered and obscured. And the installations themselves are geometrically precise and well organized, so that your eye can focus on them individually. Nickelodeon appears to have learned from the wiser children’s museums, employing the right balance of irreverence and focused presentation.
At that point you start to interact on the micro level, and here’s where it gets more energetic. There are buttons that say, “Do Not Touch” that, of course, you’re going to touch. Collages of characters on the columns provide visual reference and texture. Now you’re fully engaged and you say, “Yes, this is why I identify with this brand.”
There are some key lessons from Google’s and Nickelodeon’s successful interpretive executions. Consumers have come to expect that a brand promise will be delivered consistently through all touchpoints. This is the basis for omnichannel marketing. But this doesn’t mean that all – or even a lot – of the brand’s many assets have to migrate literally with it from the digital realm into the built environment.
First the brand has to peel away assets that are merely layers to arrive at those that can identify with consumers at retail most authentically. These can be a broad range of physical attributes. Google and Nickelodeon employed very different physical, real-world techniques – for Google, subtle, surprising textures; for Nickelodeon, a single iconic color.
In both examples, the brands dug deeply into their own core personalities and chose – then evolved – crucial assets to put the shopper in a place that’s both exciting and new but reassuringly familiar.