Evolving Your Brand’s Perception: Experience is Reality
There has never been a more important time for a retailer than the present. Consumer spend has shifted to focus on essentials, and to follow, most retailers are dramatically revamping their strategic approach. To stay relevant, it’s paramount that retailers evolve their brand perception to survive Q4 and beyond.
The brand isn't the logo over the door or a pyramid diagram in a PowerPoint document; in retail, the brand is the experience. As a consumer strolls down the aisles of Sephora, they know in their head and heart if the brand connects with them. Their perception is immediate and tangible. However, with consumers stuck in homes, the question becomes how to get them to care for your brand. The answer: Make the brand experience a part of their reality.
Steps to Ensure Your Brand’s Perception is Evolving
Back in March, the phrase “vital” became associated with select brands and retailers. Consumers’ worlds became very small as their minds transferred to protection mode. Buying desires became simplistic and focused on the need of food, shelter and water security, as people looked to stock up on brands such as Evian and Charmin. Now, as we enter this next phase of the pandemic and re-engage with brands, retailers need to focus on how they will align with consumers’ “vital” state of mind. Consider the following steps:
- Re-evaluate: Every brand should re-evaluate how, if at all, it's culturally relevant. If an existing brand, your focus needs to center on how to re-engage with previous customers. A great example of this is Uber. The ride-sharing service has transformed its business to now focus on food delivery. While it may be a reach to say Uber has evolved from people transport to culinary experts, it has massively transformed to become a vital brand in today’s world.
- Listen: There has never been a more important time for brands to listen. Over the past five years, our world has gone algorithm and bot crazy. Now, consumers demand a need for interaction. Airbnb has found a way to deliver on this by providing human interaction through virtual learning experiences and classes. By communicating and listening to customers, Airbnb has evolved its brand perception from being purely about the physical space to offering online experiences such as mixology and Hebrew classes.
- Show empathy: Brands not only need to be relatable, but empathetic. Rather than focus on the physical distance and uncertainty, this is an opportunity for brands to provide positives and create future family experiences. For example, Walmart has been leading the charge, acting as a resource to the community with initiatives like its parking lot cinemas and virtual summer camps.
What’s Next for Places of Experience?
As brands evolve to listen, re-evaluate and empathize with consumers' quickly changing lifestyles, there now lies an opportunity to create a new interpretation of richer, more emotional moments in-store.
Will grocers transform their spaces to open markets or tasting stores? Or perhaps upscale gyms offer space for mental health exercises and competitions. Either way, it’s important to remember that as brands evolve their perception, retailers can’t just be about commodity per square foot. Brands need to focus on going from places of product to places of experience. When it comes to brand perception, a brand’s experience is its reality.
Alasdair Lennox is group executive creative director of experience, Americas for Landor & FITCH, the largest specialist brand and design group in the world.
Alasdair Lennox is the Executive Creative Director for brand and retail consultancy FITCH. He is a FITCH mainstay, having been there for 20-plus years, starting his career as a junior environmental designer and working his way up. He even trained under its founder, Rodney Fitch (how many ECDs can say that?). Alasdair is a design junkie, who truly understands with every brand project he works on, that they key is to sell more products and win more fans…. A feat which boils down to design. As in, it’s all about design, from product to storefront to consumer experiences.
Outside of work, Alasdair is heavily involved in charities supporting men with mental illnesses (something he sees as a close tie in with the creative world), and is an avid collector of vintage dive watches (again, he loves functional, aesthetic-pleasing design). Originally from Great Britain and now living in Brooklyn, Alasdair went to school in both the UK and Catalonia. Under his guidance, FITCH has scored major wins at Cannes Lions and the World Retail Awards. He has extensive experience in both strategic and creative assignments for a wide variety of clients, including adidas, Miele, McLaren, Nespresso and Enterprise.