Retail Is Not Dead
Storytelling Through the Physical Environment
The physical world offers a powerful storytelling experience because it appeals to each of the five senses. Consumers physically feel the brand story – feeling the softness of a sweater or inhaling the new-leather smell of a jacket. The best of the best take it a step further, connecting that story by hitting on different emotions. The #RISEABOVE tour did that by targeting inner-city communities that were rarely the focus of large brand marketing efforts, prompting impromptu block parties as families rallied around the truck to try on shoes and talk to Jordan Brand ambassadors. The #ImNotaBox campaign also appealed to consumers' emotions with a moving video of a young boy building a homeless man a home with a Zappos box.
The best storytellers bring the digital into the physical in a meaningful way that reinforces the story and adds value to a customer's experience. Rather than simply replicating ad materials or a website on in-store flat screens, for example, the display might change based on how the consumer interacts with the product in the physical world – for instance, with a sensor that triggers content about cushioning and tread when the customer examines the sole of a shoe.
In London, Burberry ran a campaign inspired by its monogrammed scarves that allowed passers-by to create a customized scarf on their smartphones and broadcast it (and change the direction it was flying in) across the famous curved screen in Piccadilly Circus. Consumers then shared the experience they had via their social channels, fueling a campaign that went far beyond the experience itself.
This tactic taps into consumer behavior itself. When something is special, people tend to want to share it. Millennials, for example, are a socially driven generation that has grown up with and expect high-quality experiences. Shopping for this group, which has surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest living generation, is more socially connected than ever. That's why 81 percent of Millennials' dollars are still spent in stores, not online, according to NPD Group. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are looking to share experiences with their family and friends, and some brands are tapping into that by creating events that bring the whole family together. Brands that tell stories, invite interaction, and encourage sharing can attract and convert consumers into purchasers.