i'm with the brand

I like my gateaux like I like my Van Gogh: on display
April 2, 2010, 10:06 am
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,


Coolhunter brings us mouthwatering images of La Pâtisserie des Rêves, a Parisian bakery which displays their tantalizing wares in gallery form throughout the store. So it’s not really a bakery per se–it’s a pastry boutique, and the presentation suggests true artistry.

The best ideas are those that solve business, branding, and audience problems simultaneously, and this execution would definitely qualify: from a branding perspective, the unique presentation is a differentiator amongst the myriad bakeries dotting Paris; from a business perspective, it moves traffic more efficiently through the store and speeds transactions, relieving congestion at the counter where throngs of customers would normally mob the bakery case; and from an audience perspective, it allows patrons to unhurriedly peruse the merchandise in a playful atmosphere that elevates the various trifles from mundane commodities to little works of art, infusing pastry purchase with a sense of occasion.

It’s cool when businesses seize fresh ideas by conceiving of themselves as another type of business, a business in some other industry or category. For example, in some ways, Mini is a car company that behaves like a toy company; Virgin Air is an airline company that behaves like an entertainment company–obviously in part because the larger Virgin brand informs how they approach their airline business, but still.

This particular instance isn’t anything drastic or revolutionary, but it’s an example of how we can revitalize ourselves and learn from other disparate industries, businesses, and brands by retooling the way we think of our own, and by being open to the idea that our “best practices” may not really be the best practices.


Best Buy repurposes discarded electronics for 3D e-cycling billboard

Best Buy Billboard

I love a good 3D billboard, and this one’s pretty good. In a new billboard in Times Square, Best Buy demonstrates recycling as it promotes its free electronics recycling program. With a message composed of woebegone electronic castoffs, it cleverly draws attention and communicates its message instantly, both visually and verbally. See a closeup below, along with a couple of my other favorite 3D billboards (and one interactive!):

Billboard Closeup

Absolut Ikea

Absolut teamed up with IKEA to furnish an NYC studio, showcasing both the iconic Absolut bottle and affordable IKEA style in even the tightest of spaces


Before pedestrian complaints got it replaced by a less invasive one (proves the billboard's point!), Cingular made dropped calls literal and showed just what a nuisance they can be


In this eye-catching interactive billboard, The Economist demonstrated what a bright idea it is to read their publication--and how bright you'll be when you're well-informed--by placing a motion sensor under the bulb on their billboard so it would light up whenever someone walked under it

Pretty papercraft welcomes Topshop to Australia
December 15, 2009, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,

High TeaPost Box

Crown Jewels

Australian paper artist Benja Harney recently created a set of window and in-store displays entitled “Best of British” for the Australian launch of the British clothier Topshop, to be sold at Incu, an Australian multi-brand retailer. A part of Incu’s Window Project, whose installations tout local as well as global talent, Harney’s works will be showcased in Incu’s Paddington store. 

Celebrating the novelty and character of all things iconically British (including a Georgian post box, high tea, the crown jewels, and Heinz baked beans), the installations set a playful and heritage-centric mood for the British brand; buying Topshop is buying a little piece of Britain. (It’s exactly that subtlety that I love–it’s not pushing Topshop, it’s generating fondness for the culture to which Topshop grants access.) Having an Australian express the quintessentially British parallels Topshop’s entry into the Australian market: they’re British fashions, yes, but they’ll be represented and interpreted out in the world by Australian consumers. It’s very apropos. 

I think it’s sort of interesting that they selected for this mid-market retailer an artist that is also doing distinctive work for luxury brands like Hermes, considering that your average discount retailer’s windows are typically for moving product more than for creating artistry, brand mood. Bust as you can see from other installations from Incu’s Window Project, their approach to retail spaces is anything but average. Elevate window displays to art, and a little hi-touch high-end shine rubs off on the merchandise too. The gallery treatment suits Incu’s curator-like function as a multi-brand and aesthetically-adventurous store, of bringing in collections of interest for the edification and inspiration of locals.

Target’s holiday TV spots: jingle bells ring false
December 8, 2009, 12:15 am
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , ,

Target TV Spot

Usually a paragon of sharp branding, Target fails to deliver with its new series of holiday-themed ads. The commercials create faddishly awkward moments and draw thin humor from misunderstandings around the store’s low, low prices, but the tone isn’t Target, the visual aesthetic isn’t Target, and the production value seems uncharacteristically low. The result is a commercial that’s not quite funny, that’s a bit confusing, that’s unrecognizable as a piece of the brand, and frankly, that seems a bit cheap, rushed, and out of place. It’s quality and sophistication, more than just low prices, that differentiates Target from other big-box retailers, making this series of spots a confounding anomaly in which Target foresakes its brand identity to blend in with every other retailer out there, speaking the same dated dime-a-dozen language they all do. It’s generic rather than indelibly Target–perhaps because it fails to make reference to the brand’s core belief in the democratization of design, the hallmark of past campaigns.

I’m not saying that a brand needs to stay in a rut, or that ads have to be matchy-matchy to be part of a campaign. (For the record, I loved their Maria Bamford spots for Black Friday.) It should, however, have a throughline centered around its brand identity and beliefs–so what’s missing to me  (besides the iconic visual style) is Target’s fundamental belief that good design is not a luxury of the wealthy, but the right of us all; that good design can and should be affordable and accessible. What makes these otherwise-unremarkable-but-certainly-not-awful commercials so frustrating is that Target is usually spot-on. Indulge me, won’t you, while I take a moment to wax lyrical about some of Target’s (granted, more obvious) branding triumphs.

Up until this series of ads, textbook-case Target seemed to nail it–this belief in the accessibility of good design was (in many cases still is) made manifest in its behaviors across the board: its clean, bold, and stylized logo-centric ads recalled Warhol by viewing everyday consumer goods as design objects and mining the mundane for beauty; its aesthetically-astute product collections, including Michael Graves kitchenware and the Go International fashion line (spotlighting the designs of such top names as Zac Posen and Rodarte), leverage the talents of renowned designers, artists, and architects while keeping pricing within reach; it sponsors free admission to art museums (that home of institutionalized design) such as LACMA and MoMA, among myriad other on-going and single-serve expressions of their commitment to bringing the once-exclusive to the masses. It is these behaviors that have endeared the brand to audiences and have put Target in the unique position of being a sort of a curator of design and culture to the middle class–even sparking (however unintentionally, but nevertheless bravely) challenging discourse around the tricky intersection of commerce and art. This holiday campaign does nothing to strengthen that positioning, and that in itself (leaving any potential brand damage aside completely) is a missed opportunity. I hope that this is a soon-forgotten blip in an otherwise stellar brand run, that it is a brief and quickly corrected misstep rather than a shift in a new and less promising direction for this iconic retail giant.

Take a look at a few of these here–if you want to see more (but why would you, really?) head over to Target’s Youtube Channel.

Gap turns shopping on its head with Sprize and ambient in-store stunt
December 4, 2009, 5:37 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , ,


Gap literally turned its Vancouver stores upside down for the launch of their new and innovative loyalty program, Sprize. Running with the tagline “Shopping turned on its head,” Gap printed upside-down bags, flipped their storefront logo, upended store displays, tables, dressing room mirrors, and mannequins–even a hot dog cart and a couple cars outside the store–all to get customers to see shopping in a new way: risk-free. Hand-standing performers outside the store, outfitted in Gap’s latest holiday collection, introduced the Sprize program to passersby, stressing through form, if not the actual details of the new program, then certainly its revolutionary effect on the shopping experience.

While the in-store stunt (orchestrated by Cossette) is an excellent physical translation of Gap’s Sprize message, the Sprize program itself is ingenious: buy whatever you want, as soon as you want it, whether at full price or not, without fear the price will drop aftwerwards. Why? Because with Sprize (currently available at 10 Vancouver Gap stores), if the price drops anytime after 45 days, you are automatically refunded the price difference, which you may use again in-store.

Essentially an automatic and extended-term price adjustment, this innovative loyalty program takes the anxiety out of holiday shopping, builds trust in the brand, and turns casual customers into repeat ones as they come in to spend their accrued Sprize dollars–invariably picking up more than they came for. As we know from all that marketing research, consumers are more anxious about and averse to losing or missing out on a benefit they already see as theirs, than they are about saving or getting something they have to seek out or earn (that is, they’re more concerned with not losing than with gaining, raising the value in their eyes of that which they opt out of), so this seems an excellent strategy to get people into stores to buy soon and buy often, because hey, they’d be silly to let their Sprize points go to waste, even if it means spending a little more out of pocket–right?

Take a look at how the in-store transformation took place: