OF RETAIL BRANDS AND MEN

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A few days ago, tired of waiting for my facial treatments to fulfill their promise of making my skin defy Mother Nature, I decided to visit the cosmetics department of my favorite store. I had given a brand 30 years of, as I saw it that day in front of the mirror, undeserved loyalty, so I was pretty much ready to take a step forward and be enveloped in the magic seduction of a new brand, enthusiastically embark in an affaire that would convince me to spend, in those miraculous little bottles, thumping amounts of money fuelled by illusion, not reason.

As I strolled from counter to counter, my hope to discover new idyllic potions that would make me feel beautiful, feminine and attractive was rapidly waning…

In our girly chats we take comfort convincing ourselves that “all men are alike”, but in this hopeful escapade in pursuit of glamour and, as a professional in the branding business, I couldn’t but associate brands to this famous conclusion. Apparently, it’s not just men that are all alike, brands are too, and none of them deserve my trust.

Promises, nothing but promises. Apathy followed me from counter to counter, where one brand after another was trying to seduce me with lavish presentations and endlessly repeated platitudes. The more proactive would offer me little presents or charm me with the scientific arguments that supported their magic. But, as a fifty plus veteran in matters of both, men and brands, I’m not an easy prey for either one or the other.

I finally gave up searching for the fountain of youth and decided that changing brands was not even worth it. After all, I thought to myself, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, and moved on…

In that precise moment, a lovely and most charming young lady invited me to visit the Clarins spa “free”. My skepticism surfaced again so, sporting my usual smile, I told her that nothing in this world is free and that I very much doubted that Clarins was the exception to the rule. But she did not budge and, as a good evangelist of her brand, continued with her convincing speech: “Trust me. I won’t sell you anything, I promise; I just want to give your eyes a youthful glow, and softly remove those dark circles that make you look so tired. Give yourself the gift of thirty delicious minutes!” she insisted.

Still in disbelief, I followed her to her counter, out of courtesy more than anything else, promising myself not to fall into any temptation. Much to my surprise, from the counter she led me to a very private and comfortable spa room. Like a perfect Don Juan, this brand took me to a secluded place, where I would have no other distraction but its clever seduction; a place that enveloped me in soft and soothing music and an irresistible aroma to all things beautiful. During the entire half hour, this charming young lady just talked about me…how young I looked for my age…how promising my skin looked…in short, her words were music to my ears as they invaded all my senses. The brand discharged its entire arsenal on me…and I fell for it!

I’m not quite sure whether it is Clarins or Bloomingdale’s idea, but those two brands, which seemed not to offer any special difference, captured me as a consumer and impressed me as a brand strategist. Though I have always believed that what a brand says and does builds into what it is, today what it “does” is a lot more important than what it “says”. We are transitioning from the world of mass communications to the world of value promises capable of connecting through experiential marketing (user experiences).

Clarins and Bloomingdale’s understand than in a world of e-commerce and commoditization, they need to reinvent retailing and activate brand promise.

The shopping center is no longer a mere point of sale, but a point of demo; and that’s exactly what they did. Together they built a spa, took the demo a step ahead and created the experience. The masterly idea lies in joining two components of the marketing mix into one: upscale spa brands with overpriced, almost inaccessible products and department stores with old, traditional arguments. Why not put them together and see what happens?

The formula is neither masterful nor innovative. What Clarins and Bloomingdale’s have done is simply mix both worlds, adding value to the retailer and the brand in the eyes of the consumer.

At the end of the day, us consumers continue having dreams and fantasies. We go after the cream that promises to bring back our youth, the car that can drive us straight into the speedy freedom of the Autobahn and the appliances that make wonders without our help. We consumers love seduction because seduction is fun. But today, seduction is getting difficult to find: audiences believe and trust less, retailers have made prices king and brands have lost their identity, as they become more and more alike as times goes by. Let’s keep the magic alive!

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May 30th, 2011 0 comments Branding / Branding Blogging / Branding Marketing / Branding Strategy / Product Branding / Retail Branding

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