Life Beyond the Storefront: Breakthrough Branding

Life Beyond the Storefront: Breakthrough Branding

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What constitutes a brand these days?

Some MULO (multi-location) brands are known for their shopping bags. We often see Ikea bags in use for moving or other heavy lifting. The iconic blue carry-alls are even available on Amazon. The concept of “bag as brand” has been around for a while. Grocery chain Fairway used to post pictures of happy customers posing with its bags around the world. Plastic bag bans and store closings seem to have wiped that campaign off the face of the globe.

Bed Bath & Beyond is gone. But their popular discount coupons are now accepted by Overstock (which changed its name to that of the MULO brand). TV advertising is now running, featuring the “big blue” discounts (complete with their scannable QR code on screen).

We recently wrote about how apps can become a key part of a brand’s customer experience. Offering product reveals and loyalty points (and gamification, which we’ll be covering in an upcoming article), these on-screen moments keep brands top of mind and at the fingertips of prospective customers.

And, of course, we recently saw how a branded tumbler from Stanley created a huge rush at Target stores. Although Stanley doesn’t have its own MULO stores, you can be sure that consumers now know the product name. Branded merch is now a staple of many businesses’ revenue streams.

Mascots are nothing new. The now-famous Target dog Bullseye is easily recognizable and sat on the Las Vegas Sphere during the holiday season.

The lesson from all of this is that it may not be enough today for brick-and-mortar stores to be known just for their everyday in-store shopping and dining experiences.

Brand symbols and extensions are nothing new but may be more important than ever before, as consumers’ attention spans shrink and MULO companies seek new sources of awareness and revenue.

The reality is that many of these concepts can’t be hatched in an ad agency brainstorming. Consumers themselves often create the buzz, using their social networks to spread the word and encourage their friends and family to buzz along with them.

Some icons, gimmicks, and viral campaigns can be planned, but some occur “accidentally.” Once that happens, smart brands jump on the opportunity and embrace (and even expand) the trend. Smart PR departments use those viral moments as a means of creating even more brand awareness (like Target and Stanley did).

A store is way more than a store these days. It’s not just an experience. It could be a hat, a coupon, or a tumbler. Brand on!



Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.