Brands Go Overboard to Attract Customers

Firms Old Navy, Lush and Johnny Cupcakes cajole, harangue, pamper and feed shoppers.

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Aware that “there is this constant race to find new ways of differentiating your brand,” Skibsted said multisensory branding is another opportunity and an affordable one at that.

“This remains a pretty abstract thing to most people,” he said. “It’s very easy to deal with. If you have a store that sells leather goods, make it smell like leather. In marketing terms, it’s very subliminal in the U.S.” It’s similar to the move Starbucks made earlier this year when it had baristas return to grinding the coffee beans in the store rather than using preground coffee. The goal was to get back to the aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee wafting through to create a sensory experience.

New Balance did not work with Skibsted, but it has infused the first floor of its new and first experiential store in Beijing with a leather scent. The company also created a carnival Saturday on the street outside the store to give Chinese shoppers a taste of Americana.

Some brands are offering a more playful atmosphere in the U.S., too. Knowing many parents will still indulge their children even though they have shut off their own personal spending, J. Crew opened its first Crewcuts flagship on Madison Avenue. In step with other companies that are dressing up their new outposts with a little eye candy or unexpected fun, J. Crew set up a signature ice cream stand out front to try to woo shoppers.

Other companies are thinking small in terms of pop-up stores, a growing trend worldwide as brands look to spur consumer excitement and landlords seek to fill empty storefronts — even on a temporary basis. Gucci will unveil a series of pop up shops called Gucci Icon-Temporary at Art Basel Miami Beach, Crosby Street in SoHo, London, Berlin, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Stella McCartney will show off her first pop-up shop Aug. 22 to 24 at the Fireplace Project, a garage-turned-gallery in East Hampton, N.Y.

For last week’s opening of the UNIS annex at Smith + Butler in Carroll Gardens, N.Y., designer Eunice Lee rounded up her musician friends Marisa Competello and Sarah Bell to perform. Montreal-based outerwear label Mackage will open its first freestanding store, a 500-square-foot space in Paris on Oct. 1 and a New York pop-up shop will debut Sept. 1.

Creativity, innovation and generating consumer excitement aside, the main thing brands need to remember in these tough times is to stay true to their heritage. As Earle of Johnny Cupcakes said, “We do little to no advertising. There are no investors. I’ve had plenty of chances to sell out and make tons of money. Everyone thought I was crazy not to and maybe I was. But it made my customers happy that I didn’t.”


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