Posts tagged “shopping mall”

Thank you, come again, now get out

Edited from the New York Times. Wasn’t the mall the ultimate in egalitarianism? And even something approximating user-friendliness? So here’s a “trend” to create mystery and exclusivity in order to drive the right customer to increased loyalty.

In malls across the country, the floor-to-ceiling glass storefront – a tradition of transparency in retailing that dates back at least 100 years – is beginning to give way to elaborate walls that make it impossible to see inside.

The outside of Ruehl No. 925, a new chain from Abercrombie & Fitch, is a brick facade that mimics the front of a townhouse. The exterior of its corporate sibling, a clothing store called Hollister, resembles a beach shack, its windows covered by wooden shutters. And the entrance to Martin & Osa, a new retailer from American Eagle Outfitters, is a long wooden wall with a thin strip of dark blue glass.

As retail companies race to open new chains that serve ever-smaller slices of the population – Abercrombie & Fitch has four different stores, each for approximately a decade of life – they are using storefronts cloaked in wood and brick to ward off those who do not belong inside (and whose presence might diminish the shopping experience of those who do).

Retail executives say that by drawing the curtain over their storefronts, they can stand out in mall corridors crowded with glass-encased competitors. The modern mall, said Michele Martin, the head women’s clothing designer at Martin & Osa, “is too transparent, too naked. It’s just a sea of clothing.”

Intrigued by a store they cannot see into, consumers walk in to solve the mystery and stay to shop, executives said.

“It has this cool apartment vibe,” said Ms. Palotta. “Instead of being in Bergen County in the middle of New Jersey, we are on a street in New York, and that is where we want to be anyway – living in New York City.”

Then came the glass-shattering Abercrombie & Fitch. In 2000, the chain began experimenting with an opaque exterior when it introduced Hollister, a clothing store geared toward high school students.

The outside of the store evokes a California surf shack whose residents have shuttered the windows and hidden the front door to keep out the riffraff.

Or, as Tom Lennox, the director of communication at Abercrombie & Fitch put it: “You can feel yourself on the beach with the sunlight shining through.” (The sunlight being, in this case, the fluorescent mall lights.)

Hollister proved an immediate success, so Abercrombie & Fitch extended the darkened storefront to its namesake stores, placing heavy wooden shades over the existing glass windows.

Finally, there was Ruehl, by far the starkest-looking storefront in the American mall: a brick wall, rising up behind cast-iron gates and guarded at all times by an employee – or, a “model,” as Abercrombie aptly calls its young workers.

Andrew McQuilkin, vice president of design at FRCH Design Worldwide, which designs stores for dozens of retailers from Target to Tiffany’s, said the Abercrombie storefronts amount to a barrier.

“They are sending a message early in the conversation that says you belong or you don’t belong.”

All of which Abercrombie & Fitch freely admits. “We are not targeting middle-aged men,” said Mr. Lennox, the communications director. “To have them flee the store, that is fine with us.”

FreshMeat #20: Pun Americana

FreshMeat #20 from Steve Portigal

               (oo) Fresh
                \\/  Meat

Anecdotal evidence indicates FreshMeat causes happiness!
Cute ideas about putting a friendly face on a brand
Recently, I gave a presentation about conducting user
research in other countries (in this case, Japan). I
explained the phenomenon of “kawaii” (cute) – a prevalent
design aesthetic that cuts across age and gender. Most
people will recognize “Hello Kitty” as an example of
Japanese cuteness, but in North America that’s simply a
toy-like brand for young girls. In Japan, many businesses
will use a cute image as the “face” on their organization,
in order to present themselves as friendly, inviting, and
of course, non-threatening.

But kawaii is everywhere in Japan. The police use a kawaii
character as their mascot. Stores sell dustpans, tazers,
and dish brushes that are anthropomorphized with eyes and
a mouth.

Some quick examples here and here.

Anyone designing products, brands, services, etc. for the
Japanese market needs to at least be aware of kawaii,
and so I emphasized this to my audience.

One person spoke up and reminded us of the characters that
western companies created to personify their brands,
especially in the 50s and 60s. (For a great collection
of these mascots, check out the book
Meet Mr. Product: The Art of the Advertising Character

It was a provocative comment, because in my fervor to
describe the ubiquity of kawaii imagery in Japan I had
forgotten about something similar in our own culture. Kawaii
is a powerful style of communication (and perhaps mode of
thought) in Japan, and it manifests itself in many ways,
one of which is cute characters to personify a brand, and
of course, the Japanese are not unique in putting faces on
brands. Point taken.

Later, I began thinking of other ways that we create
inviting brands in our culture, beyond the usual
tools of designing logos, retail experiences,
environments, web sites, etc. I realized that in the
shopping mall we’ve got a new, unique form of
Americana/Canadiana/etc…the pun-brand.

Just for groans, check out these names of mall stores:

My Favorite Muffin
Once In A Blue Moose
Northern Boarder
The Athlete’s Foot
Foot Locker
Romancing the Stone
The Stitching Post
Between the Sheets
Humphrey Yogart
Close Encounters
The Hotdogger
Banana Republic
Asian Chao
Bare Escentuals
Bead It!
Bubble Gun
Corda-Roys Originals
Sox Appeal
We’re Going Nuts
Deck The Walls
Pops Corn
The Nutty Bavarian
Soul To Sole
Whole Addiction
Time Zone
Finish Line
Site for Sore Eyes

Okay, take a deep breath! Starts to get a little
painful there, doesn’t it? Notice that sometimes
it’s hard to “see” the pun; when the brand has
established itself so well (i.e., Foot Locker)
it becomes a new “thing” rather than a clever
combination of words. It also seems that the
pun-brands that have been more successful are
(relatively) subtle – I don’t ever see Humphrey
Yogart going national (estate litigation aside)
because it’s just too broad. And some pun-brands
don’t work unless you already know what they are
selling (i.e., Whole Addiction is a body-piercing
concern…get it??).

Obviously, being punny is not enough. Like
any face being put on a business, a thoughtful
approach that is executed well and considers the
audience is essential. The Foot Locker brand
consists of more than the name, and it all
works in harmony. And let’s not forget the
Foot Locker mascot, called The Striper! (see
him here)

A great article about kawaii can be found here and there are a ton of kawaii links here.

Nice piece on visual puns in advertising is here.


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