Exhibitions and retail – footfall driver or style over substance?

Gentle Monster

This summer the competition to create the most epic ‘bricks’ experience got hotter with the arrival of South Korean sunglass brand Gentle Monsters in Argyll Street, London. Gentle Monster takes the idea of immersive shopping to a whole other level, with each of the brand’s stores around the world taking on its own story concept. And in London, that concept is… Kung Fu aliens (we kid you not) – the story being that a robot alien landed on Earth, became captivated by the beauty of Kung Fu and took it back to its own planet. So far, so nuts.

Walking into the store is like walking into an elaborate film set or exhibition, and a pretty bonkers one at that. Customers are greeted by a tribe of larger than life, kinetic aliens who, as a colleague explained, are ‘training in Kung Fu’. They’re doing this to a backdrop of a digital waterfall and a giant ceremonial gong, which goes off every 7 minutes as their cue to start training.

The eccentric idea continues on the lower ground floor at the ‘battleground’, where two giant kinetic aliens fight in a bamboo forest surrounded by an audience of smaller robots, cheerleading with glittering pom poms in their hands.

It’s totally amazing, impressive… and also rather bemusing. Because what on earth (sorry) does it have to do with sunglasses?! Well, seemingly nothing. Many retailers incorporate exhibition-style experiences into their store but usually it’s to aid sales, or at least related to the product in some way.

Nike Town

Nike is a great case in point, with an almost permanent exhibition area in Nike Town in which it borrows display techniques from gallery spaces to showcase its product and behind-the-scenes work (if you haven’t done so already, check out the current exhibition at London’s Oxford Circus which shows off the work of the motion graphics designers behind its latest projects).

Other brands align themselves to those in the arena of culture and art, seeing a symmetry between the two which will interest their customer demographic – like COS. Having established a legacy of artist collaborations which celebrate the brand’s influences from design and architecture, it’s soon to open a brand new hybrid concept store in London’s glossiest new shopping district, Coal Drop Yard in Kings Cross. Here, customers will not only be able to browse and buy from its latest clothing collections, but also immerse themselves in the work of established and emerging artists.

Both Nike and COS incorporate exhibitions into their stores in a way that feels seamless, credible and intrinsic to their brand essence. Also, they’re integrated in a way that keeps the customer in the store, whiling away hours, potentially leading to more sales. Gentle Monster on the other hand, doesn’t appear to use its concept as a sales tool at all. In fact the product – sunglasses – feels quite removed from the idea – aliens. And interestingly, it feels removed physically too, with the sunglasses themselves displayed around the perimeter of the store… presumably so that the theatrics are left to shine in all their eccentric glory. The thing is, when we were there, we didn’t actually see anyone trying the product on. Any customers that were in the store seemed to be there to get that perfect shareable shot … and, pic filtered and posted, they left. Gentle Monster may have turned its store into the perfect Instagram set, and in that way is bound to drive footfall, but will it actually sell enough product to sustain the cost of a bricks and mortar store in one of the country’s prime shopping districts? Time will tell… but one thing’s for sure, it’s awesome, original and creating a LOT of attention, and that is surely great for the reputation of any brand. 


Sean Dwyer

Latest Tesco Mobile look and feel goes live!


We’re thrilled to see our work for Tesco Mobile live in store. Cleaner and more pared back with a hint of ‘red dot’ personality, we’ve adapted the brand’s new look into the retail channel by designing and rolling out the entire suite of in-store comms, from POS graphics to leaflets. Nice to see our original logo design still going strong a decade on too.

Check it out in your nearest store – it’s gone live in all 473 phone shops!


Sean Dwyer

Paying it forward…

The JBJ Soul Kitchen is a community restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey, created by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. It opened in 2011 with the mission of offering families and people in need a place for food, job training and resources to get back on their feet.

Unlike your standard restaurant, there are no prices on the menu. To dine there, you can either make a donation and ‘pay it forward’, or you can volunteer. One hour of volunteer work either cooking, washing dishes or waiting tables can earn you a certificate for a three-course meal. For paying diners, a $20 donation can be made to help cover the cost of meals for in-need volunteers. The ingredients used in the food served there are all local, seasonal and fresh.


Bon Jovi explained that ‘what this restaurant is truly meant to do is empower. You don’t come in here with a sense of entitlement. You come in here and volunteer because we need your help’.

Over 7 years, they’ve served more than 87,000 meals, with 51% being paid with donations, and in 2016 they expanded to a second restaurant, in Toms River, New Jersey. The successful concept has also made it across the pond to London, in the form of The Canvas cafe, in Shoreditch, and the Second Shot cafe, in Bethnal Green.

In The Canvas, you can pay it forward by buying a hot drink or meal for someone in the community who can’t afford it. The Second Shot cafe employees people affected by homelessness and trains them up to transition into employment. They also operate a pay it forward system where you can prepay for food and drink for someone struggling with homelessness.

Safe, judgement-free and ‘tackling homelessness one espresso at a time’, these cafes and restaurants are a totally new spin on social enterprise and we think there should be more of them. So next time you’re buying a coffee, consider paying it forward.



Sean Dwyer

Supermarket mergers: what do they mean for customers?

The grocery sector is currently undergoing a period of rapid change. After completing the purchase of wholesaler Booker in March, Tesco is now planning a strategic alliance with French retail giant Carrefour. And in April, Sainsbury’s announced that it was in advanced talks to buy Asda from US retail titan Walmart.

The traditional big four UK supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – along with Iceland and Waitrose, have faced increasing competition from rapidly-expanding budget chains Lidl and Aldi over the past few years, and there’s now the added threat of Amazon moving into the sector, after buying upmarket grocer Whole Foods and launching the Amazon Fresh delivery service.

But what do all these mergers mean for customers?

A key focus is to reduce prices, particularly on own-brand products, which is great for customers, but do they care about any other aspects of these mergers? There are so many huge companies who have a stake in smaller businesses, which a lot of consumers aren’t even aware of – for example not many people know that Coca-Cola own Innocent smoothies after taking full control of the company in 2013. These are two very different brands with extremely different values and operations, yet they’re aligned together in business and the consumer isn’t affected. Will this be the case for the big supermarket mergers?

Neither Tesco or Carrefour plan to change their branding or current stores. They will continue to look the same, sell the same products and attract the same customers – ones who are loyal to them and use reward schemes such as Clubcard. Their customer demographics are very different to each other and consumers are unlikely to swap where they do their grocery shopping based on a merger, unless the standard of customer service slips. Likewise, for Asda and Sainsbury’s.

Today’s increasingly savvy consumers are aware of the value of their custom, which pushes retailers to invest in their customer service. There is a fear that mergers will be disruptive and that service standards will fall while they’re in progress. A merger should recognise the needs and preferences of long-standing customers from both supermarkets, as well as those interested in making a switch.

There are rumours that up to 300 stores may need to close in the Sainsbury’s Asda merger in order to get past the Competition and Markets Authority. If that’ s the case, loyal customers may be driven into the eager arms of another supermarket, which happens to have a store closer to them.

There’s also speculation that fuel prices from supermarket petrol stations could rise as an element of competition is taken out of the equation by the mergers, and Sainsbury’s and Asda no longer need to undercut each other’s prices. This could be the case in store as well, as less players in the field hold more control over customers, who have little other choice.

It remains to be seen whether these mergers will make it all the way through the governing bodies, but if they do, it will be an interesting time in the aisles. A price war? A grocery market being held to ransom? Hundreds of store closures? It shouldn’t be just the boardroom that benefits. So when the shareholders sit back and rub their hands with money-making glee, let’s see to what extent customers feel the changes, and whether they really are any better off.


Sean Dwyer

Is this the end for celebrity endorsements?


Last month saw the fallout from a misjudged social media post by celebrity fitness trainer Andrew Papadopoulos. He announced his engagement to former Miss Universe Australia, Renae Ayris on Instagram – with a very obvious plug for a hot drink.

“Reflecting on our engagement this morning with a very needed cup of NESCAFE Gold in bed!” said the post, under a perfectly posed picture. “So many precious memories to cherish and so many more coffees to enjoy together at home”.

Ouch. How did they get it so wrong?

Be relevant and real

It has a lot to do with context. Andrew Papadopoulos is an elite athlete, focused on health and wellbeing. Why then, would he be chosen to promote distinctly un-nutritious instant coffee? And that shoehorning of it into his engagement announcement was just all shades of awkward.

The world has got savvy to shameless plugs – especially when there’s such an obvious disconnect. There’s also been a seismic cultural shift over the last few years, and consumers demand authenticity in all things. Millennials and Gen Z’ers have come of age in a world of social media, sharing and peer reviews, so there’s no hiding place for brands. Consumers expect transparency, accessibility and honesty.

Enter then, the social influencers…

Social influencers are the new big marketing ticket, in possession of a loyal fan base who hang on their every word, image and opinion. Which means brands can tap into their expertise, and leverage it to their advantage. Where celebrity endorsement is designed to appeal to the maximum number of consumers, influencer marketing is by nature niche. Instead of getting your products in front of as many people as possible, brands can now get them in front of the right people.

Micro, macro and mega

The first level of influencers are the ‘micro’. They’ve usually got between 500 and 1,000 followers, through having passion or expertise for something specific like fitness, travel, fashion, business, beauty, parenting, tech or sport. Micro influencers have a profound connection with their followers, and get around 25% to 50% engagement per post.* The right influencer can mean instant credibility, authenticity and value for a brand – as they’re more likely to be personally invested in the product or service they’re promoting. They also cost a fair bit less than big celebs.

Interestingly, research has shown that once a social media influencer reaches a critical mass of followers, audience engagement starts to tumble. Which is borne out with the next stage of influencer: ‘macro’. With between 10,000 and a million followers, they get just around 5% to 25% engagement per post*. Although of course, they can reach ten times more people than micro influencers.

Finally, there are the mega influencers, like Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Shaanxo or a celebrity with a social media account. With more than a million followers, they only get around 2% to 5% engagement per post*. Because of their mass appeal, it’s more difficult to attain the Holy Grail of credibility and authenticity – so they’re actually less valuable to brands than you might think.


Content creators

A big benefit of getting influencers to front your brand, is that they’re already content creators. They create blogs and posts to inform and inspire their followers already, and have a distinctive style which their followers buy into. So whereas celebrity campaigns are mostly created by agencies (the celeb just has to show up), influencers can talk about a brand in their own tone of voice, create a story and frame their content around it.

Who’s doing it well?

Some brands are doing influencer marketing brilliantly. Last year, Adidas’ Glitch campaign used football influencers to drive sales of their new boot. 260 influencers produced content, and gave their followers unique codes to access the shoes. This no-ad, no-big name and no-traditional media approach drew more than 50,000 downloads of the app, and a 75% sales conversion rate.

Airbnb cracked it too, in their collaboration with US music festival Coachella. They provided free accommodation for influencer attendees – and in exchange got lots of coverage across social media. Then Triangl, a swimwear brand starting out with no marketing budget, took the organic route and sent samples of their neoprene bikinis to mega Insta influencers – transforming likes into sales.


Matalan… mixing it up

So, celebrities… influencers… what happens if you mix them up? Matalan’s recent successful collaboration with ITV, that’s what. Denise Van Outen provided the star power, and was joined on her chat show by fashion insiders, style bloggers and other micro influencers, giving hints and tips on current trends, and promoting the Matalan brand.

20-second ads ran during shows like Corrie and X Factor, directing viewers to watch the content online. Matalan’s sales figures improved during the show’s 12 month run – but the real goal was to change perceptions of the brand, and engage new audiences.

The (older) elephant in the room

Ok, so the age thing. Gen X and baby boomers are on social at least as much as Millennials and Gen Z-ers, but are they as susceptible to the charms of influencers? It’s certainly seen more as a model focusing on younger consumers – but that doesn’t mean it can never work for older people. The channel used most by those over 35 is Facebook, and if brands can pinpoint their demographic, find a micro influencer who’s popular and trusted by their target market, it can still be a cost-effective way to reach these spending-powerhouse generations.

Influencers Vs Celebs

Over the past year, brands have spent more than £800million on Instagram influencers** – and 23% of marketers plan to increase their influencer spending by 30-50% over the next year**. Influencers certainly give good bang for your buck, with lower costs and more credibility than some celebrity endorsements.

We think there’s still a place for celebs in marketing though – but the connection either has to be relevant (like Ronaldo and Nike), based on an insight (like Walker’s Crisps poking fun at Gary Lineker’s ‘nice guy’ reputation, or Snickers playing on Joan Collins’ diva status) or just harnessing sheer star wattage (looking at you, Clooney with Nespresso, Charlize Theron with Dior, and David Beckham with almost anything).


Celebrity or influencer… the moral of the story is to be transparent; never try and pretend it’s anything but a promotion for a brand, product or service – as fans, followers and everyday consumers will see right through it. In today’s world, authenticity is everything.

*Source: We Are Anthology
**Source: Mediakix


Sean Dwyer