We are all aware of the pressure that the retail sector is facing right now – consumers with dwindling incomes, rises in the cost of living, e-commerce creating an increasingly saturated market. It is no longer as simple as selling a product that people will want. It’s now about selling a brand that people believe in. The term ‘living brand’ refers to retailers that deliver a clear and consistent ethos that is present at every level of the company – from the shop floor, employees, packaging, webstore and everything in between. But what is driving this new retail trend? Here’s what I think:
Reinventing the in-store experience – The way consumers shop is changing, especially when it comes to our high street. Instead of using stores to facilitate transactions, many successful brands are using them as a marketing tool, to generate an experience. And this is certainly the case for living brands. Living brands want customers to feel their messaging from the moment they step into store to the moment they leave. This is communicated through the staff who act as an extension of the brand. For example, Disney has ‘Cast members’, Apple has ‘Geniuses’, Kate Spade even started calling their shop floor staff ‘Muses’. Living brands use their stores for social events that reflect their values, such as Sweaty Betty offering in store fitness classes, LEGO holding secret VIP product reveals and luxury brands like Burberry bringing their fashion shows in store. On top of this we are seeing technology, in store design, displays and packaging, all become a part of the living brand message.
Social responsibility – Since the pandemic and arguably, even since the 2008 recession, customers want to believe that the brands they choose to spend their money with, truly deserve it. What’s more, customers are becoming increasingly savvy with access to information like never before. If you are not authentic to the message your brand is putting out there – be it in the form of performative activism or greenwashing – then the likelihood is that your customers will catch on. It’s not just about buying a product that makes them feel good, its about investing in a brand that supports their moral values. This is something that living brands are great at because their values are communicated clearly and consistently throughout the business. Brands that succeed at becoming a living brand will find themselves selling not simply to customers, but to advocates, eventually slotting into their core belief system.
A safe space – Ultimately the drive towards living brands comes from the desire customers have for authenticity. It’s been a turbulent few years and customers want to indulge in purchases that they know will meet expectations. Living brands are perfect for this as they are consistent at every stage. Customers know they will get the same experience each time they invest – be it in store, through their website, at a pop-up shop or any other channel. Do not underestimate the feeling of safety that comes with a familiar experience during times of heightened uncertainty.
If you are aiming to become a living brand or simply looking to deliver an in-store experience that demonstrates your brand values, why not take a look at our services and see how we can help you.