Posts By :

Stuart O'Brien

Ed Cookson Sarner International

GUEST BLOG: Experiential marketing & brands that get the story straight

Experiential Marketing is all rage these days, but it’s an older art of persuasion – Storytelling – that can really connect with your customers, suggests Sarner International’s Ed Cookson…

Behind the greats in business, there’s often an origin story. Whether it’s Steve Jobs and Bill Gates starting their computing empires from a bench in their home garage, or Richard Branson starting his first business out of a public phone booth, these are classic prologues for what is known in creative writing classes as ‘the hero’s journey’. They have gripped us since mankind first huddled around the fire, telling engaging, potentially life-saving tales of the tribe. We are storytelling creatures.

Hollywood screenwriting instructor Robert McKee argues that stories “fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living — not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.” Creating an immersive experience that tells the origin story of a product – and where it’s heading – can be an effective way to engage with customers on a deeper level than more traditional marketing methods. The key to making them work – the same as Hollywood blockbusters and tales around the campfire – is memorable, instructional storytelling that resonates with the audience.

There’s a grand tradition of using immersive experiences to establish brands, including the promotion of entire countries and their goods and services. Branding took a leap in the mid-19th century with the advent of World Fairs and Expositions. These events were a chance for the general public to get first-hand experience of the products, cuisine and customs of other nations and ‘travel the world’ in one place. Wildly popular at the time, Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of 1851 was credited with influencing Britain’s architecture, art and design and even generating a new wave of interest in world travel.

Experiential marketing is still working. Developments in 2017 include Kodak’s new 9,000 sq ft Experience Centre, a €16m expansion plan for the Guinness Storehouse (Ireland’s most popular visitor attraction), Disney’s Star Wars Hotel, Mario Kart’s immersive attraction (timed for launch during the Tokyo Olympics), and even a new theme park inspired by footballer Lionel Messi due to open in China in 2019.

These days, companies are more likely to use immersive experiences to reach new and existing customers via theme parks, pop-ups that showcase brand innovations or visitor centres. Even for celebrities, institutions and IP-based products, telling the story of the brand now needs to be more engaging than a few boards of old photographs, a shelf of ‘packaging through the ages’ and behind-the-scenes How-It’s-Done videos. When your product is well established, how can the story go deeper?

That’s where sensation comes into the picture – be it Cadbury World’s Heath Robinson-style gurgling, purple ‘chocolate machine’ that gives visitors a taste of what’s in store, or audio-visual environments like the ‘Dark Walk’ at Bodmin Jail in Cornwall, which will use state-of-the-art theatrics to tells the stories of the prisoners that passed through the 18th Century prison, beginning in the dank smugglers’ cave, passing along the stormy coastline, on through a crime-ridden Victorian village all the way to the grimy, rat-infested cells.

Of course, it’s a good idea to make sure the story you’re telling isn’t a Tall Tale. Consumers are only ever a few clicks away from a deep dive into a company’s public profile. Visitor attractions ought not only to reflect the sensations you want your brand to conjure up with loyal and new customers, but also be able to go through the ups and downs in the history of your organisation and pluck out the tales that demonstrate what the company is really like and what the brand stands for. It’s OK to admit to mistakes (short-lived changes in brand recipes that caused public outcry, for example) – that makes you more relatable; more human.

When brands get it right, their visitor attractions morph into something beyond a marketing exercise and become tourist destinations in their own right. Places like Jameson Distillery, Pez Visitor Center and Legoland ask their audiences to travel and pay for a brand experience.

It’s your story. It’s yours to tell. Find an honest, engaging way to show people not only what or how, but why your company does what it does they will feel connected to your brand. That’s human nature.

Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit

Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit: Designed for your needs

The Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit has been designed to allow you to meet new suppliers who can help your upcoming projects, and aid in trimming those all-important budgets.

It is FREE for you to attend and, as our VIP guest, you will be provided with a bespoke itinerary of meetings with those suppliers who match your requirements. No hard sell and no time wasted.

It could be the most valuable two days you spend outside of the office next year. Here’s what’s in store:

– You will be provided with a bespoke itinerary of face-to-face meetings with
suppliers relevant to your business
– Learn from industry thought-leaders and nose-tappers at our seminar sessions
– Network with like-minded peers who share the same challenges
– Enjoy complimentary hospitality, including overnight accommodation, lunch and
all refreshments
– Avoid the hard-sell and sore feet – this is unlike any traditional trade expo

Need any more reasons to attend? Here are three more, courtesy of former delegates:

“Well organised event, great for meeting new suppliers and the event team were friendly and helpful. Very worthwhile time out of the office” Calvin Klein

“I found this experience extremely informative and interesting, very pleased!” Browns Fashion

“Very well organised and well run with lots of time to network and meet lots of good quality suppliers” Mothercare

“A very well-organised event, preparation, information and organisation were excellent” Waitrose

Delegate places are running out fast for this unique event, so act swiftly to reserve your place by contacting Victoria Petch on 01992 374082 /

Alternatively, if you’re an industry supplier and would like to showcase your products and services at the Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit, contact Courtney Saggers on 01992 374088 /

christmas-1887306__340 copy

Jingle bells, as Selfridges opens Christmas shop

Selfridges has opened its Christmas shop with the theme for 2017 being ‘With Love From.’

The move has been met with a mixture of surprise, excitement and bewilderment by customers passing through the fourth floor of London’s Oxford Street store, with fake fir trees and a jolly Santa greeting people months ahead of the big day.

Opening the Christmas shop last month, the store featured a curated range of London inspired Christmas products, with Christmas food items rolling out last week.

The full 130,000 product range, including 51,000 baubles and 65 light and tree options will commence withy phase two in September.

Speaking about the early opening of the Christmas shop, Selfridges Christmas and home buyer Eleanor Gregory, said: “We’ve been opening the doors to our Christmas Shop during the summer for years now and have become a real destination for fans of Christmas and festive decorations within and outside the UK.

“Some customers return to us year after year, excited at the prospect of discovering the new ranges and adding to their collections.

“They include a large number of domestic customers who love to Christmas shop very early in the year to get it wrapped and taken off their to-do list.

“This new extension to our usual offer is addressing this growing demand for convenience – domestic customers who love to Christmas shop very early in the year to get it wrapped and taken off their to-do list.”


Drone home: How Amazon’s delivery drones could sell you services

Hot off the back of Amazon’s recent filed patent for beehive-like drone depots which would be used to dispatch deliveries, the retail giant has announced that the drones could analyse customers’ homes and try and sell them services and products based on collected data from onboard cameras.

Trials have already begun for the ambitious plans of a fleet of delivery drones, known as ‘Prime Air’ service, with small products flown to customers in under 30 minutes.

And Amazon hopes to collect and use the data to its advantage, filing a patent that explains how the online-retail giant hopes “captured data may be received by a computer system and properties about a destination for the delivery may be identified by analysing the data. A recommendation may be generated based at least in part on the identified properties”.

Explaining in more detail, Amazon relates how a drone could assist a customer if the onboard camera noticed that the client’s roof needed fixing:

“For example, the one or more service provider computers may analyse the data and identify that the roof of the location is in disrepair and in need of service. Subsequently, the one or more service provider computers may generate and provide a recommendation to the customer informing them of the identified property and offering an item or service that is appropriate for the identified property (e.g., a roof repair service recommendation).”

The patent explains how customers could receive these recommendations in a variety of ways, such as email, text or Amazon notification.

However, privacy laws would mean that the service would be opt-in, with the patent explaining it would only capture and analyse this data with customer consent.

Amazon’s delivery drone dream are still a long way from commercial reality, with testing in the UK and early trials suggesting it will be years before Prime Air service becomes commercially viable.

Nelsons Diner

CASE STUDY: Nelson’s 1950s American diner shortlisted for Restaurant & Bar Design Awards

Nelson’s is a proudly independent restaurant that takes its jives and shakes seriously. Prosper’s concept for this authentic 1950s American diner is a bold statement that reflects its soulful and vibrant personality through the brand identity, environmental graphics and interiors.

As a restaurant within a shopping centre, this theme of bringing the outdoors inside is continued to create a drive-in diner within a diner. Inspired by the idea of a road trip, Nelson’s takes customers on a journey through 1950’s America. The energetic environment is rooted in originality and expressed through the quality details – the signage, a refurbished ‘57 Chevy, the bespoke Airstream fitted with seating booths and white neon set against the dark blue sky.

Successfully working on a project of this scale to meet the very tight budget and deadline, and the client’s high standards, the result is very distinctive diner that sets Nelson’s apart from the standard offering.

It was Prosper’s creative design solutions that has resulted in this project being shortlisted for the 9th Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. The winners of the Awards (including Best Overall winners) will be announced during a ceremony at London’s King’s Cross on the 5th October.

Prosper’s other clients include Primark, Transport for London, intu Shopping Centres and Sainsbury’s, along with independent retailers such as Warings, Love Koffee, 1855 Wine Bar Bistro and Haresfoot Brewery.

BRC Smartphones

Retail search growth driven by smartphones

The latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Google points to a significant spike in retail-related online searches in 2Q17, driven by smartphone users.

In the UK, retail search volumes on smartphones increased 26% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

For all devices across the UK, search volumes maintained year-on-year growth of 7% in the second quarter of 2017.

Interestingly, beauty was the most searched for sector by overseas consumers on mobile devices, reporting growth of 42% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Apparel remained a popular sector for overseas consumers on mobile devices, increasing 38% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Estonia continued to demonstrate the strongest appetite for UK retailers, reporting a 77% growth on mobile devices in Q2 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The growth of UK retail searches online in the second quarter of 2017 remains unchanged on the previous year, although smartphones are increasingly becoming the dominant device for online browsing and therefore the main contributor to this growth. The increase in mobile search volumes over this period is consistent with the upward trend in online non-food sales growth.

“Beauty brands in particular continue to attract interest from overseas as well as UK consumers, which put the category firmly at the top of the growth rankings. It would appear that this could have translated to some extent into product sales, as health and beauty products ranked second highest in online sector performance over the three-month period.”


BHG partners with Eurostop for EPOS

Department store group BHG has completed its first rollout of Eurostop’s EPOS systems in the newest of its seven outlets in Singapore. The location is at Jurong Point, Singapore’s largest suburban mall and a major shopping attraction in the area.

From sign-up to go live, Eurostop successfully completed the rapid rollout of its systems, including integration to existing architecture, in just over three months. Part of the project involved full customisation of the software to connect to other BHG business systems, including CRM, payments and staff system. BHG’s new EPOS estate launched with 1,000 promotions running simultaneously across its department store.

Serene Tan, executive director of BHG Group said: “Despite a difficult economic climate we have been successful in retaining and attracting customers by remaining relevant to today’s shoppers. We have the right tools to refresh our merchandise categories regularly, as well as innovative visual merchandising strategies and the ability to run in-store promotions to remain relevant. Our investment in Eurostop retail systems is central to enable us to maintain a smart brand mix, yet still maintaining a tight control on stock turnover and profit margins.”

Eurostop was founded in the UK in 1990 and provides global EPOS and retail solutions to the fashion, footwear, jewellery and general merchandise retail industries.


Meet the heroes you need at the Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit

Register now for the Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit and you can meet all the suppliers and support companies your retail business requires for 2018 and beyond.

This two-day event is free for you to attend and you’ll be provided with an itinerary of face-to-face meetings with solution providers who match your requirements – no hard sell, and no time wasted.

Forget traipsing around expos, or arranging multiple meetings in different locations.

You can meet them all in one place, in just two days. These are just a few of the suppliers attending who can help take your retail business to the next level in 2018 and beyond…

Alchemy Expo – Digital Printing
Arno GB – Retail Brand Experience
CA Design Services – Retail Design
Compact Lighting – Lighting
Graphicdisplay – Graphics
Harte Woodworking – Design & Manufacture
Harlequin Design – Design
HMY – Shopfitting
Illuma Lighting – LIghting
Kendu – In-Store Visual Solutions
key Finance – Shopfit Funder
KN Shopfitters – Shopfitting
Leach – Display Graphics
Magrini/CAEM – Shelving Systems & Retail Services
Retail House Solutions – Design & Manufacture

We’ll also have representatives from retail technology media outlet 365 Retail and retail design magazine Retail Focus.

Spaces are becoming limited, however – to confirm yours contact Victoria Petch on 01992 374082 or email


Best business names in Britain revealed

A survey conducted by Vistaprint has revealed the best business names in Britain, with four in 10 Brits saying a company with a witty or memorable name will encourage them to use it over a company with a more mundane moniker.

Topping the charts came Spruce Springclean, a carpet cleaners based in Lostwithiel, Cornwall; followed closely by a Portsmouth-based locksmith called Surelock Homes; and a wine bar in London called Planet of the Grapes.

“Small businesses around the UK are always finding clever and innovative ways to showcase their offerings,” said Oliver Harcourt, head of UK, Vistaprint.

“Having a creative business name is one example of how you can be more memorable to your customers and stand out from the crowd.

Some of the shops from our poll are businesses that are generations old, showing that a catchy name can stand the test of time.”

The research also found that six in 10 respondents would prefer to see a business with a witty or amusing name, while a third said they were more likely to recommend a business worth a witty name than a more traditional one.

Harcourt added: “Our survey also found that eight in ten Brits like to try and shop locally where possible.

“We’re happy to see local stores keeping up the tradition of having creative and witty names as a way to stand out in their communities.

“We look forward to seeing many more to come in the future – and we’ve even created a guide to help new businesses come up with a memorable name for themselves.”

The top 20 business in the UK in full:

  1. Spruce Springclean, Carpet cleaners, Lostwithiel, Cornwall
  2. Surelock Homes, Locksmith, Portsmouth
  3. Planet of the Grapes, Wine Bar and Restaurant, London
  4. Floral and Hardy, Florists, Hertfordshire
  5. A Fish Called Rhondda, Fish and Chip Shop, Pentre, Wales
  6. Wright Hassall, Solicitors, Leamington Spa
  7. Jean Claude Van Man, Removal Company, Merseyside
  8. Sellfridges, White Goods Outlet, Stoke Newington
  9. Grate Expectations, Fireplace Specialists, Wimbledon
  10. Bonnie Tiler, Tiling and Plumbing, Gateshead
  11. Deja Brew, Coffee House, Denton
  12. The Chopfather, Barbers, Bristol
  13. Barnie’s Rubble, DIY Shop, Bolton
  14. Facial Attraction, Beauty Salon, Pontypool, Wales
  15. Samuel ‘L’ Jackson, Driving Instructor, Southport
  16. Hair Raid Shelter, Hairdressers, Downham Market, Norfork
  17. Alan Cartridge, Office Supplies, Leeds
  18. Jason Donervan, Food truck, Bristol
  19. Flying Nemo, Fish and Chips Shop, Yorkshire
  20. PG Trips, Bus Charter, Houghton le Spring

Jack Wills back in the black

British-based retailer Jack Wills is back in profit, according to City AM.

Following problems regarding the outsourcing of its distribution centre earlier in the year and subsequent efficiency programmes the company has since made an operating profit of £730,000 in the year to January, versus a loss of £13.8 million in 2016.

Sales advanced four per cent to £142 million, from £137 million.

Jack Wills was the subject of a buy-out by former founder Peter Williams who returned to lead the company in 2015. Williams partnered with private equity house BlueGem for the buy-out.

“Momentum has very much returned to the business and this is evident from the overall improvement in, and return to, profitability,” commented Williams to CityAM.

“This momentum of profit improvement is continuing through the current financial year, helped by our efficiency programmes and our deliberate strategy to reduce promotional activity, which improved margin.

“Despite the tough consumer environment and focus on reducing promotions, revenue is up 4% with our multichannel model giving customers ultimate flexibility on how and where they engage with the brand.

“We are strengthening and growing our presence in the UK and overseas and today ship to a record 130 countries worldwide.

Williams concluded: “We are working on a number of exciting initiatives and will open an additional 10 stores this year.”