As brands battle for visibility, creating meaningful experiences that resonate in the hearts of consumers is more important than ever…
How would the city of light ignite brand love?
We started on a high note… The Hoxton Hotel Paris, the perfect partner to host our overnight visit. We soaked up the energised fusion of versatile and diverse social spaces - coffee, dining and cocktails all around the clock. More interestingly, we identified the obstacle course of laptops charging, as people plug in and go about their daily work, the traditional office workplace and era of nine to five is certainly under threat…welcome to the work life revolution, how will brands respond to the blended lifestyles, erratic schedules and desire for flexibility?
Fashion, Hospitality, Wellness, Beauty, Culture
To start our tour, we visited the 6th edition of the Parisian boutique, Marie Sixtine at 42 rue du Temple. The brand started with knitwear and has now extended to a holistic wardrobe, layered with lifestyle collaborations. We are big fans of the terrazzo and light wood combo, a soft feminine feel to the store to compliment the collections.
Who knew Paris had so many eyewear shops? We saw A LOT. Jimmy Fairly was definitely our favourite. They have a brilliant brand ethos; working together with the Restoring Vision Association “Buy one, give one,” bringing vision to people in need. This store on Rue Montorgueil, one of 10 locations in Paris, is a café/shop with an overall exciting mixture of eclectic product display versus a very clean singular hero at the back of the store.
Next up, Bellerose, a brand built around 8 steps. First and foremost, craftsmanship. Everything is crafted in-house, from creating their own fabrics to designing the architecture of the stores. Each boutique starts from scratch, built around the history and location of the building, each with it’s own selection of their products. A wonderful journey of inspiration and discovery.
Le Sergent Recruteur, a brand with the motto ‘live, eat and rest,’ seamlessly translated across this distinctive dining space. We had a relaxed two-course lunch with the food taking centre stage. Set within an intimate and simplistic space, the clean curved design sat in complete harmony with the existing stone walls and rustic beamed ceiling. We admire brands that respect and honor exiting architecture within their customer experience.
Paris loves a mirrored ceiling, which was most apparent in Daroco; creating additional drama to an already double height dining area. Previously a Jean Paul Gautier store, we were impressed by the attention to detail. The gold leaf from the branding was diffused across the brand into the terrazzo floor, wooden menu design and the staff’s sailor-marinire t-shirts.
The Champs-Élysées brasserie, Le Drugstore, originally opened in 1958 and had a revamp late last year. Sticking to its original heritage the restaurant has a real 1960’s cocktail bar theme, with luxurious rich burgundy running through the design. Open every day until 2am, the restaurant, bar and store offers everything from books and pastries to caviar and champagne. Inclusive exclusivity at it’s best!
Kerzon House creates fragrances for home, linen and body. Founded by two brothers, the products are built on family memories of places or moments they hold dear. This is reflected in the fun and bold patterns and colours on the packaging, creating instant connections with the consumer. We question whether this has also been reflected in the retail design.
Curator of perfumes and beauty products, Nose has a selection of over 500 perfumes and 1500 references from luxury designer brands. Their one primary focus is to establish your olfactive diagnostic through the use of technology and blind testing. The paired back, brand free environment really amplifies this main focus and takes personalised consultation to the forefront.
Our architectural / cultural stop was the Louis Vuitton Foundation, an arts museum and cultural centre by American architect Frank Gehry. The curved layered architecture is something not to miss, and all started by a “squiggly” sketch! As you climb further up the terraces the building unveils skyline views of Paris almost framing the landscape, and we were spoilt by the sunshine arriving, making it even more beautiful.
Le Bon Marche was a must visit for us - we couldn’t miss out on visiting the very first modern department store founded in 1838. Our arrival was timely in line with their Los Angeles makeover - a theatrical number of pop ups around the store with sunny and colourful exhibition areas, awash with ‘palm trees’. We were energised by the fresh, youthful feel, from a store steeped in heritage; it was bursting with brave pockets of discovery, and newness. This encouraged our exploration and reason to explore further. We recognise the challenge for department stores to retain core brand DNA in their role as the ‘host’, the marriage of timeless heritage and modern innovation was delivered seamlessly.
Of course we visited the dreamy L’Appartment of Sezane, it’s interesting how brands are borrowing from hospitality to deliver a distinctive aspirational customer experience where consumers are encouraged to dwell. The L’Appartment is a timeless lifestyle destination that transports you to the world of Sezane where customers can touch, try the collections and stay for a drink - ‘apartment’ rather than ‘department.’
News from London
We returned to the new branding of two of Britain’s well known department stores Debenhams and John Lewis & Partners, two brands battling for distinction when presented with the complex needs of the consumer and challenging retail landscape.
In our minds John Lewis and partners comes from an authentic place that celebrates partners and ‘personal’, an original part of the business model that acts as a key point of difference. It makes complete sense to elevate this to the forefront of the brand identity. Debenhams on the other hand is fraught with a desperate attempt to convince consumers that change is on it’s way. Will this live up to consumer expectation and validate perception change?
Brand identity is of course paramount and integral to any brand, however it’s just one part of the experience. Consumers know where they are, the key is driving brand loyalty and a reason to visit through newness, the unexpected and theatrical customer journey, as witnessed at Le Bon Marche Paris. We wonder whether the new ‘Do a bit of Debenhams’ will take the same path as last years M&S campaign, ‘Spend it Well’ – igniting excitement, bang on trend but quite clearly a missed opportunity when invisible and unanimated within the store experience. We look forward to seeing if Debenhams can win over consumer's hearts?
Retailers are clearly recognising the need for change, as devoted advocates of brand love, we understand the importance of a compelling brand experiences that drives commercial results. The key is grabbing the attention of today’s consumer and driving real heart felt engagement that consumers love to discover, love to return to and love to spend more time with. What is it about you that people love? How do you get straight to their heart?
48 hours later, Paris certainly left us wanting more and captured our hearts with compelling and engaging brand experiences. Watch out for our up and coming openings for Neom, Stanfords and Karen Millen and discover our complete 360 brand revitalisation for Hotter Shoes.
That’s it for now, insights from New York next month…