It’s the 21st century. Scenes of middle class Americans strolling around a massive indoor shopping complex (commonly known as a mall) in their sweatpants window shopping at The Sharper Image sipping an Orange Julius and maybe stopping off at JC Penney for a pair of khakis is one you’ll only see in old sitcoms. It’s not that malls aren’t important. It’s that they’ve evolved. Those same shoppers are probably sitting in a big recliner at the Sharp Aquos lounge watching a big-screen HDTV instead of trying out the massage chair at Brookstone.
For brands trying to connect with consumers during their Saturday shopping trip the same tired old sampling programs just won’t cut it. Shoppers expect more. The most successful programs of the last year made it work by educating or entertaining shoppers adding value to their day and sending them off with a concrete message and fun memories. Hitting the mall? Take our tips on how to make malls work or work harder for your brand.
Think like a shopper. No one wants to be distracted from important weekend errands for no good reason. “In the end they’re going to the mall to shop ” says Peter Widdis director-client strategy and innovation at Launch which handled the Aquafina Plus Drop of Wellness mall program. “You don’t want to infringe on their core shopping experience. You want to embed your brand into the mall experience to add value to the consumer’s day.”
Aquafina did just that by turning its mall program into a health and wellness experience. The Drop of Wellness tour set up a stylish spa-like footprint where consumers could come in and relax while they talked with a well-trained “personal trainer.” They could take a wellness quiz get tips on incorporating stretching and personal hydration into the day and leave with a sample. “At the end of the day the objective was trial but we let them into the world of Aquafina wellness as well ” says Widdis.
Be visually exciting. Aquafina didn’t just set up a boring kiosk. It included green plants a trickling water wall and stylish seating all aspects that drew the consumer in.
When PlayStation took to malls across the country to promote its SingStar game it made sure the production values were top notch too. The tour encouraged consumers to get on stage and show their singing prowess using the SingStar game. Friends and family could compete against each other to see who had the better pipes. There was an eight-foot-by-12-foot stage with trussing a spotlight and speakers that gave the setup a real concert feel.
Keep branding subtle. Too much branding kills the experience. “We didn’t have a lot of PlayStation branding on site because we wanted them to see SingStar first ” says Ellie Meyer senior account coordinator at Marketing Werks which handled. “A lot of contestants didn’t even know it was a promotion at first. It was just a cool event at the mall.”
And Aquafina kept its focus on wellness education instead of the brand. “It’s more compelling that way ” says Widdis. “There’s no need to force the message. Let the consumer decide. Put the consumer in the center and give him the choice to be engaged or not engaged.”
The crew is key. A knowledgeable staff is essential to making the experience just that—an experience as opposed to a sales pitch. At SingStar on Tour brand ambassadors kept contestants excited but at ease an essential element considering consumers were performing in front of hundreds of people on stage.
Aquafina’s brand ambassadors weren’t just passing out samples—they were wellness experts. They wore yoga pants fitted tees and sneakers and were well versed in health and fitness so they gave visitors confidence in the information they were receiving.
Choose the right mall. “You want there to be connectivity between your brand and the mall brand ” says Widdis. PlayStation routed only to malls that had GameStop stores so once consumers had finished competing brand ambassadors could direct them right up the escalator to buy the game. Aquafina made sure the health and wellness message would resonate with young women at the upscale malls it chose.