TREND UNIT - Why we all can and should be trend watchers

First published: March 2006 | Let's talk branding this month. In particular, branding in the real world. There is a genuine opportunity to surpass the now ubiquitous 'flagship store' (still seen as the most radical change in the world of retail branding), by offering something truly new to consumers who are not only looking for entertainment, but also for uniqueness, discovery, trying out, hanging out, empathy and even transformation. Don't get us wrong, Fifth Avenue's flagship stores, Omotesando's brand cathedrals, or the new Maison Louis Vuitton in Paris, which comes complete with a penthouse art gallery and temporary Beecroft exhibition, are still setting retail (as well as architectural) trends.

But to really deliver on the "markets are conversations" mantra, a less grandiose, more two-way approach starts with understanding the appeal of BEING SPACES, and translating that appeal into true BRAND SPACES. To refresh your memory:

“Commercial living-room-like settings in the public space, where catering and entertainment aren't just the main attraction, but are there to facilitate out-of-home, out-of-office activities like watching a movie, reading a book, meeting friends and
colleagues, and so on."

Now, the need for BEING SPACES is nothing new. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined 'The Third Place' in his 1990 book 'The Great Good Place', and described it as a celebration of the places where people can regularly go to take it easy and commune with friends, neighbours, and whoever else shows up. In Oldenburg's view, this complements the Freudian concept of well-being ("having someone to love and work to do", or in Oldenburg's words, "having a mate and a job"), as The Third Place provides a third element: a dependable place of refuge, where one can escape the demands of family and bosses, and thus temporarily forget about one's sorrows and shortcomings.

What has changed since 1990 is a slew of new uber-commercial players (with Starbucks leading the way) who have actively launched thousands of BEING SPACES 21C style, complete with WiFi and comfy chairs, and are now cramming even more of them into supermarkets, hospitals, hotel lobbies, cinemas, universities, libraries, bookshops, airports, and so on. Hey, as we've pointed out before, trends are often a manifestation of an existing need unlocked and serviced in a new way.

Numbers? How about Starbucks' 10,500 retail locations in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim, with another 1,800 new stores to be added before the end of this year? Frothy detail: the company now has 165 stores in mainland China, including 63 in Shanghai, 9 in Shenzhen, and 2 in Wu Xi.

The competition isn't slowing down either: from Singapore’s Coffee Connoisseurs to UK’s Costa Coffee, every location frequented by consumers in potential need of a BEING SPACE is fair game in this never-ending expansion game.

Is sipping mint chocolissimo lattes the major hook for BEING SPACES? Not necessarily: the trend is widespread in Asia in the area of games and entertainment: check out Japanese Manboo and Fujiyama Land, where gamers can game and 'be' 24/7, showers included!

And with the rise of Free Agents and MINIPRENEURS, expect more work-centred BEING SPACES like New York's Paragraph and The Village Quill to pop up in talent magnets around the world: members-only centres catering to writers who need a space to be away from it all and actually get some work done. Paragraph ("providing an affordable and tranquil working environment for writers of all genres") occupies a 2,500 square foot loft space near Union Square, divided into a writing room and a lounge area. The writing room (open 24/7) has WiFi, partitioned desks, while the lounge area contains a kitchenette, a large round table and smaller café tables. The same set up can be found at the Village Quill, whose 1,700 square foot loft in Tribeca boasts 20 shared workstations and a lounge area.

And how about combining work, child care and BEING SPACES? Look no further than TwoRooms ("You Work, They Play"), another New York based facility designed to provide office space, childcare and community, all in one setting, for freelance and/or home-based workers who don't have the need for, or can't afford the expense of full-time childcare. The setup? Two Rooms literally provides two rooms at its facility: one for parents and one for children. The 2,200 square foot communal office area has wireless internet access, computers for rent, a printer, copier, fax and scanner, while the kitchen area offers an opportunity for interaction between parents. Parents can use the centre for full-time childcare and office space, or can take advantage of extensive flexibility and varied scheduling options.

The BEING SPACES list goes on and on: from laundrettes turned ‘’, like German Cleanicum, to the boom in private clubs in London and New York. Even mainstream hotel chains are waking up to the fact that their long ignored and often staid lobbies could be converted into prime BEING SPACES (see the Yahoo-Sheraton example further below), for guests and locals alike. Will entire generations of city dwellers around the world come to expect a BEING SPACE to be available on every corner, 24/7?

The above spells opportunity. However, what if you're not in the business of exploiting BEING SPACES, like Starbucks, Manboo or Paragraph, yet you see the value of offering consumers a public place they actually like to be, and not necessarily just to buy your stuff?

Partnering with existing BEING SPACES is an obvious choice, and warrants an ideation session by itself, but how about taking it one step further and actually designing your own BRAND SPACE, a space that capitalises—in the broadest sense of the word—on consumer expectations set in motion by BEING SPACES? Think literally accommodating consumers outside the home and office, becoming a relevant and useful part of their daily lives, offering them surprise, discovery, empathy, transformation. A place to lounge, hang out, try things out, work, or relax. Or all of this at once?

Check out the following examples from brands as diverse as ING Direct, Apple, Kodak, Eddie Bauer, and Nokia, who are all creating BRAND SPACES, small or big, temporary or fixed, that go beyond shallow advertising stunts.

Forgive us for focusing on POP-UP RETAIL again, but the phenomenon just won't go away. Temporary retail outlets, whether brick or mortar or virtual, or even on wheels, may not be the height of BRAND SPACE sophistication from a BEING SPACE perspective, but they do provide an easy source of inspiration. To get your feet wet thinking about a new kind of brand experience and BRAND SPACES, check out the following spottings, from last summer to the here and now.

So let's start with a slew of what can now be considered ‘traditional’ pop-up BRAND SPACES, many of them of the fast-fashion type, eager to surprise either random passers-by or those select few who were in the know. Here’s a long list of spottings over the last 6 months or so (ammunition!), just copy and paste into your brand presentation you'll give to your boss or, if you yourself are the boss, to your team:

Sapphire Inspired | Last November, Surface Magazine and Bombay Sapphire launched the week long “Sapphire Inspired” pop-up store at the Bathhouse Studios in New York. On sale were limited edition items like a Sapphire inspired martini glass entitled "Broken Martini" by emerging designer Dror Benshetrit, an Ice Chandelier by designer Eva Menz, stunning wallpaper from fashion designer Jonathan Saunders and lounge furniture created by Luisa Ruge. More than 1,000 people visited the store.

RBK/Vacant | Pop-up veteran Vacant is still going strong: last month, it was a RBKxVacant Ventilator pop-up store at the NY, 102 Wooster Street location that brought in the crowds. A coop between Vacant and Reebok, the store sold exclusive editions of the Reebok Ventilator, and a pre-release of the Miami Vice version.

American Apparel | Everyone’s favourite sexy, socially aware apparel retailer, American Apparel, opened a 45 day pop-up store from late November to early January this year, in, where else, New York. Boasting daily spontaneous events like karaoke, dreidel spinning, and mariachi performances. Discounts on select items throughout the store were included as well. Here’s a sample of the events:
– Dude, it's Black Friday @ the Pop-Up Shop
– Pop Karaoke Contest! @ the Pop-Up Shop
– Yoga Is Good For You @ the Pop-Up Shop
– NYC's Cliktrax and 'Sup Magazine bring the '05 music videos that mattered to the Pop-Up Shop's big screen.
– Pet Holiday Costume Contest @ The Pop-Up Shop
– Yoga Is Good For You! Pt.2 @ Pop-Up Shop
– Special screening of TV Carnage's A Sore for Sighted Eyes.
– L Magazine & Upright Citizen's Comedy @ The Pop-Up

Levi’s | And no, not all fashion pop-up stores are in New York: Levi’s Temporary Store in Milan opened its doors from mid Aug – 31 Dec 2005. (Thanks, Maurizio!)

Swatch | Swatch's pop-up watches are an European affair, too: the Swatch Instant Store has popped-up in cities like London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Berlin. Target audience is 15-25 year olds, and duration is flexible: as soon as the masses find the store, it will close its doors. It will by now not come as a surprise that limited edition watches are part of the inventory. In their own words: “The pace of life is forever increasing; the public is becoming more and more unpredictable; trends come and go at an ever faster pace and often spread across the globe instantly. In large cities, one finds generally the same chains of stores along the most famous shopping thoroughfares, at most in a different order. With its Instant Stores, Swatch has decided to remedy this state of affairs.”

66 North | Back to New York: what better way to introduce yourself to a highly demanding audience if you’re an outerwear apparel brand from Iceland and you don’t yet have a New York store? Build a pop-up one! 66°North’s temporary shop was open from 1 November until 31 December 2005, and offered DJs, art, design, fashion seminars, discussions ("a fantastic blend of Icelandic fashion, film and music"), and 2,500 square feet of moss-covered shelving, gravel floors and iceberg tables, to make it look like the brand's native country. In fact, the store designers envisioned the space as “a meeting point for anyone who's been to Iceland or would like to know more”.

Eddie Bauer | And what better way to experiment with a specific product than dedicate a pop-up store to it? The Eddie Bauer Down Boutique, at 30 Rockefeller Center, NYC, welcomed passers-by from 20 October – 31 December 2005, selling only down merchandise. From the New York Times: "The pop-up strategy gives us an opportunity to reach an influential audience in the New York market and reach tourists who flock there during the holiday season," says David Makuen, VP Marketing at Eddie Bauer. "The goal is to learn more about how consumers respond to our stylish down product, which is part of efforts to "set a new tone" for the venerable Eddie Bauer brand that dates to 1920".

The list goes on and on (we haven’t even highlighted recent Filativa, Blend, Uniqlo, Chloe, PlayStationPortable, Esquire and Taschen pop-up spaces), but how about some less than ordinary pop-up thinking?

J. Crew | This holiday season (Nov-Dec 2005) saw the J.Crew Holiday Haberdasher roaming the streets of New York. Think customized Land Cruisers stocked with gifts for men, including ties, scarves, wallets, cuff links and shirts. Show us one fashion brand that wouldn’t benefit from a stunt like this. High on the surprise factor, low on the lounging factor, though.

Caravan | Don’t have the money to operate your own branded mobile pop-up space? Then at least make sure your stuff is carried by Caravan, a fashion boutique on wheels offering a hip mix of contemporary clothing, accessories, gift items, and art. Launched June 2005 in New York City. In their own words: “The name Caravan lends itself to an eclectic evolving experience, a platform that will always transform with new products and ideas”. Want to check out the next Caravan location? A bit of competitive analysis never hurts!

Dommelsch | Think free pop-up concerts in cafes, by well known artists, and sponsored by a beer brand, would make for a good stunt? In The Netherlands, Dommelsch Beer organised pop-up concerts from July to December 2005. Barcodes on cans, beer bottles and coasters could be entered on the Dommelsch website to find out about dates and locations. The concerts went down so well that three new surprise concerts, featuring Candy Dulfer this time, will take place between 27 March and 15 April 2006. Location: to be announced ;-) On top of that, Dommelsch also organised more than 150 free supermarket concerts, performed by musicians from the Tilburg Rock Academy.

Martini | Perhaps Dommelsch was inspired by Martini’s pop-up bars in Belgium last year: these ‘Bar Deco’ style lounge bars complete with leather seats (and five different Martini cocktails to choose from) appeared for two weeks only in cities like Ghent and Antwerp. No advertising or anything: just word of mouth. Needless to say, the amount of PR generated was more than worth it, while adding a bit of exclusivity to the Martini brand didn’t hurt either.


Pokémon | And how about a pop-up theme park? Last year, Nintendo set up a six month PokéPark in Nagoya, Japan, to coincide with the World Expo; now Taiwan is next, from July-September 2006. Think running with Pokémon, getting lost in a forest full of wild Pikachu, splashing with Mudkip, and embarking on a railway journey with playful Pichu Brothers. The park hopes to continue its three-month stints, with a goal of drawing one million visitors at each stop.

But we're digressing. Let's move on to:

So… Surprise is definitely appreciated by consumers, but let’s go one step further: how about (gasp!) empathy? Empathy BRAND SPACES are all about bringing some love and empathy to hurried, thirsty, tired, or out of juice consumers. Take a cue from:

ABN Lounge at Schiphol Airport | Why not build a lounge for your clients in one of those spots they really need one, like... airports? Dutch ABN AMRO Bank operates a Preferred Banking clients lounge at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, open from 6 am to 10 pm daily. Meeting space, online access, food and beverages, and foreign currency exchange, all included. Preferred Banking clients have savings or investments exceeding 50,000 euros, and/or a monthly income of at least EUR 5,000. What have you done for your MASSCLUSIVITY customers lately?

Samsung Mobile Travel centres | More airport empathy: Samsung operates eight Samsung Mobile Travel centres at Dallas Airport, featuring leather lounge seating, semi-private workstations, electrical and phone outlets at each seat, dial-up internet access, and Starbucks coffee, pastries, salads and sandwiches. Oh, and kudos to Delta's eight Relax & Recharge spaces at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. These long counters with power outlets and comfortable stools are great for charging laptops, cell phones, PDAs and other tools that keep travellers going. They've been around for a while, but they illustrate empathic BRAND SPACE thinking to the max.

Orange cellphone recharge locker | Brilliant in their simplicity, and delivering real value to communication-crazed customers: Orange Telecom’s charger-lockers in its 'experience' stores let customers recharge their phones while shopping or lounging. If Orange and Delta can deliver simple but oh so useful empathic services in the public space, so can you, regardless of what B2C industry you're in!

Nokia Silence Booth | Besides running out of juice, what else drives the average cell phone user nuts? NOISE! Ever tried to make a phone call from a music festival or any other crowded, noisy event? Last summer, Nokia made festival goers’ lives easier (and quieter) by installing Silence Booths at Benelux events like Rockin' Park, Rock Werchter, LowLands, Mysteryland, 5 Days Off, I Love Techno and InnerCity. A quiet BRAND SPACE is a good BEING SPACE.

ING Bank @ Rijksmuseum | Brush up your foreign languages to fully appreciate this easy-to-implement idea: in Dutch, ‘bank’, as in financial institution, also means ‘couch’.

So ING Bank’s sponsorship of The Netherlands National Museum (Rijksmuseum) in Amsterdam involved placing comfortable couches throughout the museum, and near the many masterpieces, turning the art temple into a pleasant, subtle BRAND SPACE. More ING BRAND SPACE activities below.

HSBC BankCab | For three years now, HSBC has sent branded vintage taxis, vans, and even a London cab into Manhattan, whether to highlight a golf tournament the bank is sponsoring, or just to celebrate the holiday season. The freebie? New Yorkers who can show the driver a HSBC bankcard get a free ride. A bank that makes things easy for you in any way possible: we think this is an idea that is still ripe for copying!

Take our already example-rich TRYVERTISING trend, apply it to BRAND SPACES, and voila: you’ve delivered two benefits to your existing and future customers: hanging out AND trying-before-you-buy. Learn from:

Xbox360 Lounge | This one we’re sure you’ve seen: the Xbox 360 Lounge in Tokyo, which was in business from 1 November 2005 – 12 February 2006. The purpose-built, 256 square meter demonstration centre for the Xbox 360 featured game consoles in the Touch and Try corner, a 200 inch screen, two VIP rooms, WiFi access, a shop and a 70-seat café (including Xbox themed mixed drinks). Besides happy visitors, just the amount of buzz this lounge generated in the blogosphere was worth the investment alone.

Google Space | More online goodness: Google Space popped up at Heathrow Terminal One on 24 November and popped back out on 19 December 2005. An internet café-style computing booth meets try-out corner meets testing lab, it offered 10 Samsung laptops and free online access, manned by two Google employees. From ZDUK: "Google Space acted as a physical testing lab for its new applications; a trial project that offered passengers free access to applications such as Google Earth, Google Mail and Picasa." No word on new Google Spaces yet, but online brands setting up offline BRAND SPACES is no doubt a trend that will intensify in the next 12 months to come: world domination means real world domination, too!

Yahoo! Link @ Sheraton | Turning neglected hotel lobbies into proper BRAND SPACES is what the Yahoo! Link @ Sheraton program is all about. The experience begins as guests make their way through the hotel lobbies of the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina and the Sheraton Boston, and enter a specially designed communal lounge area featuring leather seats, refreshments, WiFi, workstations and plasma television. Designed to function as a “virtual concierge,” the Yahoo! Link @ Sheraton website also provides Sheraton guests with current local information such as weather conditions, nearby restaurants and attractions, and local driving directions. In a GENERATION C / CUSTOMER MADE twist, guests and hotel associates can add their personal favourites and reviews of local restaurants and attractions to the website. From "Sheraton was seeing more and more of their users spending time in the lobby on their computers. People just don't always want to hang out in their rooms, they want some kind of social interaction."

Wired Store | In case you missed the Wired Store (but we sure you didn't!): this try-out pop-up store in (yes, again) New York, was designed as a destination that would move e-commerce into a brick and mortar space and let shoppers test drive the latest consumer gadgets and gear. The store allowed customers to sample more than 65 products ranging from a new Motorola cell phone to the Ultimate Gaming chair to a once-in-a-lifetime suborbital space adventure. Purchases could be made on digital checkout, allowing shoppers to leave the bags and hassles behind. Partners included American Express, VW, 3M, Adidas, Biomorph, Braun, Cingular, Epson, Flavorpill, Grey Goose, Klipsch, Logitech, Motorola, Napster, Nikon, Nokia, Oakley , Oregon Scientific, Rockstar, Samsonite, Sanyo, Sonos, Sony, Symantec and Tassimo.

A video of the store can be viewed here (thank you, Rocketboom), while the Wired Store's raison d'etre was best summed up by this blogger:

Weber Grill Restaurant | A whole different try-out BRAND SPACE beast is the chain of Weber Grill restaurants in the US. With four Chicago-area locations—downtown Chicago, Lombard, Wheeling, and Schaumburg (the latter opened its doors in August 2005)—Weber Grills is a division of Weber-Stephen Products Co., manufacturer of charcoal and gas grills and accessories. No surprise then that Weber Grill restaurants do most of their cooking on gigantic Weber grills. To add an extra serving of trying out their products: cooking classes are popular, too! Last but not least, the restaurants make good money too.

LG Wash Bar | Last but not least, how about try before you buy an LG washing machine in the LG Wash Bar in Paris? Located in the fashionable Oberkampf area in the 11th arrondissement, customers can enjoy music and a drink while getting their laundry done. The 150 square meter bar features 9 heavy duty LG washing machines and dryers. There’s also a 40 square meter showroom featuring various LG TVs and PC monitors, enabling customers to also experience LG's other products while they do their laundry. Staff helps customers with their laundry, demonstrating the equipment as needed. Every Tuesday customers who dress from head to toe in white are offered free ‘Whiter than white’ (Plus Blanc que Blanc) cocktails. Who’s next? Miele? (Thanks to Michael Simmonds, Springspotter Network.)

For more BRAND SPACES with a try-out twist, please refer to our TRYVERTISING trend, and in particular the Zanussi, Whirlpool and Maytag stores.

What better way to deliver superior value in what is still an Experience Economy than to make good on the next Big Thing: Joseph Pine’s transformation economy (in which the economic offering of a company is the change in an individual person as a result of what the company does). Substitute transformation with—for example—education, and you'll get the point. Offering consumers a BRAND SPACE experience that is not only surprising, empathic and/or lets them try out things, but empowers them as well, is truly the New Marketer’s Holy Grail. How to do this? Well, for example, how about making sure your customers leave your BRAND SPACE a bit smarter than when they entered … Check out:

ING Direct credit seminars | Yes, the four loungy ING DIRECT Cafes in NY, LA, Philadelphia and Wilmington have been around for a while now, in fact ING was amongst the first financial services firms to take the BEING SPACES trend and run with it. But they don't just serve free coffee; mortgage seminars are also on the menu. In their own words: “Our free seminars at ING DirectCafés will help make the home buying process a little less complicated. So, if you are one of the millions of Americans who wishes there was a Mortgage 101 class, then this is the seminar for you! We’ll provide light refreshments and snacks. All you need to bring are the questions.”

Apple Theatre | In a GENERATION C world, it’s no surprise that one of the most popular offerings at Apple Stores across the US, UK, Canada and Japan is The Theatre, where Apple devotees (and aspiring movie directors, DJs, and graphic designers) can participate in one-hour workshops every day, free of charge. Workshops are divided into three categories: 'Introductory Presentations', designed to provide an introduction to the latest hardware and digital lifestyle applications; 'Workshops', which offer more in-depth information about Apple's applications; and 'Pro Workshops', aimed at professionals looking to get the most out of advanced creative tools like DVD Studio Pro 3, Final Cut Pro HD and Logic Pro 7. Observing dozens of GENERATION C members crowd the theatre on a Saturday afternoon should give you plenty of inspiration to set up your own transformational BRAND SPACE.

Kodak One Gallery masterclasses | Kodak opened its temporary interactive galleries
in New York and San Francisco during November 2005. Besides the expected exhibits from renowned and emerging artists, exclusive events, product giveaways, and hands-on trial of the latest Kodak products and services, like the EasyShare wireless system, there were informative technology workshops and masterclasses taught by professional photographers. An overview of courses offered:
– Cut the Cord: Becoming a Wireless Photography Guru
– Digital Road Trips: New Ways to Shoot and Share "On the Go" Pictures
– Action! Become a Director (and Nine Other Digital Photography Secrets)
– Keep Me, Protect Me, Share Me. Keeping Tabs on Your Pictures in a Digital World
Show us one brand that couldn't make the link to education and empowerment? Add a funky BRAND SPACE and free beverages to your classes and courses, and both your customers and the media may turn up in droves!

Galleria illy barista lessons | And to end this Briefing with how it all it started: a coffee bar! Occupying a former retail space in SoHo, Galleria illy got it right this winter, offering visitors “a gallery, a library, a theatre, a university. And the most authentic espresso in New York.” The university/transformation part of the equation involved three programs:
leading food journalist David Rosengarten’s original, theatrical piece, "28 Seconds", showcases coffee’s long and storied history, what you need to know about coffee biology and chemistry, and how, in 28 seconds, the perfect cup of espresso is prepared. The show will be presented twice every Tuesday.

CoffeeSense is a three-week course centred on coffee preparation and enjoyment. Week one focuses on coffee and illy fundamentals, focusing on taste; week two is about preparing illy using every popular method, from drip to French press to espresso machine; week three is all indulgence, showing how to pair the right coffees with the right desserts, and featuring guest lecturers like leading chocolatier Jacques Torres. The three-week series will repeat three times during the Galleria’s run. University of Coffee is a customized version of the in-depth coffee preparation training illy provides at its Trieste, Italy headquarters.
That's not all, though: Gregory Fea, CEO of illy North America, when interviewed about space by the New York Times, said he counted as an unexpected bonus the chance to get to know some of his customers. "It's tremendously insightful; to sit in the library and on the couch, engaging in conversations with them, finding out about what they do, how they learned about illy, what are the passions in their lives." Now that would really get us to the heart of BEING SPACES, conversations and... CUSTOMER MADE. But more on that next time. ;-)

The opportunity? Translating the BEING SPACES trend into ways to increase your brand awareness in the public space. The aforementioned examples prove it can be done. Costly? Sure. But how about diverting only 5% of your advertising budget, adding a heavy dose of creative thinking (which shouldn't cost you more than a few hours and a good bottle of Syrah)? That would give you plenty of pocket money to get started, creating brand environments that will actually delight consumers by providing them with surprise, discovery, empathy, trying out and transformation. Partner with hotels, airports, cruise ships and other BEING SPACE-prone entities if you don't have real estate to play with. When was the last time a run of the mill advertising campaign did that?
And yes, as always, there's more: what about, for example, the online world? Isn't the online arena one giant BEING SPACE, where anyone can and occasionally does (at least mentally) escape traditional environments? Habbo Hotel! MySpace! We kept it bricks and mortar this month, but expect an update on virtual BEING SPACES AND BRAND SPACES soon. >> Email this Trend Briefing to a friend.