Is the high street dead? No, but it is changing and a few unexpected brands are helping drive this evolution.
No longer is the high street a functional and transactional depot of stuff – that depot is now online. Instead, the high street has become a place for experience. A place to procure but also to trial, create memories, cultivate a lifestyle and seek out experiences. Which is exactly what many marketing campaigns are seeking to do.
We have seen some forward-thinking brands capitalise on this shift. FMCG brands, previously not known to put their name above a shop, have entered the high street and plugged in to the growing retail experience economy.
From the Marmite shops we launched at the beginning of this trend in 2009 to recent examples such as Magnum’s Pleasure Store, M&M's World, Kellogg’s NYC cafe and the Guinness Storehouse, a new breed of commercialised brand spaces – a sort of ‘brand cathedral’ – has emerged.
More than a marketing vehicle
The brand cathedral is distinguished by the fact that it has, at its heart, a monetary transaction, often at a premium. A Magnum at the Pleasure Store costs £5.50, entrance to the Guinness Storehouse is €17.50. This is an important statement of value from a brand: it isn’t willing to give its experience away for free. Both the brand and the consumer invest in the experience.
This approach also delivers commercial impact for the brand. No fancy ROI study is required to count money in the till – no other communications campaign can make that claim.
And the results are telling: M&M's World accounts for 12% of the brand’s total UK brand confectionery sales and welcomes six million people per year. This is marketing that pays handsomely.
Elevating the product experience
Consumers crave authenticity, so these spaces need to elevate the core brand offering. The Guinness Storehouse will teach you how to pour a pint, a ritual that puts the product on a pedestal.
The Magnum Pleasure Store dramatises this in a different way, giving you a personal dipping experience and allowing you to create your very own Magnum masterpiece.
In-depth and unique
These cathedrals are using the high street as a window to the new and a space in which to play. It isn’t about buying more stuff but purchasing experience, knowledge or leisure. For FMCG brands, whose consumer connection is often at arm’s length, it’s a fantastic opportunity to build genuine engagement and equity with fans.
Consumers want stories and these spaces are packed full of them, building that special sense of being an insider, which is invaluable to cultivating brand devotees.
Experience is about engaging the whole self
These spaces enable brands to control the whole experience. An experience for all five senses, which arouses emotion and creates memories.
So when a visitor to the Storehouse (pictured) says the Guinness just tastes better there, who are we to dispute that? Maybe it’s the view, maybe it’s the Dublin air, maybe it’s the expert who poured their pint, maybe it’s their new-found knowledge of the ingredients, maybe it’s who they experienced it with. Maybe it’s the best pint they’ve ever had.
What’s it worth?
Which brings us to why a Marmite jar purchased from the Marmite Store is worth more than a regular jar bought from a supermarket. The value statement is not just the £2.50 you paid for it but, in the truest sense of the word, it is worth more because it comes with the memories, warmth and depth of the experience that went with it.
Patrick Hammond is co-founder and partner of Hot Pickle