Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Engaging the Customers: The Old Navy Approach

Last weekend I went shopping at "The Gap" and "Old Navy". I'm not a big shopper of either of these stores, nor their pricier "Banana Republic" line. It always seems to be a bit too beige and chinos for me. Never mind, I had a "friends and family" card for a discount weekend, and I can always find something to buy.

The "Old Navy" I visited is the new layout that they are rolling out to all their stores. They are proud of their "racetrack" configuration. I suppose it works, as you wander down their yellow brick road through the store, rather than back and forth into large merchandise cubicles of the past. Yet, this racetrack means change rooms in the middle of the store. It is a bit off putting actually. It looks like a locker room at the gym, complete with a headset wearing attendant, burdened down with discarded clothing.

Besides the vaguely unpleasant locker room, I noticed "Old Navy's" new "Pose with the Plastic Pros" campaign.Old Navy is encouraging customers to pose with their "SuperModelquin" (That's the name!) and then upload the pic at the "Old Navy" site for a chance to win $100,000.

Hopefully the 100 grand is in cash, and you don't have to spend it all at "Old Navy". It's a good campaign though, giving customers a chance to engage with the brand in a fun and playful way. The campaign is great for "Old Navy" as well, allowing them to wring whatever branding is left with those ubiquitous advertising "SuperModelquins"

With Apple encouraging customers to take pics next to the cutout "apple geeks" in their stores, it seems to me a trend is developing. Inviting customers to be part of, and to live the brand through visual merchandising. Letting customers connect to the display, rather than the hands off, look, but don't touch approach, of the past. These campaigns create some customer excitement that is sorely lacking in retail today.

Made me wonder how independent stores could get involved in a similar customer engagement merchandising activity. Students on campus would get into this idea, if for no other reason that they enjoy stores that are fun and full of life. I could see a campaign working at a college store with perhaps, the mascot? Posing with a cutout of the College President? Remember those big wooden displays you stick your head through at the county fair? That's the kind of playful idea that builds traffic into the store and makes the store bigger than the sum of it's parts.

But, please don't create your own SuperDuperModelMannequins. They scare me.

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