In your sight. In your mind.

VMRD - - Contents - Satarupa Chakraborty

Shun­ning all the spec­u­la­tions about the down­fall of brick-and-mor­tar re­tail spa­ces, the malls in In­dia con­tinue to show a re­cur­ring growth in the num­ber of brands they are host­ing in their spa­ces. In a re­cent re­port by real es­tate con­sult­ing firm, Cush­man & Wake­field, In­dia is all set to re­ceive ap­prox­i­mately 34 new malls by 2020. This could mean more brands, more stores and more clut­ter, maybe. But, the brick-and-mor­tar re­tail­ers are in­no­vat­ing their in-store ex­pe­ri­ences and even tak­ing them out­side too. One of the re­cent trends that is help­ing brands make their pres­ence in the malls are the “brand­ing out­posts”. The pre­vi­ously-unused or more pop­u­lar parts such as en­try points or atri­ums of the malls are be­ing used by the brands, ei­ther to show­case an ex­ten­sion of their in-store VM or to use the space more in­no­va­tively with a clear ob­jec­tive of vis­i­bil­ity. VM&RD talks to brands, malls and ser­vice providers to scan this pop­u­lar prac­tice.

Vis­i­bil­ity – when and why

When Ja­panese life­style re­tailer MUJI set foot in In­dia early this year, atri­ums of pop­u­lar malls were in­un­dated with their pro­mo­tional out­posts and posters. Be­fore mak­ing the de­but, the brand at­tempted to ed­u­cate In­dian con­sumers on the legacy of the brand. When bags and ac­ces­sories brand, Kate Spade did their pre-pro­mo­tion, the out­posts were meant to be more of selfie-points. Amer­i­can ca­sual wear brand Aero­postale, ahead of their first store launch in In­dia last year, re­sorted to the same ob­jec­tive and at­tempted to cre­ate a so­cial me­dia stir. A spokesper­son from the mar­ket­ing team of Re­liance Brands, men­tioned, “When it comes to cre­at­ing buzz and vis­i­bil­ity, we al­ways pre­fer brand­ing in­stal­la­tions in the mall or pop-up , the first to cre­ate buzz and the lat­ter to un­der­stand our con­sumers.” Brands like Su­perdry and Brooks Broth­ers cre­ated many such pop-ups to un­der­stand foot­falls of par­tic­u­lar malls.

The en­gage­ment buzz

Brand­ing out­posts were mere ex­ten­sion of in-store vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing till a few years back, which has taken an in­ter­est­ing turn now. To present both the brand’s iconic con­nec­tion to Lon­don and cre­ate a pho­to­point for con­sumers, Marks & Spencer, cre­ated an in­stal­la­tion of typ­i­cal Lon­don street phone booth. The Bri­tish re­tailer, hav­ing done such brand­ing out­post for the first time in In­dia, has re­vealed its plan to en­gage more in such ac­tiv­i­ties in fu­ture. Footwear brand Aldo, to pro­mote their Art & Soul col­lec­tion, col­lab­o­rated with fa­mous artist Je­hangir Jani, to present some of his vis­ual nar­ra­tions of Aldo’s mer­chan­dises. Fit­ness brand Adi­das’s 95% out­posts are the­matic and en­gage­ment driven, whereas only 5% are mer­chan­dise-driven. Ar­jun Singh Gehlot, Di­rec­tor, Am­bi­ence Malls, ex­plained, “Such brand­ing has gone be­yond be­ing static in western coun­try and we have also started em­brac­ing dig­i­tal in­stal­la­tions and aug­mented re­al­ity for in-mall brand­ing. Spar­ingly, but yes. Per­son­ally, it’s also about en­hanc­ing the mall ex­pe­ri­ence and there­fore, we en­cour­age more ex­pe­ri­en­tial out­posts.”

Echo­ing his thoughts, a mar­ket­ing spokesper­son from Ma­jor Brands, added, “We have al­ways tried to cre­ate some­thing with a spike even if it’s sim­ple prod­uct or man­nequin dis­played. We may take an ele­ment from the ex­ist­ing in-store VM but make sure that we present a larger-than-life stature of the same when we are do­ing in­mall ac­ti­va­tion.”

Mer­chan­dise-driven, theme-driven or en­gage­ment-driven, do all ac­ti­va­tions qual­ify to take a place in the mall? Well, there’s al­ways a man­date to be fol­lowed by the mall au­thor­i­ties. When a Ger­man ice cream brand was for­ay­ing in In­dian mar­ket, their com­mu­ni­ca­tion didn’t au­gur well with In­dian sen­ti­ment and the mall author­ity di­rected them to re­move it overnight. Yo­gesh­war Sharma, Di­rec­tor, se­lect Ci­tywalk, said, “Even though a brand has ev­ery right to pro­mote them­selves, we have to be care­ful to­wards the sen­ti­ments of the peo­ple who are walk­ing in our prop­erty. We pro­vide all sup­port to the en­gaged brands but the de­sign and com­mu­ni­ca­tions have to be ap­proved by us.”

Adding to the con­cept, Vikas Shetty, Head of Busi­ness, Grow­els Malls, said, “We have our set do’s and don’ts. In many cases, the brand­ing in­stal­la­tions come in the way of vis­i­bil­ity of other stores or free flow of cus­tomer move­ment. There­fore, we have given them a man­date of max­i­mum space of 10ftX10ft. We also do not en­cour­age them set up aes­thet­i­cally poor out­posts or a kind of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that may of­fend the catch­ment.”

De­sign, chal­lenge and ex­e­cu­tion

De­sign­ers and ser­vice providers in re­tail in­dus­try have found out that the rush of brand­ing out­posts are mostly in de­mand in the fes­tive sea­son. They also col­lec­tively agree that they have to de­liver on lot of pro­to­typ­ing and the mar­ket­ing bud­gets for these out­posts are rel­a­tively low. The time­line to in­stall them are gen­er­ally as brief as overnight.

Sid­dhant Sahu, Founder Few Steps Ahead

Only aes­thetic in­stal­la­tion with no in­ter­ac­tion have a stag­nant shelf life in terms of cre­at­ing buzz. We need to em­brace more and more in­ter­ac­tion. How­ever, tech­nol­ogy in In­dia is still very ex­pen­sive. But the­matic out­posts will pave the fu­ture of brand­ing.

Amit Kan­odia, Pro­pri­etor Pi­o­neer Dig­i­tal

Brands are ready to ex­per­i­ment with ma­te­ri­als to achieve a par­tic­u­lar look but only when it’s cost-ef­fec­tive. Yes, there are chal­lenges to adapt de­sign and make it look aes­thetic in bud­get con­straint. It is more so, when the in­stal­la­tion gets done at wee hours when the malls are closed for pub­lic. Deepak Ma­gar, Di­rec­tor, Supra Dig­i­tal

We in­vest lot of time in pro­to­typ­ing and left with lit­er­ally few days for ex­e­cu­tion. Many a times, we ar­rive at some chal­lenges dur­ing in­stal­la­tion and we must come up with a quick so­lu­tion. All in all, time frame is usu­ally very lim­ited to ex­e­cute these in­stal­la­tions.

Brand out­posts – a win-win

Even a few years back, we could spot the sea­sonal brand­ing out­posts three times in a year at the most, which has now in­creased to 5-6 times a year. Malls, with the re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards help­ing the brands achieve big­ger foot­fall and sales rev­enue, are host­ing these ac­tiv­i­ties for res­i­dent brands for free of cost or at a nom­i­nal yearly charge. With malls leas­ing out more space to the brands and brands in­vest­ing more on these out­posts, some­times as good as 1.5 times of their in-store vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing. The trend clearly in­di­cates that the propo­si­tion serves the pur­pose.

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