the shop window
as 24 hour
ten advanced principles for
effective brand promotion
Good point, well made.
have all these funny little images got to do with creating
an arresting, effective display in a shop window?
As a selling tool, the window display has largely stagnated
in the last few years; no longer viewed as the face of a
brand, its seductive smile has been replaced with a
perfunctory nod. Windows often fail the brand, betraying
the promise of the website, advertisements, or printed
brochure. In short, windows are often overlooked by
both the retailer and the consumer.
The Wood Burning Stovers (essentially smug Guardian readers
with aspirations for the good life), through the Middleton
Classes (aspirant lower-middle-middle class), and the Asda
Mums, are all in danger of being neglected and un-wooed.
The real-life, real-time human experience of the high street
experience is emotionally starved and under exploited.
Ask our mothers.
1. Cultural fish bait
Shop windows are very primitive television trailers for an up and coming movie blockbuster.
(But without that gravelly-toned, seductive voice-over).
A window doesn’t even have a guaranteed thirty second attention slot; as a trailer for the shop’s offer, it needs to condense the plot, excitement, glamour, humour and feel-good, must-see factor into a visual soundbite.
Short of A - list celebrity faces, shorthand cultural references can be employed to gainattention and instantly persuade the passer-by to enter Screen One. Sometimes a telescopic rifle approach is needed. Sometimes a blunderbuss. Mixed metaphors, like confusing windows, however, will only confuse.*
Section D: an intravenous injection of humour
to the emotional purchase system of the macro-environment (store exterior).
Who doesn’t need cheering up?
In the half-remembered pre-internet, pre-recession, pre-car parking rates, consumer utopia, recreational shopping was fun.
Emotion, human contact, atmospherics; everything the internet lacks. Leaving the sofa, finding a parking place, and encountering those one in every seven closed shops* can lead to asking the question: is this fun?
*One shop in every seven on the high street is now empty.
- Local Data Company, Shop Vacancy Report, 2013
And that’s not funny.
3. Repetition blindness
Too much, too identical, can’t differentiate, no novelty.
Repetition blindness occurs when the frontal cortex has to process an array of similar
visual images all streaming in from the visual cortex. When the brain sees window after
window of interchangeable formats, many sporting very similar colours, words, and
images, a portion of the subconscious brain perceives a big blur.
Neurologically programmed to search for differences, we seek out things that enable us tomake sense of the environment and to navigate the world safely and productively. Whenthe brain is presented with a series of repetitive images—even if there are some
differences among them—repetition blindness sets in. The brain no longer sees each
individual image as it would if that image stood alone, or with only a small number of
And the importance? 50% of all high street sales are made on impulse.
4. Inspiration offline
Customers’ purchasing behaviour driven by
storytelling and emotions.
As sensation-seekers, consumers enjoy being inspired by a unique range of experiential
shopping environments. Retailers are concerned with the success of market strategies
driven by customers’ desires, perception and satisfaction.
The best stories engage by playing on universal human traits and aspirations, embracing
idiosyncrasies, abandoning restraint, and going beyond the basic senses.
The window is not an impenetrable screen; glimpsed through it can be an enticing sensory
experience. Visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory systems influence humans’ cognitive
responses. Among the different sensory systems, visual information primarily influences
how we analyse things around us. Sight not only affects humans physically and
psychologically, but also has strong association with other senses; sight often overrules the
other senses, and has the power to persuade us against all logic. Physical visual
stimulation cannot be underestimated.
The window display is the opening paragraph of an irresistible story.
5. Scale etc
It’s a simple enough device.
Playing around with our expectations of proportion can have an immediate, yet simple
impact. Other equally theatrical devices have recently been overlooked. Even the
ubiquitous SALE signage is now firmly part of the brand family (and not the infrequent
visiting, slightly imbecilic third cousin, twice removed, it used to be).
Other tried and tested window concepts your granny taught you to suck:
REPETITION/MULTIPLES/GEOMETRY. ONE SIMPLE HUGE IMAGE. HUNDREDS OF LITTLE IMAGES.
PROPS (where do we start?). CLEVER LIGHTING. ROOM SETS. INTERPRETATION OF ART INSTALLATION.
ALLUSION TO BIG CULTURAL EVENT. FILL THE WINDOW WITH HUNDREDS OF LIVE PUPPIES (arresting,
but messy). PUT REAL PEOPLE IN THE WINDOW. SCREEN/MASK THE WINDOW. ADD A BORDER.
EXTEND THE SCHEME OUTSIDE OF THE GLASS. USE TRANSLUCENT MATERIALS AND LAYERING. JUST
USE TEXT. ADD ONE HUGE OBJECT. ADD ONE TINY OBJECT. MAKE A ROOM SET. HAVE FUN WITH
MIRRORS. USE ILLUSTRATIONS. GO SLICK. GO HAND-MADE. GO TECHNICAL IF YOU MUST...*
*German research group Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute has produced an interactive
flat screen monitor and motion tracker for windows; customers can point at a product for
information, or order products when a store is closed.
6. Talk to me
A little less conversation; words that sell.
Why go to a cafe when you have a packet of good coffee at home?
Consumers are human. Humans are tribal, gregarious, and need strokes.*
A conversation (between the brand & consumer) can often begin in advertising collateral
or online. The widow is that friendly, familiar shout from the other side of the street.
Images, words, props and merchandise may be used in any combination; it is pure
words, however, which retain the potency for specific message carrying.
A monologue which, if successful, turns into an instore dialogue.
* In Transactional Analysis terms, strokes are the recognition, attention or
responsiveness that one person gives another.
7. Hello silence
Another word for words here would be brand noise.
Bombarding the potential consumer with call to action statements is integral to the selling
machine. Occasionally words need to take a back seat.
We like to think of this as the Simon & Garfunkel approach to attracting attention.
Selfridges commenced 2013 with silence as a key theme. Fostering, and selling the idea
of a quieter life, the frantic pace of the festive period was replaced with a message to slow
down: attention is still grabbed, however, by referencing the removal of brand noise,
including the removal of typography from familiar products*.
*Some ideas you just love or hate.
Closely related to hello silence.
Distributing a window/VM budget unevenly over a year has several positive benefits;
a variation in pace in the feel of the window; ideas being implemented without fear of
duplicating an equally costed installation; a bigger chunk of the remaining budget being
used for noticeably lavish seasonal spikes.
Interspersing a more minimalist scheme can prove dramatic; sometimes it is simply more
effective to take things away.*
*Sometimes you can’t have too much minimalism.
The world can seem an ugly place.
Beauty on the high street can register as a source of comfort, and attainable happiness.
Did we mention the product?
There are now 450,000,000,000 brands of top handle satchel handbags in production
throughout the world*. It takes a confident window to direct attention to just one of them.
Confused by overwhelming choice, the consumer looks to the brand curator for
reassurance, expertise, other complementary product adjacencies. Guide me. Inform me.
Surprise me. Convince me this is the one for me (and my budget).
Sometimes a window only needs great product that can speak for itself.
If it can’t speak for itself, you might just have the wrong product.
*No there aren’t. We made that bit up.