The ABC's: Activation, Brands, & Consumers | VOL. 2

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Brands Are Taking the Retail Experience to the Next Level Through “Merchantainment”

Move over ugly sweaters and Santa hats, Ralph Lauren is taking this holiday season by storm, bringing its marquee Polo Pony emblem to life… Literally!

Ralph Lauren is teaming up with Snapchat to create a scannable AR version of its signature Pony logo that will allow Snapchatters to scan the logo anywhere they find it whether it’s online, on someone’s shirt or on a billboard. After scanning the logo, the Pony comes to life on the user’s screen, displaying a large ribbon shaped horse and jockey layered in front of a Holiday themed backdrop and a Happy Holidays from Ralph Lauren script. Embedded into the experience is an Explore button that links directly to Ralph Lauren’s Holiday gifting guide on their website. The Pony experience is part of a larger Ralph Lauren and Snapchat partnership that was introduced this past August.

One of the first steps within this partnership was a line of Ralph Lauren clothing rolled out for people to dress their Bitmoji avatars in. There were six men’s and six women’s wardrobes that people could adorn on their characters and the outfits are available for purchase via Ralph Lauren’s website. This collaboration saw over 10 million users dress their Bitmoji’s in the Ralph Lauren collection and the wardrobes were “tried on” more than 250 million times.

Ralph Lauren’s dive into this unique partnership is driven by a larger idea the brand has coined “merchantainment” defined as the fusion of retail shopping and entertainment experiences into one.

Prior to COVID-19, there was already an emerging trend for brands to move away from a transactional brick and mortar buying experience to a more experiential journey. Take for example the upscale consultation one goes through at a Warby Parker store. People walk into Warby Parker looking to buy glasses, but Warby Parker is really selling the idea of buying personalized style.

Patrons can be treated to an eye exam, consultation, and given design recommendations for frames, lenses, and colors by a Warby Parker stylist.

It would be easy for Warby Parker to partner with an eyewear retailer like LensCrafters to simply sell their glasses; however, Warby Parker instead has their own stores, and leads with its brand personality first via a unique experience, which ultimately results in consumers purchasing their products. For an online heavy brand such as Warby Parker, having their own brick and mortar stores seems to be as much of a marketing tactic as it is about selling frames.

The crossover between brand positioning and customer experience has seen some fantastic creativity, and the idea of “merchantainment” is here to stay as brands continue to look for ways to differentiate themselves amongst the commoditization of shopping in-person or online.

Here is a look at additional creative brand innovations taking “merchantainment” to the next level:

Bustle Digital Group’s Virtual Mall

Bustle Digital Group recently launched a virtual mall were consumers can browse pop-up stands for brands like Samsung, Gap, and Amazon Prime. This is a great way for consumers to replace going the mall while still being able to shop for loved ones. What’s intriguing about these digital pop-ups is the data brands will be able to track such as impressions, length of engagement, click through rates, and trackable ROI.

Pensacola Blue Wahoos Stadium AirBNB

When Minor League Baseball season was cancelled this season, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos lost their product and main revenue source. Thinking outside of the box about what other products or experiences the team could provide fans to drive revenue, it came up with the ability to rent out their Stadium via AirBNB. Included in the rental is access to the team clubhouse, a bedroom that fits ten people, use of the batting cages and the ability to play on the field. Not a bad way to shift on a dime, and provide Blue Wahoos or baseball fans a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Check it out here, only $1,571 a night!

NBA2K & Nike

NBA2K video game series and Nike have teamed up to provide 2K players exclusive opportunities for Nike merchandise that can be worn in the video game and purchased in the real world. Players are able to progress through challenges within the videogame to unlock these exclusive offerings to stylize their NBA2K player. The partnership has strategic launch dates around real-world events such as Christmas Day games, and All-Star weekend.