Creating authentic experiences for the selfie generation
Long before the advent of Twitter and Snapchat there were Kodak Moments. Places where people would pause along their journey, perhaps in front of an iconic building or sculpture, and snap a photo.
Having lived in Philadelphia for years, I remember fondly the Wanamaker’s Eagle and Strawbridge & Clothier’s Wild Boar. These store icons were part mascot, part marketing and all theater. Customers would line up to rub the Strawbridge boar’s nose, turning it bright brass – whereas the remainder of the bronze sculpture would have the patina of a 1960’s penny. When meeting friends or colleagues in center city, “Meet me at the Eagle” became as famous a phrase as the retail emporium itself. As department stores followed their customers from downtown to the suburbs, these icons were replicated. As a customer you may not be able to shop the flagship downtown store, but you’re still going to have the same customer experience.
Maybe this is why mainstream department stores are struggling today. The family dynasties of strong visionary entrepreneurial merchants have given way to faceless mega-corporations with marketing professionals following trends on social media, ignoring marketing concepts that worked in earlier times. Gone are those authentic, meaningful and experiences.
For storied department stores these icons became like sports team mascots are today. As a Penn State grad I marveled during a recent campus visit when there was a long line of people waiting to have their picture taken with the stone statute of the Nittany Lion, and same for LSU’s famed tiger Mike, although fans certainly don’t sit on the very real fanged and clawed big cat!
Millennials authenticate theses type of experiences by posting selfies on Facebook or SnapChat. The images are shared instantly with their friends and followers, and with it comes a great deal of social influence. Influence along with free publicity that paid advertising would love to generate but rarely does.
Bottom Line: Why would any retailer, company or city for that matter, not create these Kodak Moment opportunities? Indianapolis has done a great job strategically placing ‘Indy’ sculptures where the backdrop are iconic vista’s of the city. The brilliance behind the campaign is that the sculptures exclude the ‘I’ and participants are encouraged to “Be the ‘I’ in Indy. Declare your love to the world”. Photos are posted under the hashtag #LoveIndy where residents and tourists alike share their Kodak Moments. Free publicity, and authentic experiences from a dedicated group of fans.