HomeOPINIONCreating your own bonfire effect

Creating your own bonfire effect

Bringing brand propositions to life in a consistent way is a never-ending challenge for retailers.

This year at the NRF Big Show 2017 in New York, Kevin Kelley spoke to the delegation about the ‘Bonfire Effect’ – a powerful concept that retailers can and should embrace. Kevin most eloquently talked about how retail has the power to “convene”; to bring people together effectively as a group of complete strangers that bond for a common reason and he calls this the Bonfire Effect.

If you think about the rituals of a bonfire, it brings people together in an informal way. There are twig collectors that lay the foundations, and the fire needs to be not too big, nor too small. There is collective participation led by a bonfire master who is respected as they create the perfect mood and vibe to bring people together in cooperation.

When a bonfire is created, those who attend participate in a ‘situation experience’, where people feel emotionally connected to the place and the occupants because of the sense of shared values, purpose and identity.

Retailers have the power to create communities that bond. Experiences where we can learn as a tribe, participate and be. An environment that allows co-creation to develop the brand.

There are great examples of retail businesses that have built incredibly powerful (and profitable) propositions from highly personalised service, being recognised “as a local” and having their finger on the pulse to build localised product ranges. What lessons could we take from their ability to adapt, tailor and keep their ear to the ground to connect with the heart and soul of the community?

1) What is the problem I am trying to solve for my shoppers?
2) What is unique about the way I have developed this solution?
3) How does this solution have meaning to my community?

The retail store is the single, most important manifestation of the brand and retail proposition. It brings to life the idea, purpose, reason for being and the environment to build relationships. It is the concept that shoppers are buying into when they choose a store.

On a recent retail tour of Canada, there were some wonderful examples of retailers creating bonfires.

Lululemon have opened their newest concept store in Toronto, The Local; the brands first Canadian store focusing strictly on men’s apparel. The space is 204 square metres and is a community focused space where guys can simply come and hang out. There is an in-house coffee bar (where we tried the most amazing cold-pressed coffee), foosball table, chilling couches with a top-shelf sound system, and a space where people can come and work (on the free wifi). While the shopper naturally connects with the men’s Lululemon performance wear, this is built on a vision to create an environment and communal experience where the shopper can create engaging and memorable moments which they will return for again and again.

Peace Collective is a Toronto success story. The brand’s success has been built on Toronto and Canada-centric sayings on shirts and jackets. But these aren’t cheesy, they are utterly cool. The concept is philanthropically-based supporting charity and has effectively created a community movement. With the purchase of select garments, two meals are provided to a Canadian child in need through their partnership with the Breakfast Club of Canada. 

The iconic apparel is now showing up on influencers’ Instagram feeds; athletes, models and the uber cool. Minimalist, simple and community-minded, the concept is large-scale local.

At the entrance to the store is Peace Treats, a treat bar with a reminder to “treat yo self.” Wild milkshake creations provide a more frequent reason for shoppers and the community to return to the store again and again.

What makes a store experience local?  

It is never just one thing, but rather a combination of factors and emotions that lead customers to connect with the store. That means that retailers need to offer more than just a place to buy stuff; a space to interact and transact in culture, experiences and relationships. This will require a whole lot of different thinking to be able to create a bonfire effect. Just having a “Hello” on the wall or a picture of a mountain won’t be enough.

Knowing and respecting the environment you’re in and the concerns of your customers by giving back to the community, ultimately builds a stronger sense of loyalty and pride for the consumer towards the retailer. As we see more and more shoppers (especially Millennials) valuing experiences over simply buying more stuff, wanting to know and participate in the development of a product, it is time more retailers started to consider what role they play within their communities and what would make a real difference to their shoppers. 

This story originally appeared in the April/May issue of NZ Retail. 

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