February 12, 2014
This is the first blog in a five-part series. Stay Tuned for Part 2: Find a Photographer Who Can Tell Stories.
I had to chuckle when I walked through my local mall. As I was passing by a store front I saw a large photo of a man dashing through the desert on horse. In the photo next to it the same man was embracing a beautiful girl he had obviously come a long way to see. I liked the story, so I peeked inside to see where it led, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The store was beautifully designed. From the displays and the decorations, to the photography and the materials used in the store itself, it was all connected. It was obvious that the merchant had thought beyond simply making a sale. They designed the store to create an immersive experience for their customers. It's the kind of experience where you're not just buying clothes; you're buying the entire shopping experience. After all, there a lot of places to buy shirts or jackets, and most are cheaper than this place. People come to places like this one to express themselves and define how they want to be perceived.
When you think about great brands, they don't just have great products. They have a great story, and by associating with that brand, a customer associates with that story. Whether you prefer the Nike story, Toyota story, or the Starbucks story, all of these brands have a story and an experience associated with it. So I asked myself the same question I always ask myself when I walk into a store like this: How do you translate a great experience like this on to the web?
I've been asking myself this question for almost a decade now. It started when I got a gig designing retail displays for a fairly large clothing company, and it continued when I later moved on to design the online store for another one. There's been quite an evolution over the years in how companies sell products online. Because of rapid evolution of the internet and some really great tools for running an online store, it's possible to create sites that are focused around telling a story and creating a great experience. The story that helps customers understand what a product is, how it works, and how it can help them to express themselves. It's the difference between shopping being fun and exciting versus being a chore.
So how does this happen? How do I move from simply making a sale, to creating a great branded experience? How do I tell a great story that inspires customers to buy?
1. Lifestyle Story Presentation
How you present your products makes a big difference. When you think about presentation, don't be afraid to get off a white studio background. When I hit a store's homepage and all I see is white backgrounds, I immediately think commodity product and I can get those off of Amazon (I love their prime shipping).
Presentation can make your products special. Think about what kind of environment your product lives in. Show your customer how this product fits into their life. Where and when do they use it? What are they doing when they use it? Are they at work, the coffee shop, the club?
One of my favorite examples of this is Stance. These guys found a way to tell a really great lifestyle story around socks. Really. Does Stance sell better socks than Target? Do they have a better variety than Amazon? It doesn't matter, because they're creating a story that Amazon and Target will never be able match. They defined their story and they've committed to it. If I gave someone a pair of socks for Christmas, it's just a pair of socks. But if I give someone a pair of Stance's they get a lifestyle along with them. If I buy myself a pair, now we belong to tribe. Check it out.
Kellis Landrum is an Art Center College of Design Alumni, a member of the Art Center Legacy Circle, and Art Center Instructor. Kellis is Co-Founder and Editor In Chief of online style and culture magazine, NeuBlack.com, and he has designed, developed and directed award winning projects for a variety of clients including NBC, Scion Motors, Kia Motors, American Apparel, Guess Clothing, Symantec, and Aiwa. View Kellis' portfolio.