The Disney brand is known for a plethora of icons, cultural phenomena and global points of distribution. It is also known for its education seminars that impacts leadership and management thought globally. Disney not only invented the word “Merchantainment” but actually first understood and deployed the concept. Their Disney stores always sought to entertain your kids in order to entice you into spending a bundle. That notion didn’t work as well as had been hoped and they are now re-trenching their concept to see if they can make their “magic” happen again. Let us be clear though, this was certainly the genesis of the “Merchantainment” concept  along with the Warner Brothers stores and even Nike Towns to a certain degree. Economically speaking, the first wave of “Merchantainment” retailers did not fare well.

This brings us to the mobile era and its technological advances which seem to be changing the landscape of business in general and retail specifically on almost a daily basis. As mentioned in my latest post, in order to thrive in this new environment, brands need to be nurtured and continually developed to consistently show customers their uniqueness and their relevance in today’s market. In order to do that, brands may need to develop their own variation of “Merchantainment”.

No one can dispute that Ralph Lauren has been the ultimate apparel brand. Meticulously managed and curated, the theatre he has employed in merchandising his assortment and his brand whether in their own stores or on their web site (now 10 years in operation) has been cutting edge yet always appropriate for their customer who craves their take on luxurious classic American style. Now Ralph’s son, David, who has been responsible for their web site and leading edge ventures such as the design your own Rugby brand apparel concept, has conceived of Ralph Lauren in “4-D”. This fashion show projected on the outside of their new flagships in New York and London is simply spectacular – take a look … (http://4d.ralphlauren.com/?&ab=int_110910_HP_LIGHTSHOW_SEENOW).

What is fascinating about the concept of “Merchantainment’ to me is that there are an infinite number of variations on the theme that retailers can employ in order to stay true to their brand. Mobile applications, in-store technological advances, web-site embedded videos, customer engagement tactics and technological advances that are constantly changing how consumers interact with brands are all being developed daily. This is such an exciting time to be in retail.

The key ingredient is to ensure you stay close to your customer while at the same time being keenly aware of the latest technologies and ideas and then to be able to marry the two seamlessly. Depending on the demographic profile of a retailer’s customer base will dictate where those efforts and investments need to be made. Whether there should be a lot of energy expended into cool mobile applications, exciting “Groupon” offers and location based promotions and / or whether the store environment needs to entertain and educate customers on your brand and foster a deeper connection will depend on how and where your customers interact with your brand most often.

It looks like “Merchantainment” is now a trend, not a fad. How you define it depends on a number of factors. One thing is certain, you cannot ignore the fact that your customers are now demanding more inherent value than ever before and this marriage of merchandising and entertainment helps fulfill that demand.

TheRetailTherapist 🙂

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