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Retail With a Cause

daye_headshot_170117Everyone loves a rebel. You may not wish to admit to it, but the truth is we can’t help but be drawn in by their total disregard for the same rules the rest of us feel obliged to abide by. They tweak our interest and lure us in because in their world, anything is possible. They’re wild, unpredictable, spontaneous and free. They live in the moment and exist only for thrill and excitement. Their world is lived their way. And I for one, think that’s completely compelling.

So what happens when brands in the retail sphere take those bold philosophies and pepper them effortlessly throughout their customer experiences? Pure, unadulterated magic – that’s what. As a self-confessed retail junkie, I’m a harsh critic when it comes to retailers that choose to exist in the land-of-the-blah. You know the ones – they’re forgettable, unimaginative, dull. They’re okay I suppose, but that’s all they’ll ever be – just okay.

In today’s bold, new landscape, ‘okay’ retailers will never survive. And nor should they. Consumers have come to expect grand things. We want to be surprised and delighted. We want goose bumps and tingles when we walk instore or explore online. We want to feel a deep urge to belong to something cool and meaningful. And when we don’t, we simply move on. Which, as any savvy retailer can attest, is bottom line suicide.

To avoid said suicide, world leading retailers are challenging norms, boldly rebelling and in doing so, changing the game for good. As Amazon prepares to enter our lucrative domestic market, the time for a rebellious uprising is now.

Here’s four tips to inform how Australian retailers can, and should rebel.

Be righteous

We’re all looking for something to believe in. Why not make it your brand? On the dawn of Black Friday, outdoors brand REI closed all 143 of their stores and invited their employees and customers to #OptOutside. An action beautifully aligned to the store’s ethos and love for the great outdoors.

British furniture company Vitsoe embraced a similar move. Stating on their blog that “artificially stimulating sales to encourage a short-term desire to spend is unethical”

The learning: Righteousness has never been so good.

Piss a few people off

Someone smart once said ‘if you’re not pissing off 50 per cent of people, then you’re not trying hard enough’. This is true for both individuals and brands. Maintaining interest in your brand above and beyond the loud nose of the landscape has never been harder.

Viande & Chef, a butcher’s shop in Paris, only stocks one animal at a time and refuses to order another until the carcass has been entirely used. Despite causing frustration to a raft of consumers looking for greater variety and choice, Viande & Chef states ‘killing an animal is not a simple act…we’re trying to work as much as possible with the whole animal.’

The learning: Be provocative in your actions. Cause a stir.

Banish beige

The only person to ever look good in beige was, no one! Be 100 per cent certain your customer never experiences a beige moment. Inspire your consumers, push them forward and entice them into your exciting new world.

NYC fashion label, Kenneth Cole, built a store experience that blurred the lines between virtual and reality creating one seamless, dynamic physical experience. The store is filled with touch screens of all sizes so customers can view and interact with the brand’s entire product range. While this creates a visual sensation, the real glory comes from their 24/7 store access, replicating the real benefit of online retail.

The learning: If you want to succeed: Banish beige. Banish boring.


You’re never going to be loved by everyone. So don’t waste time trying. Carve out and own a niche instead. This is about being selective and exclusive in who you target.

VinoMofo targets wine lovers who don’t mind being referred to as mother f**kers. Pure and simple. A brand for those who believe quality wine should be enjoyed by all, rather than an elite few. Armed with a deep understanding of a very specific audience, VinoMofo is able to be unapologetic in their tone and visual expression. Love them or hate them, these mofos have done well.

The learning: Devote yourself to your core.

So the next time you’re reconsidering your brand experience, ask yourself:

What are you righteous about? Embrace it.

Are you holding back from fear? Just do it.

Where are you playing safe? Break out.

Who really cares about you? Exist only for them.

Remember, you don’t need to be Harley Davidson to be a rebel. Even the good brands can benefit from being a little ‘bad’.

Daye Moffitt is national strategy director at Designworks Australia. Daye has worked in the industry for over 13 years. Since she started out, she’s helped reshape the fortunes of brands across a broad range of sectors – through retail, mining, finance and the arts,  including Treasury Wine Estate, Simplot, Westfield, Country Road, Macquarie Group, Luxottica and Big W.

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