Expand the Brand

Expand the Brand 1920 1142 Chute Gerdeman

The Brand
Strange Brandfellows & New Playmates. We’ve seen it time and time again, “necessity is the mother of invention.” In times of uncertainty, it might make sense to reassess your brand promise and purpose, and pivot to a position of strength and differentiation. Since consumer attitudes and expectations are changing rapidly, brands must quickly evolve now more than ever—or risk being left out in the empty parking lot of an abandoned retail landscape.

For in-person, IRL experiences to return to their former glory, it’s going to take more than just opening the doors and flipping on the lights. If you’re not thinking of new and unique experiences that encourage social engagement, store visits will be finished. And though fears of human interaction are not to be ignored, three months from now more than half the population will begin dining out and going to the gym, according to a recent Harris Poll. Doubling down on store experiences, making them entertaining and special, is the only way to convince consumers to pick your brand first. It’s not about product—it’s about engagement—and giving potential shoppers a real reason to visit your space.

As consumers look for ways to be smarter in their shopping habits, getting them back into a social setting will take some effort. Stores can no longer only be about the items in the basket, cart, or shelf.

Unexpected Brand Partnerships

A critical theme we see taking shape revolves around the mash-ups of previously unconnected players in physical spaces. Brands may be able to capitalize on their guests’ wish to combine trips and maximize efficiencies when they do start venturing out into the great unknown. Exploring new brand partnerships may be the key to connecting with consumers with newly formed values, post-pandemic.

DSW is one of our favorite retailers, headquartered right here in our own backyard of Columbus, OH. We’ve followed their innovation initiatives for years, and noticed how they’ve hooked up with W Nail Bar in many markets. More recently, DSW has gotten together with supermarket innovator Hy Vee to fill a gap in our pandemic shopping void. Do we need to fulfill our shoe fix while at the grocery store? Yes, please.


62% of people who responded to a recent Harris Poll, said they would be willing, within three months, to go out to dinner. 

In-Store Only Experiences

After our collective online lockdown, we’ll all be desperate to go places, and do things that can only be truly experienced in-store. We see brands and retailers offering up new collaborative products and experiences to bring back brand loyalty and establish a new trust. We believe surprising new formats and brand spin-offs will arise out of this unique situation.

We also see Shop-in-Shops returning to popularity in the coming months. Smaller footprint stores will look to maximize in-store product offerings and tell meaningful stories that support their greater brand purpose and surprise guests with unexpected offers.

Connect this thought to our previous article, Bookable Experiences, and suddenly your brand is creating demand for reasons to return to the store, and to make it an special occasion. Win-win for everyone.

Putting it All Together

Commodity product sitting on shelves, lamely waiting to be plucked by shoppers? That’s yesterday. What we really need, as shoppers seeking equal parts convenience and inspiration, are combo solutions presented to us in clever new ways. A thoughtful and interesting assortment that integrates and improves their life. Bundled assortments of products that speak to specific needs and desires, featuring products from multiple departments or even other retailers.

Imagine a Quarantini Survival Kit with premium gin from that local distillery, fresh citrus and botanicals from the produce department, handmade tonic from the farmer’s market, and the perfect martini glasses from the hippest home décor shop in town. Happy hour success, all in one fell swoop. Or the perfect hostess gift for all the house parties we’ll all be invited to.

Welcoming back loyal and new shoppers and diners to a new experience will demonstrate that you’ve carefully crafted an environment and curated an experience with them in mind. Now’s the time to test the equation of “big risk = big reward.” Get ready to impress, now.

More from the Preparing for Next series

Consumer Resilience

A pandemic-crunched supply chain has consumers seeking ways to become less reliant on specific brands, retailers, and manufacturers. We outline creative thoughts to help brands attract and engage consumers as they push toward product independence.


A collection of insights research and observations across retail, restaurant, c-store and grocery. Helping brands provide a better experience for their customers. Enjoy.

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