How about when it’s used as an expression of affection, like in the picture above? Or how about when someone else uses it to propose marriage?
This June, we worked with Powell’s Books, the great Portland institution of higher reading, to create a brand experience that would deepen customers’ relationships with Powells, and guide the in-store customer to consider using the online store, Powells.com.
The idea is fairly simple on paper (execution was not quite so simple): we create a photobooth-type experience inside the store that lets customers have their picture taken in front of a green screen, and then we fill the background with a shot of the Powells City of Books store front with it’s big marquee. And on the marquee we put the names of the people who were photographed, as if they were among the elite number of authors who’ve had their name up in lights at Powell’s.
And then we email them a link to to get a hi-res file of the image. In return, we ask for their email address. Along with the link to their picture, we also send them a 20% off coupon for shopping at Powells.com.
Obvious question: why wouldn’t customers just take their own picture in front of Powell’s? First off, they’d be a dark spot in the middle of a very busy Burnside Street if they tried. Second, they wouldn’t get their name on the marquee.
So, we launched this in late June and, after working out some bugs, we found that people who love Powell’s love the photobooth. And, happily, a lot of people love Powell’s. People were also very happy to get a 20% discount coupon. So this particular marketing program seemed to be doing its job.
What makes it more than just a marketing program, however, is the way in which nearly everyone who gets their picture taken comments about how “Powell’s” the whole experience is. “Only at Powell’s” is heard frequently. “This is such a Powell’s thing to do” is also heard. As well as, “How Portland.”
And that’s the magic to this experience. Portlanders feel a sense of ownership of Powell’s, and they proudly take their visiting-from-out-of-town friends there. In turn, these visitors often deeply associate Powell’s with Portland. It is, in fact, a beloved institution, for both local and visitor alike. And both see this photobooth as a gift from Powell’s, a memento of their visit. So while it is a marketing tool, it’s also a way of making the Powell’s experience more Powell’s-ish.
So much so that the other day a man used the photobooth to propose marriage to his future wife. Seriously. Look at the picture: I don’t think it’s an ironic act, either. That’s when you know that you’re not just creating marketing, you’re creating an experience that deepens the meaning of a brand that already has a significant place in peoples’ lives.
If, as brand builders, we can do more of this and less marketing, we can give our audiences what they’re really looking for. Which is experiences, and brands, that matter to them. Thank you, Powell’s, for being such an adventurous partner in this.