Malls and mall branding are an ever-changing, multi-dimensional puzzle. Mall operators are constantly trying to attract consumers and tenants to their properties’ “next big things.” Successful malls execute well but they could and should be even better
With retail rapidly evolving and consumers’ desire for experience mounting, malls are in a position to reach unprecedented levels of relevance. Malls can become important to people not only as places to spend their money and their time, but also as living brands that are important in facilitating or creating meaningful experiences. It’s clear that malls need to become much more than a collection of stores and the physical space that connects them. But what should they be? What could they be? There’s more than one answer and that’s why the topic of mall branding is so interesting. By thinking and acting like luxury brands, malls – luxury, premium or otherwise – could become hyper-relevant to consumers’ lives.
1.CONCEPT IS KING
Mall operators should push even harder to develop concept-driven mall brands, and to harness the power of luxury positioning, aesthetics and tactics. Mall brands built around an enhanced focus on lifestyle and pyschography will win out over older ideas like convenience or broad selection. Mass brands need to reach as many people as possible, so by design, they have to be diverse. So luxury mall brands should be conceived around more unified consumer interests. For example, an active lifestyle mall brand would be crafted and would behave in ways very different from a fashion-forward mall brand. This doesn’t limit the types of stores, but rather it focuses them around consumer mindset and interest allowing people to feel a deeper connection and allegiance with that property. It’s about replacing breadth with depth in a time when specialization is highly valued.
2.KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
Malls should create, design, launch and interact with strength, poise and confidence. Well-branded malls will be cognizant and in control of every touch point. After all, they know they’re only as strong as their weakest one. Only by executing and expressing their brands and missions to the world in compelling and evocative ways can mall brands truly be greater than the sum of their parts.
MALLS SHOULD HAVE CREATIVE DIRECTORS THE WAY FASHIONS BRANDS DO
That could lead to amazingly diverse and unique approaches that draw attention season after season and finally enable the mall to be more than the sum of its parts.
3.SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GREATNESS Greatness
Malls should partner with the best, or at least the most appropriate. Luxury brands have long known that there are times when collaboration is the key to success. There are countless examples of capsule collections, co-branding, etc. and the mall industry seems to have begun to understand this too. Successful mall brands will take this to the next level. By turning their food courts into chef-curated food halls, hosting high-caliber, unique events or perhaps handing over creative reins to an outside party, malls could transform themselves into places to see and be seen.
4.BE AN INSPIRATION
Malls should develop authentic-feeling, high-end offerings and special projects that are both indispensable and inspiring. Mall brands need to look at how successful luxury brands connect with people on both an aspirational level and more directly. Branding is all about creating meaningful connections to people. Like luxury brands have understood for years, it is key to balance rational and emotional messaging. Mall brands cannot be pastiche. They must be authentic destinations that satisfy the (formal, physical) shopping need along with the (conceptual/attitudinal) desire for elevated and unique experiences that shoppers now demand.
LIKE LUXURY, MALL BRANDS NEED TO EXCEED EXPECTATIONS, SURPRISE AND DELIGHT, IMPRESS AND ENGAGE
It is time to disrupt the world of mall branding just as the rest of retail has been turned sideways. By emulating or learning from luxury brands, smart mall brands will become significantly more meaningful and important to people. In doing so, they have the potential to enmesh themselves in modern culture in ways previously unimaginable.