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Branded Environments: Why digital brands need an off-line presence.


For all its amazing advancements though, technology will always have limitations.  As one fellow blogger put it,  “a friend on Facebook isn’t the same as a friend in real life, a conversation through Skype isn’t the same as a conversation over dinner, and you can’t make love to your iPad."

Technology is an enabler for real world experiences, but often a less than adequate substitute.  While shopping experiences on-line continue to improve, people would still rather touch, feel, taste and try on certain products before they buy.  And fundamentally, people want human contact. It’s in our nature to want things that we can see, touch, and interact with in real life. 

More and more on-line brands are coming to the conclusion that a physical brand experience is a required element in their marketing mix.  That could mean developing a retail boutique, creating a pop-up store, or bringing people together at a real world event.

The folks at on-line eye glasses brand Warby Parker say: “Having a retail presence makes sense for four reasons. First, our customers want it. Second, it allows us to build close personal relationships with customers by meeting them, which you don't get from an online transaction. Third, the showrooms act as learning laboratories, and help us to create ways to make shopping for glasses online easier based on how we see people behaving physically in-person. Fourth, the stores are a great training opportunity for our staff. When they've served people in our showrooms, they do a better job helping customers who need assistance by phone or over email.”

Amazon is moving, albeit slowly, into bricks-and-mortar retail stores to let people get hands-on with their branded products, especially its Kindle line of tablets and e-readers, and to provide top-notch customer service which has been one of the hallmarks of Apple’s success.  People will still predominately buy on-line, but the retail store is where Amazon will reinforce the uniqueness of their ecosystem and connect the brand into the local community.

Rumors have been swirling that Google will soon open boutique stores to showcase its expanding line of hardware and the customer services that necessarily requires.  But it’s also an opportunity for Google to put a face on the brand and give consumers a hands-on way to discover and experience all the many facets of the Google digital lifestyle.

Yelp uses live events to create deeper personal engagement with their users and to promote brand advocacy.  They host events for the Yelp “Elite Squad” which consists of members who meet certain criteria including how often they review restaurants and the quality of the content. At these events, Yelpers meet up, get free food, and enjoy the company of like-minded foodies. Yelp does this in every major city.  The time Yelp users spent on Yelp writing reviews essentially gets translated into a cool personal experience and new real-world relationships with people who likely have tons in common. People talk, use Yelp more, and contribute in hopes of joining the Squad.

While digital brands have become an essential part of life, we remain physical creatures in a physical world. While digital brands like Google, eBay or Yahoo have built strength through digital delivery, there's a growing belief that establishing a physical presence may well be the last frontier... engaging all the senses in ways that sophisticated algorithms can’t.

About Hood Branded Environments

Hood envisions, designs and produces immersive branded environments that help our clients deepen engagement with their customers.

We've been in business for 20+ years. We started out making trade show exhibits and museum fixtures, and we’ve grown into retail and multi-channel experiential projects, including pop-up stores.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the biggest, most exciting brands on the planet like Sony, Levi’s, Coors, Francis Ford Coppola and David Copperfield.

For more information, visit our website at

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