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Interbrand Design Forum's Ideations Newsletter - May/June 2007
Interbrand Design Forum's Ideations Newsletter - May/June 2007

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Published by: ibdf on Dec 23, 2008
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In theory, intelligent strategy and beautiful design should result in aretail success. So how did Forth & Towne miss? It answered thefashion needs of the vast and lucrative women-over-35 group with anew grown-up brand wrapped in a sophisticated design from DavidRockwell. Yet Gap’s attempt to get its share of the healthy sales beingenjoyed by stores like Chico’s and Eileen Fisher failed to strike gold.Instead, 18 months after they opened their doors to aneager and underserved audience, all 19 Forth & Townestores will close, deemed unworthy of further investment by their parent company.“It’s something of a myth that if you work on strategy,you will be guaranteed the right answer, or the perfectconcept,” says Bruce Dybvad, Design Forum’s president.“Retail brand strategy is multi-faceted. It includes the product of course, and all the customer touch points. If one of those aspects doesn’t deliver, the rest can’t make up for it.”According to the retail analyst post-mortem, Forth & Towne appareldecisions were made by Gen Xers who didn’t understand whatBoomer women wanted. Further, the assortment made it more like adepartment store than a boutique. And their messaging was age
specic, a turn-off to the group they were trying to attract. The design
and service component were strategically right, but it wasn’t enough.There was no magic.“The experiential facet is where the store delivers on the brand
 promise. Strategy, the way we dene it, engages business opportunity
with shopper insight and appends all that knowledge to a physicalsolution. It doesn’t guarantee magic, but it does give you a much
greater possibility of creating a magnetic concept that lls a vacant
market space. And then, only if strategy and design share a process
that engages their thinking in a uid, dynamic, related way.”
Executed the way it was, Forth & Towne didn’t connect with thevarious life stages of this demographic, which is a great challenge for every retailer because of its breadth and the variety of life styles withinit. Older women also buy less impulsively and less frequently than theyounger shoppers catered to by Gap and Old Navy. In the end, retailexperts accused Gap of seeing only a statistic, the growth potential of the target market. In their rush for gold, they didn’t gather the insightrequired for a great retail experience.Of course, many of the greatest store ideas have been born simplyfrom a smart observation and a passion for a product or service— without the use of a battery of consumer tests, authentication, and anarmy of consultants. Target wanted to make discount shopping asmuch fun as shopping in a stylish department store. Starbucks wantedto romance the neighborhood coffee house. At the end of the day, theyare simple, well-executed, insightful ideas running on their ownunique dynamic.The problem is, great ideas turn into great big companies coining hugeamounts of revenue that must show year-over-year sales improvementthrough growth. That’s where strategy and design have a role to play.“Howard Shultz is right to be worried that Starbuck’s foray intothrough-put has removed much of the romance and theatre from theexperience,” says Dybvad. “He must now be unbelievably careful thatthey don’t jeopardize the original idea in their lust for growth. This is astage in the lifecycle of retail where, if you’re notcautious, you can lose your soul. Things start showingup in the store that don’tmake sense.“Here is where a reallyoutstanding professionalteam that attaches strategy and design together can help guide solutionsthat keep the brand in its natural space. The retailer’s energy—in the
context of shopper insight, brand and protability—must be channeled to
constantly align against the brand foundation to propel the chain andmaintain its soul. That’s the magic of strategy and design. It’s thenavigational star.”Dave & Buster’s restaurant and gaming concept is another great idea, born 25 years ago when its namesakes merged an arcade with arestaurant in a 40,000-square-foot Dallas warehouse. The private equity
rm that now owns it knew Dave & Buster’s offered a great experience,
 but weren’t sure why. They needed to know before evolving the brandfor growth. Their research revealed a surprise. Games alone were not thedraw with key segments. The appeal of Dave & Buster’s is theexperience that comes from the interaction of all their offerings—food,drink, good service, sports, corporate events and games for families and business people. Nothing should be cut, because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.“A smart retailer will take that kind of insight and design an environmentthat will physically do what customers want it to do,” says Dybvad.Analogous to a mid-life crisis, mature retailers under pressure to create
additional revenue may nd themselves chasing too many poorly-t
initiatives and failing to manage the outcome of their efforts. Executiveteams making day-to-day decisions may lose the spark of passion. Aonce-vibrant retail experience can begin to feel tired. Carefullyconsidered strategy, says Dybvad, can provide a clarifying “moment of  perspective” on what the company is trying to solve for.“Within strategy, there are a lot of factors that tell you where you shouldspend on the experience relative to what you get credit for,” saysDybvad. “You get an idea of how much total investment should be madein the facility, and the hierarchical order of what’s important to thecustomer. Those insights help deliver really critical knowledge todesigners as they put together a concept. It’s not that the strategic
component guarantees the creative answer. It identies the area to work 
the problem.”It’s too late for Forth & Towne, but not for the world’s largest specialtycoffee retailer. Maybe Starbucks will decide to lose the super-automaticespresso machines and save its soul.
May/June 2007
A Report on the Current State of Retail produced by 
The Magic ofStrategy and Design
A Retail Publication by:
7575 Paragon Road, Dayton, Ohio 45459Phone: 937.439.4400 Fax: 937.439.4340Email: retail@designorum.comBranch Ofces: London,Los Angeles, New York, Paris,San FranciscoD. Lee Carpenter, Chairman & CEOJill Davis, EditorJorge Sanclemente, Design/ProductionFor more inormation or to be placedon our mailing list, visit out website,www.designorum.comand complete the contact orm.Reprints o articles or excerpts without the express written permissiono Design Forum is prohibited.Ideations is printed bimonthly.Subscriptions: $125 annually in the U.S.;$150 elsewhere.© 2007
May/June 2007
Chairman’s Commentary 
Getting Younger
Originally for this issue’s commentary, I wasgoing to talk about the different thingsGeneration Y is doing. But the way I see it,we’re all doing the same things. Just for different reasons.Businesses are increasingly aware that in order to survive the rapid pace of change wrought bythe Internet, we need to adopt the optimism of youth: being open by allowing others access toour content online, peering within communitiesrather than being controlled by traditionalhierarchies, sharing ideas and success storiesso they can be valued by a wider audience, andacting globally by collaborating with friends outside our owngeographical area. Add to that list, the insatiable need for newnessand coolness and you begin to sound like a retailer.My point is, we are all beginning to think about adopting the same principles that youth aged 16-27 operate on. Witness their fearlessuse of social media, with an emphasis on fearless. Interestingly,the other major population group, the age 43-61 Baby Boom, ismoving into the second half of life, tiring of structure and lookingfor something fresh and new, with an emerging trend that lookslike a return to youthful idealism. Not that they’re heading toMySpace in droves. But they are certainly blogging like crazy,writing and editing for Wikipedia—and as they leave the workforce,will most likely take on mentoring roles via social media totransmit their knowledge and experience.Being open, peering, sharing and acting globally are all principles businesses need to adopt for the digital economy. If you want toknow more about how mass collaboration changes everything, Isuggest you read
, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D.Williams. Although the book is a little heavy with the melodrama(as in, collaborate or be doomed), it manages to be highly thought- provoking and persuasive. It’ll have you thinking twice aboutapplying old business techniques to your growth initiatives. Yetalthough the authors are right about the limitless knowledgeavailable on the Internet giving us all the power to innovate,innovation won’t get any easier.As of now, only the tiniest fraction of social media users aregenerating content. Most people only watch. That’s human nature,and the only real change will probably be in numbers, not
 percentages. But the Internet has made it much easier to inuence
and to get people to participate. And more creative peopleworking together on innovation will certainly increase the oddsof achieving it.Granted, I understand that of all the things keeping CEOs up atnight, it’s not mass collaboration. It’s more like cost reductionand risk management. At Design Forum, however, we’re alreadyhip-deep in collaborative waters. Today, virtually every project wework on requires collaboration with another agency, in many cases
the retailer’s advertising agency or private equity rm. We’ve
 become adept at switching leads and learning to play differentroles at different times in the relationship. As the future unfolds,
we’re certain to nd more opportunities for creative interaction
that will enrich our ability to serve clients.Changes have been at work for many years now—the microprocessor turns 50 in 2008—but they have just kicked into high gear.Consumers want more change more often. The necessity of rapiddevelopment to compete requires many minds, inside and outsideof your company.The life of a retail trend used to have seven distinct steps betweenemergence and decline. The cycle has been compressed by 20 percent, and will continue to compress, under pressure tointroduce new things quickly. The value of newness is so critical,scores of trendspotters are calling things trends that are really just
inuences. Rushing them through their normal stages and onto thesales oor reduces their potential and their longevity. That’s thenew paradigm for the retail business. It’s reective of life today,
regardless of age.The forces that shape new strategies to accommodate changerequire the courage to open up. Exciting ideas, inspiration andexperience are waiting everywhere, not just the board room.It’s the age of participation built on relationships and conversations.The world is getting younger. I like that.Thoughtfully,D. Lee Carpenter 
Chairman & CEO

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