More and more brands are foregoing the big chest beating advertising campaigns that attempt to broadcast their presence to the world. This is particularly the case for those wishing to position themselves in the cool end of the market. The onus is on savvy shoppers to find them, particularly when it we are talking fashion and bars. Certainly this was our experience on a recent visit to Berlin.
Berlin appears to have been able to sustain the vibrant design and arts subculture that blossomed out of the highly energised post-reunification period. It is a city that the longer you are there peels back layers and layers of creative magic. There are probably not too many other cities in the world that can boast as many concept, guerilla or clandestine stores as Berlin. But it does make you work a little for the rewards, a big part of its charm is that you have to some scratching.
And scratch we did to find a high end fashion retailer called Apartment. In fact having heard about it (through the power of word of mouth and editorial commentary) it took us three different attempts to locate it. Why so difficult? It is an unmarked empty storefront that occupies the entire ground floor of a lifeless concrete high-rise. Hardly an invitation to passers-by to come in and explore. What you see is not what you get. It is discovery personified. On the ground floor there is no signage, simply a big white empty space. Dare to enter the space you encounter one empty display cabinet, a vase with flowers and the pull of a spiral staircase heading down to a basement.
Take the stairs and you find clothing, accessories and shoes from hot local and international designers. Very cool gear, big prices and a sense of personal discovery. The hidden nature of the offering is what gives it the marketing clout. It is counter intuitive. It like a secret club, and we all like belonging.
How do you build intrigue into what you have to offer? It is a question worth pondering.