2005 Sep Issue
Cover Story
Select CITYWALK A new-age shopping centre for the New India
a new look at retailing
Epson pushing limits to be at forefront of digital imaging
The Body Shop makeover features new look, new store identity
WWFE05 raises international profile via US programme


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a new look at retailing


Brand profiling is vital to the success of a consumer brand and now, more than ever, global brands are taking the creative route to position their image in the world market.
Prof Martin M Pegler critiques the Samsung Experience, an avant-garde “un-store” retail
experience created by Imagination (USA) Inc for South Korea’s mega brand Samsung in
New York City’s Time Warner Center.

Can you imagine a 10,000sqf space filled with hundreds of products, dozens of well-informed, willing-to-assist persons on the floor and several counters where more information and services are dispensed but not a single cash desk or wrap desk?

Can you imagine the cost for outfitting that space with clever fixtures and interactive stations, graphics and computercontrolled lighting systems which turn the frosted acrylic panels lining the walls from one colour to another and still not make a single sale all day?

The store is not here to make a sale!

What Samsung is doing, and doing very well, in this vast expanse of space on the third level of the elegant Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle in New York City (NYC) is polishing its brand image.

The Samsung Experience is the ultimate in brand imaging. Here, it is all “give” and no “take”. It is this manufacturer offering advice, suggestions and recommendations, showing their products and inviting visitors to freely handle, play, manipulate and interact with the various Samsung electronics, althhough not a single cell phone, computer or game will actually be sold in this exhibit space.

Imagination (USA) Inc worked closely with Samsung to create this installation whose main function is “to introduce people to Samsung’s vision, [its] products and the latest technology”. The space will not only serve as a living, hands-on, interactive “museum”, but also serve to inaugurate and celebrate future product launches, happenings and events.

Upon reaching the third level, the visitor is introduced to the Samsung Experience by the specially designed Orientation Table. What attracts new visitors is seeing other visitors crowding around the table and waving their hands back and forth like priests in some unlikely religion casting spells or making incantations.

  The mega glass-topped table houses a unique map of NYC and visitors can “explore” the city, visit the highlights and attractions by “moving” over the map with hand movements. Guests can also see films that introduce visitors to “digital living” in the city.
  Once inside the open exhibit space, there are “inform desks” and “access bars” to either side. Here, visitors have the opportunity to create personalised postcards of their NYC “digital living” experience while they meet and interact with the Samsung experts.

These bright and smiling, black-clad experts not only serve as greeters but will also gladly direct or escort visitors around the Experience. The cluster of rotating LCD screens up front and centre invites the visitor to physically move these panels and watch a 360° presentation of images.

The opening presentation featured the fashion designs of Ashleigh Vernier, winner of the Parson’s School of Design “Designer of the Year” title awarded by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Samsung plans to use this area for changing exhibits that reflect NY themes and personalities.

Once free to move about, the visitor is inundated by invitations to touch, handle and play. The flanking interactive stations, developed in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab and its Treehouse software, allow guests to “collaborate with one another to create and manipulate a digital collage using words in real time”.

In addition to the acrylic side walls with their programmed changing colours, the ceiling lights are also programmed so that there is a continuous light show going on in the Experience.

Two inclined ramps will bring the guest to the mezzanine level where the focal item is the wall of nine plasma screens centred on the stage. Scenes of nature are played out with ever-changing images.

The bamboo flooring from the entrance area gives way to carpeted lifestyle- room settings where visitors can “appreciate digital living at its best”. The Samsung products, set out in these stylish vignette settings, are showcased next to the design icons that are placed in the logical context of work, live or play.

A Samsung home-theatre dominates a “living room” while the “playroom” shows off the brand’s video games. Computers are used to furnish the “home office”. Visitors are encouraged to move in and experience things on their own but a willing expert is never too far away to be of assistance. For the “do-it-myselfer”, there are scenario cards to indicate how to operate the displayed products.

A “cyber brand showcase” has been developed as a digital component of the Samsung Experience. The Cyber Brand Showcase reflects the real-time convergence of online activity to create a dynamic, ambient environment. ‘Cyberconduits’, LED totems developed by a trio of MIT Media Lab graduates, have been placed throughout the Experience and serve as portals that translate activity within the space to the website and activity on the website back to the space by changing in colour and intensity.

Well — whatever! I am just one short step up from being totally computer illiterate and digitally handicapped. For me, the Samsung Experience was an overwhelming overload of technology. People like me would likely not be attracted to the Experience. So, I watched as well as looked at the installation.

The young visitors were in heaven! They loved it! It was a giant playground — and free. They moved freely and easily from product to product — ready and willing to try anything.

Some of the 50-something guests looked like Alice must have looked on her first visit to Wonderland: Bemused, confused and maybe a little amused. Some were only too glad to be introduced to the new technology by the smiling experts. For most of the “seniors”, it was like a visit to an avant-garde modern-art museum where you are not expected to understand anything — just enjoy it, savour it and accept it as where the future is.

All the publicity materials for the Samsung Experience reiterate: “It is not a store, but rather a brand experience that demonstrates the ‘art of the possible’ for peoples’ digital lifestyle.”

This is an un-store; a sales-free store. Eduardo Braniff, Imagination’s creative director of content for the Samsung Experience, said: “What Imagination created is a grand experience, a place where people can not only interact with Samsung as a brand but the lifestyle Samsung offers. It is a dynamic space where elements will change over time to reflect people’s interests, keep them informed and coming back for more.”

Also, what the Experience will do is keep polishing and restating the Samsung brand as “hip, cool, with-it, high-tech, onthe- ball and head of the class”. This is an excellent example of selling the brand without closing the deal at the POS — point of showing.

It is only to be expected that there will be more of these un-stores opening around the country — and the world, and most likely they won’t all be Samsung Experiences. This is a brand-imaging concept that will not go away or fade into nothingness. It is too good!


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