What will the high street of the future look like and will it transform itself again?

John Timpson knows a thing or two about the high street. The chairman of the UK shoe-repair chain that bears his family name was, after all, entrusted to lead a 2018 government review into what the future UK high street would look like.Though at one time he envisaged a future where the number of shops in British town centres would have halved, he could never have imagined how quickly that revolution would come.

The impact of the pandemic on our towns and cities has, he says, been seismic: “What we have seen is ten years of change on the high street all in one go, but it’s been all the negatives, without any positives,” he explains.

The negatives are obvious – store closures, job losses and empty streets. But Timpson believes there will be plenty of positives to come if local authorities show the imagination to turn their urban centres from shopping deserts into community hubs. “A large number of town centres, if they don’t do something about it, will have a real problem,” he says. “Town centres need to have a community hub, with shops alongside medical centres, entertainment venues, restaurants and cafes – all sorts of things that people will go to.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at customer data business Springboard, also believes the acceleration of the high street’s decline – which has made the case for regeneration inarguable – should be taken as a positive, though she warns it will take some time for the changes to fully play out. “Things were changing on the high street anyway,” she says, “and the clearing out of the old guard will bring in a new guard, with shops filled by residential units, service businesses and entertainment occupiers.” Margaret Taylor

Local, ethical food shops – Retail expert Mark Pilkington, the former chief executive of lingerie company Gossard, says if there’s one thing the online revolution has taught retailers it’s that customers want to feel a close connection to brands whose ethos they feel aligned with. This means a return to a more post-war type high street, peppered with independent stores full of locally sourced produce. Wehrle agrees. “We’ll see things such as artisan food shops coming back to the high street,” she says. “People want to know the provenance of their food and are more socially conscious about supporting local businesses.

Slimline big-brand stores – Switching focus to their online channels in the last year has shown traditional retailers they no longer need to have well-stocked, big-box stores. So, while the big-name retailers that have survived the pandemic are not going to disappear, they will, as John Lewis has already announced, start to occupy less space. Rather than filling that space with piles of stock to be checked out by overworked sales staff, they will focus on what Pilkington terms “hero products” that will be presented to customers by well-trained brand ambassadors tooled up with all the latest technology. And if you like what you see? You’ll go home and order it on the retailer’s website, of course.

Plug-and-play stores –  The flipside of traditional retailers smartening up their online act is that web-based shops are starting to see the benefit in bricks and mortar. For landlords losing out when big-name, high-occupancy tenants such as Debenhams go bust, this creates an opportunity. Though most online brands may only want a physical store to showcase particular goods for limited periods, Pilkington believes the sheer number of businesses that could be in the market for such a deal will be good news for landlords. Those that seize the opportunity of subdividing existing units into smaller spaces kitted out with technology retailers can plug their branding into will reap the benefits of this nascent trend

Residential block – It is no secret that a lack of people has killed many town centres across the UK; Timpson believes encouraging them to move back in is one of the best ways to bring high streets back to life. That could involve converting existing buildings into apartment blocks, though Timpson says that, in some towns and cities, it will mean knocking them down and starting again. While that would lead to significant disruption, it would allow for proper town planning to take place, meaning all the amenities a local community needs – such as medical centres, hairdressers and leisure facilities – can be factored in.

Empty units – The long-term vision might be for towns and cities with renewed individual identities, but the reality will take many years to achieve. In the meantime, most high streets will have to get by with empty shops – and lots of them. Part of the reason for that is that rents and rates remain too high for many local businesses to sign up to. Jason Hayward, a retail support expert at Retail Spark, says another reason is that faceless investors who bought up swathes of urban retail space in the 1990s are not ready to consolidate any losses. “So many investors got into the sector because there was massive growth, but we’ve been seeing values slide in recent years,” he says. “There are a lot of pension funds that don’t want to devalue their investments – it’s better for them to sit on empty units.” Unless and until that changes, expect there to be gaps.

We’d love to have your thoughts – richard@harrison.hn

An international design perspective that has really made a difference for hospitality companies.

We’re incredibly proud to share with you a recent interview with Keith Anderson, COO of our US business in the Dallas Business Journal. (click on this link for the article).

 Back in 2013 Harrison moved across the pond to set-up our US office in Dallas. Over the past 8 years, Keith and his talented team have built a thriving architecture and design business which has delivered a real difference to many US hospitality clients through an international design perspective that creates differentiation for brands locally.  

 Harrison have recently collaborated with @Front Burner Society to create the new concept @Son of Butcher, re-energised @Velvet Taco and created Sidecar Social, which is owned by Dallas restaurateur @Brent Tipps.

The Future is Now for New Restaurant Design

At Harrison, we are fortunate enough to work with restaurant concepts that are taking this leap in to the future and creating engaging experiences through their restaurant designs. Many have used this time to redefine their brand stories and maximize areas of opportunity. These shifts are revolutionizing the industry and defining the restaurant of the future.

Keith Anderson, CEO of our US Design Studio has recently been interviewed by QSR magazine and outlined his thoughts and ideas on next level interior design.

“We should focus in on responding to the need states of the guest through increased flexibility, experience, customization, personalization, convenience and safety measures.

As we move into this new phase, there are three areas of focus for next-level design:

 

Fully Customizable Spaces

During the height of the pandemic, restaurants realized that versatile design played an integral role in profitability and this lesson will become part of the new landscape. We predict a shift towards adaptable designs that offer the flexibility to create multiple lay-out options that can flex to heightened restrictions but without creating cavernous space. New prototypes will be designed for multi-functionality with screens to divide high-traffic areas, moveable tables and chairs instead of fixed booths, and flexibility to create socially distanced layouts. Creating personalized and multi-purpose design is no longer an option, it has become an essential part of all future design.

 

Hygiene and Sanitation Built-in to the Design

The big winner of the last year is hygiene. We will never again take our health and safety for granted, even at our favorite restaurants. This new must-have design element will be reflected in future restaurant prototypes and will include more than just hand washing stations. Anti-microbial finishes should be considered for guest touch points. All handles and high-touch surfaces will be made with self-cleaning materials which can prevent the spread of germs and seating will convert from fabric to hard surfaces for ease of sanitation. Brands must continue embrace technology that enables convenience, enhances safety by allowing contactless ordering and transactions.

 

Maximizing Opportunities for Off-Premises Dining

During days of lock-down when many of us were missing our favorite restaurants, it was a treat to have the option to grab carry-out from our favorite spots. We learned, although eating our favorite menu items at home is a different experience, it’s not all bad and we might want to keep doing it when all restrictions are lifted.  In addition, many restaurants realized they had been leaving money on the table by not offering this option and are ready to make off-premise options a permanent part of the equation. According to data, 66 percent of consumers anticipate continuing to use curbside pickup after dine-in services resume. We must continue to innovate and look for ways to enhance the off-premise brand experience through digital, technology and packaging.

Off-premises dining is here to stay and restaurants are building it in to their model moving forward. They are adding grab and go areas to maximize take-out and dedicated access for third party delivery drivers. Additional options include dedicated space for take-out orders with items stored in lit or temperature-controlled locker-like boxes with designated numbers to ensure that orders are secure and only picked up by the correct customer.

We must continue to think outside the box and return our focus to the need states of the guest. True innovation in drive-through should be explored by focusing in on personalizing the customer experience through data and understanding. Technology such as number plate recognition can help brands recognize returning guests so they can personalize communication, gifting and experiences. Imagine the possibilities of a drive through experience that triggers a music playlist, plays a favorite Netflix movie or provides a special birthday greeting. If it sounds futuristic, it is. But, the future is now.

Things are always changing and that’s not always a bad thing. In these extraordinary times, brands can reimagine their stories and ways to connect with their guest.

 

 

The “new normal” that everyone is talking about is actually an exciting evolution for an industry ready to come back better than ever”.

 

What is Brand Storytelling and and why should you be sitting up and taking notice?

What is brand storytelling?

In a world full to the brim with competition and even copycats, the old adage ‘survival of the fittest’ has never carried more weight for today’s brands. And with brands battling for every nano-second of consumer attention, your chances of survival can be hugely boosted through brand storytelling.

 

But what is brand storytelling and why should you be sitting up and taking notice?

Brand storytelling is the narrative that links you with your customers on a far deeper level than your product or service alone can manage.

It’s why you exist.

It’s why you matter.

It’s what makes your customers feel something.

That emotional connection, which encompasses the values you share with your customers, is a powerful thing and it’s what can help you stand out from the copycats and competition we alluded to right at the top of this piece.

It’s what makes your brand unique – because they can copy what you do, but they can’t copy your story.

That’s the power of brand storytelling…

 

Why is brand storytelling important?

The relationship between a brand and its customers had always been traditionally seen as something of a one-way street. You know how it used to go…

1. Customer makes enquiry, sharing lots of information about themselves.

2. Brand embarks on a hard sell to customer without giving them anything meaningful in return.

Of course, this was accepted many moons ago when companies had no real way of communicating effectively with their customers. But now, with more than 91% of businesses using content marketing strategies, the noise you’re battling with to capture your customers’ attention has never been louder. And even more importantly than that – customer demand for meaningful stories has never been higher.

As recently as 2015, research from The Brand Storytelling Report revealed how 80% of UK adults wanted brands to tell meaningful stories as part of their marketing output.

Yet 85% couldn’t recall a single memorable story told by a brand.

All of which tells us that while many brands are attempting to jump on board the brand storytelling train, many are derailing themselves right away through the actual content they’re creating.

 

How do brands use storytelling?

Think of some of the great books that have sold millions of copies all across the globe. How about:

• Harry Potter?
• Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
• The Lord of the Rings?

Those examples have all been made into films, too, and here’s what they all have in common:

• A hero with a goal or mission
• Something that our hero has to battle against in order to succeed
• A positive emotional development in our hero

As humans, we’re all wired to emotionally connect and react to stories – after all, we’re taught them from the moment we emerge into the world, from bedtime tales to picking apart Jane Eyre in GCSE English.

Brand storytelling example: Airbnb

Airbnb is some way from Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte, but as a brand, it’s one that places connective storytelling at the very heart of everything it does.

By providing a picture of an Airbnb host’s life, as the brand has done with Jonathan’s story, Airbnb is able to tell a ‘hero’s tale’ of a single dad of three, who was working 60-80-hour weeks as well as looking after his kids – before he started generating an income from letting his spare rooms to Airbnb guests and changed his life. The hosts, essentially, are Airbnb so rather than focusing their content marketing efforts on telling the story of the business, the brand’s approach focuses on their customer’s own stories and experiences.

What better way to resonate with their customers, than through people who are essentially just like them?

 

How to tell the story of your brand

The story of your brand, your values and what you stand for already exist – it’s how you project them into the emotional make-up of your customers that’s key. It’s also important to remember that your brand story is an ongoing evolutionary process, with plenty of sequels to come.

Your brand storytelling strategy should be driven by people and personalities – just like a good book.

Think about:

• Who you are – how did your brand come to be and what is your vision, mission and values? What did you go through to get to where you are?
• What you do – but not only that, consider how what you do improves the lives of your customers and why you do what you do
• Who your customers are – your customers have stories to tell which stem directly from their experience with your brand. Make use of those authentic, honest stories
• What’s next – how will your brand evolve and how will you take your customers on that journey with you?

You should also:

• Focus on the problems your customers have and how what you do solves those problems – that’s the way to craft your hero and the story of how they overcame the odds with your help
• Make sure your story is educational, entertaining and inspirational – but most of all: make sure it’s believable
• Concentrate on the emotional touchpoint with your audience – how did what you do help someone and what were they struggling with before you stepped in?
• Let your personality shine through in your stories – it’s what sets you apart from the competition and your customers should know something is ‘you’ simply from reading the first line of your content

 

The Harrison approach to brand storytelling

We love telling the stories of the brands we work with. They’re intriguing, aspirational and encourage discovery from your customers.

Here are just a handful of the great brand story projects we’ve worked on:

The Angel Hotel

Intrigue formed the basis of our work with The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds, an imposing 12th century Georgian coaching house full of history and mystique.
Author Charlies Dickens stayed at the venue and referenced it in his acclaimed novel The Pickwick Papers. We created a concept of ‘fables and tales’ to inject a feeling of ESCAPISM and ADVENTURE in every corner of the venue’s historic footprint.

Giraffe Restaurants

We built Giraffe World Kitchen’s brand story around the characteristics of the animal itself. Customers would ask why is this restaurant called Giraffe?Those characteristics align with the brand’s own values and beliefs:

• Giraffes have the biggest hearts of all land animals – OUR BRAND IS FRIENDLY AND WELCOMING
• They’re explorers, roaming the plains of Africa – OUR BRAND IS EXCITING AND ADVENTUROUS
• They have different view of the world, due to their height – OUR BRAND IS FUN AND LOOKS AT THINGS DIFFERENTLY

Gallio Pizza

The brand challenge for this Mediterranean pizza concept was to find a narrative arc that would forge a connection between the many varied cultures around the region, and connect with the brand with the wholesome and healthier way of life that the Mediterranean is synonymous with.

Our solution was to ensure Gallio Pizza became a true EXPLORER brand telling the story of a food odyssey that followed in the wake of the ‘Galley’ ships of the early Mediterranean trade routes. It is a brand which collects stories and recipes from chefs, staff and customers – recommending places to find incredible food and telling stories of ingredient provenance – quite literally taking customers on a journey. This story gives the brand licence to combine ingredients and influences creating an inspiring new and innovative menu.

Find out more

We’re brand storytelling consultants – but so much more than that, too.

Get in touch to find out more.

Naming a business: How to choose a brand name and stand out to your customers

What’s in a name?  Well, quite a lot actually – especially if you’re attempting to come up with a name for your new business.

But coming up with potential brand names that are both memorable but also tell people what it is you actually do can be mind-achingly frustrating – even for the creatives among you.

 

 

How to Choose a Brand Name

So, where do you start?

Firstly.

You have to understand what you do and who you are

This sounds obvious, of course.

Yet so many new businesses find themselves changing tack early on, perhaps because their product or service isn’t as successful as they’d first hoped, or because they revise the target audience they’re marketing to.

Either way, a major change in your product, service offering, or target audience can sometimes render your brand name meaningless.

So, when thinking of potential brand names, you need to consider:

• What your product or service proposition will be
• Your target audience and their personas.
• What your business really stands for and your back story, where have you come from?

 

Your brand identity

Your company name is important, but it only forms a portion of your overall brand identity.

A brand identity might sound a little pointless for a local carpentry firm, and more important for an international design agency like Harrison.

But what you stand for and your values as a business count for more now than they ever have before – regardless of size, location, product or service.

 

 

The Importance of Branding

Your brand identity is your personality. It’s your public-facing persona.

And it encompasses everything from what you say and how you say, to the promises you make to your customers.

But it starts with your brand name, so think about how you want to be seen and heard before you start brainstorming.

 

 

How we do it – The Harrison Naming Facets Model

We work to a list if eight ‘naming facets’ when working with clients to create new brand names:

• Brand fit
• Character
• Accessibility
• Scalability
• Suitability
• Be Unique
• Euphony
• The Right Fit

We then use those facets to ‘score’ the brand names that we shortlist.

 

Time for that brainstorm

The best way to even start to come up with a great name for your business is to brainstorm a list of words that are both associated with what you do and who you are, but also resonate with your potential customers.

Jotting down as many words as you can think of is a great starting point when naming a business or brand.

Remember: Google is your friend here, so if you’re struggling to come up a list of keywords, try a google search for ‘terminology’ or ‘glossary’ of your chosen product or expertise.

 

How we do it

We took that brainstorming process to the next level when tasked by Greene King to help them come up with a name and brand identity for a new craft ale.

In a busy marketplace like craft ales, it was important for Greene King that their new product had a brand name that:

• Was distinctive and memorable
• Set them apart from their competitors
• Evoked positive associations that resonated with their customers
• Created a strong personality that sparked curiosity
• Inspired and motivated their employees

We created ‘Lucky Luke’, the new craft ale’s ideal customer and devised a long list of words associated with Luke’s perception of himself, including:

• Intrepid
• Maverick
• Fearless
• Confident
• Grafter
• Wanderer

We then drew up a long list of words Luke uses in his vocabulary, which included:

• Railroad
• Grizzly
• Ablaze
• Stampede
• Hachette
• Bareboot

Following that, our team created a long list of locations Luke has a connection with, including:

• Devil’s Thumb
• Wilderness
• Moose
• Altitude
• Bearclaw
• Mountain

Words associated with Luke’s humour and character, meanwhile, included:

• Badger
• Boar
• Chinook
• Wolf
• Grizzly
• Spear

And thinking about his attitude sparked words like:

• Radical
• Curious
• Challenger
• Unshackled
• Spontaneous

Using our eight naming facets, we then came up with this ranked shortlist of six possible names for Greene King’s new ale, scoring them on each facet: Mighty Moose was chosen.

1. Mighty Moose IPA
2. Stampede IPA
3. Curious 8 IPA
4. Dashfire IPA
5. Bareboot IPA
6. Spotter IPA

 

Your ‘name’ as a business name

Where do you think the name Harrison comes from?

That’s right – from our founder, Philip Harrison.

Often brand names which are short, sweet, to the point and, dare we say it, obvious – stare you in the face for hours, days or even weeks or months, before the lightbulb illuminates. However, in our case, a name still communicates something and the name works because of Philip’s reputation, passion and how he has shaped our values including; personal/friendly service – so even a name like this needs to be assessed to check it resonates/communicates.

 

How to Check a Company Name

So, you’ve got a list of some amazing potential names for your new business.

Now you need to see if any of them have been taken by some other clever so and so.

 

Do a Google search

Jump on Google and start searching up your potential business names, crossing out any that exist already in the UK.

Remember: Even if your business name is taken by a company from overseas, that could impact on your ability to be found in search results.

 

Do a Companies House check

If you’re planning to incorporate your business as a limited company, log on to Companies House and make sure a business of the same name hasn’t already been registered.

 

Get feedback from people you trust

As much as you are really feeling your proposed new brand name, getting feedback from people you trust and respect can sometimes throw in a few curveballs – which can be both good and bad.

A fresh pair of eyes on your business name can sometimes throw up negative connotations you may not have considered, or it can be positive confirmation that you’re very much on the right lines.

 

Find a domain name

All new businesses need a website, so hop on to a domain name provider like Go Daddy or 123Reg and search up options for a domain name that includes the name of your business.

 

Start planning your brand strategy

As we said earlier, the name of your business is only a small part of your brand.

To really get your business moving and into the eyes and ears of your customers, you need to have a solid brand strategy.

This strategy clearly defines who and what you are, what your business stands for and your values.

A brilliant brand strategy and clear values, as well as an amazing product and / or superb customer service, will help you build loyalty and trust with the people who buy from you – meaning they come back time and time again.

 

Now it’s time for growth…

At Harrison, we’re experts on building and showcasing brands through identity, strategy and storytelling.

Check out some of the projects we’ve worked on and get in touch to find out more.

Brand Development – Process

Our brand creation and development process helps our clients differentiate themselves through having a coherent Brand DNA, storytelling and compelling differences.

Over the past 30 years working with clients such as Nando’s, The Restaurant Group, Hard Rock Cafe, Hilton and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts we have added millions of dollars to their valuations through innovation, new sales, differentiation and increased perceived customer value.

Keeping and acquiring new customers is the most important thing you can do right now to ensure your business recovers and thrives.  One of the key drivers for your future business growth is evaluating and evolving to these changing times and importantly making sure that your brand is still relevant and agile to adapt to the new normals.  Research shows that tough times are actually a good time to secure a long term competitive advantage and your brand is the most valuable asset you have.

Why not contact us for a no obligation brand review? We will provide you with a number of new ways to help you build a new and relevant brand for tomorrow’s customers?

Contact me on

richard@harrison.hn