The brand offers laid back, Southern California (Social) surfer style clothing in the teen retail sector, and currently achieves international sales in excess of $1. 5 billion annually.
Since 2008 the parent company has progressively pushed the brand globally, and there has been rapid expansion, articulacy in the UK (Ward, 2008). (www. Hollister. Com) Hollister is a great example of the power of experiential branding and sensory marketing, and it is also offers many Insights Into retail staging. Building on the early Insights of Holbrook and Hiroshima on experiential consumption (1981; Bibb branding increasingly relies on symbolic associations and lifestyle Impressions (see, for example, Holt, 2004; Sherry, 1998; Gobo, 2010).
Above all, brands now strive to build satisfying experiences that mirror human relationships (Fourier, 1998; Miller, 2006). This involves creating excitement, connectedness and community (Sheehan, 2012), and giving brands energy, visibility and meaning to their target market (Asker, 1996). In the context of Hollister, an additional focus is on group membership, peer group acceptance and sexual attractiveness, all of which are identified as key issues for young consumers (Hardwood, 1999). Much has been written about serviceable and their importance for creating memorable consumer experiences.
There has also been a recognition of the value of themed flagship brand stores’ (Coolness et al 2002), which provide a memorable and engaging brand encounter, and which use tangible and Intangible elements to create stimulating brand experiences (see, for example, Memorable and Russell, 1974; Blunter, 1992; Coolness, Sherry, Dewberry-Spence (2002); Gigolo and Rafael, 2003: Carney et al 2007). Music, lighting, design, props, color schemes, and olfactory and tactile cues work together to appeal to consumers’ five senses as they enter these highly retail spaces or serviceable.
Sensory marketing draws attention to the significance of the human senses in creating a ‘supreme sensory experience of a brand’, according to Hulled, Browses and Van Dick (2009, p. Oddly enough, Hess authors make no reference to sex appeal, a key element in many sectors, particularly fashion (Petting, 2004). Consumers evaluate brands according to the match between brands and their own body image perceptions, and the body signifies membership to particular subcultures (Schroeder and Salter-M¶riling (2006: 157).
Body awareness and comparison with others Is particularly Intense for teenage consumers (Festering, 1954), and indeed Hardwood (1999) Identified that teenagers buy for three mall reasons: to show Individualism, to attract the opposite sex, and for acceptance by their desired peer group. One cannot argue with the old adage that shamelessly, one might argue, uses an intense form of sensuous marketing with sex appeal at its core, employing aesthetically pleasing female and male shop floor staff (models’) and male ‘lifeguards’. This Walking self-marketing branding strategy is one of the most visible examples of aesthetic labor in retailing.
Shop floor employees are carefully groomed to fit the brand aesthetic of embodying the Social lifestyle, in order to encourage customers to buy into the brand. A qualitative study was undertaken to understand how consumers experienced the Hollister retail environment. It drew on 25 written subjective personal introspections and in-depth interviews, and focused on consumers’ visits to a Hollister store. SIP, pioneered by Holbrook (1986) is a form of ethnography’s (Holbrook, 2005), which ideally provides insights into an individual’s reflections, thoughts, mental images, feelings, sensations and behaviors (Gould (1995).
To strengthen and complement this method, and as recommended by Holbrook, in-depth interviews were also conducted with participants. All of the data focused on one particular Hollister store in the I-J, which in terms of tangible and intangible cues typifies all Hollister stores worldwide. The research was conducted over a six month period. Summary of Findings A number of key findings emerged from the primary data, which illustrate the complexity of the Hollister retail experience and the pitfalls of engaging in full-scale sensory assaults.
It was identified that there were two markets for Hollister: a primary market of young consumers aged 14-18, and a secondary market, typically mothers, grandmothers and aunts, who were the ones who actually bought the clothing. Four key responses from consumers were identified: Seduction, Alienation, Nostalgia and Exasperation. The primary market who were interviewed for the study either felt seduced or alienated by Hollister, whilst the secondary market either felt nostalgic or exasperated by it.
In terms of positive responses, the state of Seduction was characterized as an Alice Through the Looking Glass experience of stepping through the ‘glass’, or in this case dark, shuttered doorway, into another, more alluring world. The dim lighting and beautiful props immediately created a dream-like, enchanted atmosphere. The profusion of aesthetically pleasing staff increased the sense of Ewing carried away on a fantasy-fuelled tide of abandonment, and of belonging to the exclusive, sexy, Social beach club of beautiful people.
The styling of the Hollister stores is romantic and glamorous, with dark wood paneling, potted palms, exotic, colonial-style wallpapers, crystal chandeliers, antique armchairs, and retro-styled posters of gorgeous ‘dudes’ and ‘Betty’s’, usually with their arms wrapped round one another. Nostalgia, real or imagined, is thus encouraged, and some participants loved the amorous musings the store invited, happily immersing themselves in the rose- intend, or more appropriately perhaps, sepia-tinted experience with its retro inspired, sass style posters.
However, other participants found the Hollister experience to be one of Alienation, feeling as if they had entered an off-putting, elitist environment in which they didn’t belong. The perceived air of luxury and exclusivity was experienced as intimidating, and this was compounded by a perception that the staff were aloof and detached.. Other consumers’ sense of alienation was based on more tangible the low level lighting, and concern that they would walk into other people in the meme-darkness.
Finally, a number of participants felt Exasperation. This is like no other retail environment, and consumers who didn’t ‘see the beauty within’, as one enamored participant put it, were infuriated with the dark, disorientating interior; this comprised little or no customer service or interaction with staff; the impossibility of seeing colors, sizes and labels; and the nightclub volume of music, which left them feeling dizzy, disorientated, temporarily deafened, and gasping for air and daylight.
To conclude, Hollister creates an environment that its ‘audience’ either eves or hates: once consumers step through the looking glass’ they either ‘suspend their disbelief, to borrow a phrase from the Romantic poet Coleridge, and allow themselves to succumb to its romantic enchantments, or they remain detached, and regard the Hollister experience as a disappoint serviceable nightmare of over-sexed fakery, manipulation and impracticality. Questions 1 What do you think of Hollister? Go to your nearest Hollister (Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow) and consider your own reaction to the Hollister retail environment.
Write down your thoughts immediately after your visit. How did the store make you feel? 2 Go to the Hollister online website and browse the site. Again, write down your thoughts immediately after your online browse. How does the online experience compare with the store experience? 3 Hollister has aroused controversy in relation to its looks policy and its employment of aesthetic labor for its ‘models’ and ‘lifeguards’. It has even been accused of racism in its recruitment policy. What are your views on this? Base your opinion on some online research into this issue.