PDAs: Public Displays of Art and their relevance in commercial branding

Hermès window display by Ruth Herbert

When one associates brand and art, the most obvious thought that comes to mind is the ‘Logo’, and rightly so — it is the essence of the brand’s identity or in other words the face of the brand. While designing an appealing logo and conjuring a crafty name for the brand are essential steps in forging the brand’s identity, branding doesn’t necessarily end there — packaging, advertising, and the works are yet to follow. Being experts not in marketing but in design, this article is in no way a ‘How to market your brand’ piece, we’ve still got learning to do in that department. However, when it comes to employing art to communicate one’s brand identity, we are in our element.

If sticking to the branding basics was enough, then Coca-Cola would be just another cola, Nescafé would be just another coffee and Nike would be just another shoe. What sets these brands apart, goes beyond the logos and the conventions of branding; what sets them apart are the stories they tell. Your brand identity conveys to your audience what your brand is all about and why they should associate with it, it tells your story. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the products they are purchasing and the brands they are associating with. This is why contemporary branding is becoming more and more about storytelling (Forbes, 2016).

Channeling their creative sides and making the most of technology, brands have resorted to several communication channels to express themselves and reach out to their audience. While creative uses of television and print media continue to dominate, brands are beginning to turn to quirky new ideas involving murals, installations and window displays. Branching out into new modes of commercial branding becomes increasingly relevant with new brands coming up each day.

Tiffany & Co. holiday window display (2012)

Window displays are becoming a crucial part of capturing the consumer’s attention, breathing life into the retail space. They have been found to be pivotal in increasing the footfall into stores, however their role isn’t just limited to that. A prime example of integrating window displays into a brand’s identity is that of Tiffany & Co. Their stunning minimalist displays are so iconic, they inspired a movie plot centered around them. Creative displays conveying a message and telling stories allow customers to engage with the brand and to potentially share those stories in an increasingly connected social media landscape. In an attempt to appeal to an increasingly millennial audience, they also create so-called ‘Instagrammable moments’. When a viewer’s attention is captured by an eye-catching display, the reach of the brand could extend from them to their hundreds and thousands of Instagram followers. Such displays have been shown to be instrumental beyond increasing footfall and enhancing brand awareness, they also have the potential of converting into retail sales for the stores. Window displays are particularly helpful in making brands stand out in a room full of competitors, and that’s what branding is all about. They are also a great way to highlight any new offers, promotions and product launches. For instance, in 2010, Selfridges turned its window display into an enticing offer. Passersby were invited to guess the songs depicted in the displays in order to win gift vouchers.

Selfridges London, guess the song window display (2010)

“art combined with branding is becoming the keystone to implement innovative marketing strategies which attract modern customers, increasingly engaged in dynamic, original and interactive contexts.” — Greta Aldeghi (Design Wanted)

Aside from highlighting brand identity, window displays are extremely popular during the holiday season. With consumers flocking to malls and stores, and brands coming up with festive offers and collections, adding art into the mix helps forge a connection.

Window displays our team has worked on

We at Studio Rêver focus on bringing out the story of a brand in the art that we create, be it through sets, installations or interior design!

Studio Rêver is a Multidisciplinary Spatial Design studio. We create experiences through Visual Merchandising, Interior and Set Designing/Styling.