Big brands look for culture ties, and are welcomed with open arms

Charlotte MossTue 4th June 2013

National Geographic London store's Cultural Calendar is the latest in a series of in-house support programmes for local artists

As managing director of retail marketing agency OscarMike Ltd and coordinator of the National Geographic London store’s Cultural Calendar, Charlotte Moss believes that the vogue for large brands to support local culture in-house is a healthy one.

A couple of years ago the tradition for culture venues was to take large amounts of cash from global corporations to invest into a programme and its advertising, for instance BP and the Royal Opera House, or Shell and Southbank Centre. In return the brand had their logo emblazoned on marketing material, but the reach of the ‘campaign’ was hard to prove, and while customers probably appreciated the gesture, they didn’t come away from the venue feeling as if the brand had offered something substantial.

Big brands with time to invest in delivering ‘something more’ for their customers have decided to take issues with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and ROI (Return On Investment) in this previous arrangement, and bring culture in-house and to develop programmes of their own. The new wave of support from brands comes from closer ties with the artists themselves. When Burberry launched their Live at 121 series in their new flagship Regent Street store, they had the Kaiser Chiefs performing to Burberry fans who appreciated the world famous musicians, and Kaiser Chief fans who appreciated Burberry for inviting them in store. The brand delivered something more for customers. Your store can have a strong retail concept, but also having strong culture ties does not go unnoticed.

The National Geographic London store’s Cultural Calendar celebrates the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary with a variety of in-store events. For a marketing agency it is no small feat; our staff liaise with artists, musicians, lecturers, heads of charitable organisations and children’s entertainers to coordinate a monthly calendar for locals and passing tourists.

It is live music, more than any other activity in the National Geographic store to date, that improved local customer loyalty and where the drive of new customers into the store has been most keenly felt. The National Geographic brand lends itself to world music and classical music in particular, and the store has recently supported flautist Katherine Bryan with her flute album debut, Japanese music group Okeanos, and composer Tom Hodge with his Piano Interrupted Ensemble. These concerts have also enriched the brand’s content strategy, creating more reason to contact our customer database and with more footage for our social media channels. The store is also profiled through press and blogs at its best, full of customers enjoying the café and exhibition area.

In the current entrepreneurial fever, musicians (as well as the brands supporting them) are looking for as many ‘contact points’ with new audiences as possible. The National Geographic store offers its collaborators the footfall afforded to a store in Knightsbridge, directly opposite Harrods. It is a fantastic opportunity for these artists to get the exposure they need, crave and deserve. The beauty of this collaborative relationship is its promiscuity; a brand does not tie itself to a single culture venue or collection of artists, and the performers can line up concerts in as many brand venues as they wish.

Supporting musicians local to flagship stores helps brand perception. The customers come away from live retail events feeling the 'experience' of the store, carefully crafted and controlled by the brand itself. With reported tax evasion from Starbucks through to Google in the press, coverage of brands investing time in local community events should be welcomed. Proactively creating experiences is not the same as reacting to fashionable in-store activity, and devising a cultural programme is a worthwhile project given the knock-on effects for talented musicians and a store's footfall. Let’s hope that these collaborations continue, as they appear to benefit everyone involved.



The National Geographic Cultural Calendar continues this month, with a Sing Along Session for children this weekend and with multiple classical music performances arranged for the autumn. The store is located on Brompton Road. For more information see the Facebook page.

Charlotte Moss's picture

Charlotte Moss

Charlotte Moss read Music at Lincoln College, Oxford before beginning a career in marketing. OscarMike is a marketing agency that gets brands on the move through Planning, Live, Digital and Content. See www.oscarmikeagency.co.uk for more information.

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