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The art of brand immersiveness – it’s all in the detail

with Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

 

Crafting a brand that stands out is no easy task nowadays, with the depths of the internet and e-commerce at ours, and everyone else’s, fingertips, new businesses are popping up every day! The art of immersiveness might not be the first thing you consider when you’re thinking about your branding, but it’s in creating an immersive, magically consuming experience that you can set yourself and your products apart from all the other things on offer. And it’s all in the detail.

A fantastic example of this is Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. An incredible culmination of charity and retail, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is the storefront to the hidden world of Ministry of Stories – a charity that supports young people in East London in finding their confidence, imagination, and potential through the power of creative writing. This brilliant cause is all hidden behind a secret door within the most magical shop, selling supplies specifically for monsters! Neck bolt tighteners anyone?

Holly sat down to chat to Kirsty Telford, deputy director, and Alistair Hall, art director, on her podcast, Conversations of Inspiration. From invisible cats to monster pen pals, they know a thing or two about building an immersive brand…

Within their very teeny physical space, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies pack a pretty remarkable punch! You might come across their strange store by mistake, or make a pilgrimage into East London especially to experience the world they’ve lovingly crafted – either way, you’re in for a surprise once you go through their door!

‘We may be a tiny shop, but what we want to do is create another world, a world between the human and monster world, where we can excite and captivate. When I [Kirsty] arrived at the shop three years ago and got the keys, the shop was all set up for the day’s trading. And the very first thing I heard was Wells, our invisible cat, meowing in the corner, and I wasn’t expecting it. And I just thought, what on earth is that? There’s an empty basket, but I can hear a cat. And the best thing about it is, three years later, every time I’m in the shop and we have customers in, there is that same fresh response of, what on earth is that? Where is that?’

An invisible cat won’t be right for every business, but it’s details such as these that, layer upon layer, build an experience that your customers are sure to remember. A connection to your brand rooted in an emotional reaction is the strongest you can get. And, if you have a physical space, drawing people into the heart of your brand in the short time they’re in your shop is critical to making that connection and ensuring you have a customer that will return, go online to shop, or tell their friends about you.

‘We also have a letter writing service in the shop where you can write to six lonely monsters that really want to have safe human contact. We have a space for children to write to Betty the Yeti or Elder Dragon, or even Pudding, who lives in the cupboard and loves jam – she’s a little gremlin. You get to put the stamps on the envelope, you get to post it, it’s going to be delivered by post-mortem, our specialist post service, and a few weeks later they’ll receive an original letter written back, by Betty or by Pudding.’

Whether you have a physical store or not, it’s building connections and creating an immersive experience that is your USP as a small business. The ability to do things that big brands can’t is what will allow you to build a genuine, lasting relationship with your customers.

‘We may be a tiny shop, but what we want to do is create another world, a world between the human and monster world, where we can excite and captivate.’

So how can you create an immersive experience, in store and online? Remember, it’s all in the details…

In store

If you have a physical shop, how do you want someone to feel when they walk through your door?

  • Think about the customer experience from before they even come inside! Any space you have outside, a window or signs for example, have to be the ultimate invitation that quite literally stops people in their tracks and pulls them inside. At HSMS the doors and windows are adorned with intriguing stickers saying things such as ‘only one giant in the shop at a time’.
  • Once they open your door, use your space to set the scene. You want it to tell your brand story and emphasise what’s important to you. Every inch of HSMS is on theme – from the jars of ‘Human Snot’ stacked on the shelves to the till sign that reads ‘cash only, we cannot accept beans, magic or otherwise’.
  • Add magical elements that connect emotionally. The invisible cat or the ability to write to one of the monsters.

Online

And when you’re selling online, how can you create the magic of an immersive experience, without ever meeting your customer?

  • Social media, Instagram especially, is your digital shopfront. It is SO important to small businesses, if you’re not yet doing it, now is the time to start. You can still form those all important connections with your customers from a far.
  • Bring them into your world whenever possible. Help foster your connection by sharing behind the scenes updates, adding quirky touches to packaging and unexpected surprises in orders. Get them on your mailing list and stay in contact.
  • And remember all those little magic touches that can be enjoyed just as much in store as a parcel opened at home if not more – beautiful packaging, a handwritten note in their order or even a special offer to reward loyalty.

When we talk about brands that really resonate with us, really pull at our heart strings, they’re the brands that you can scratch the surface and you can keep going layer and layer in and it still resonates. It’s still true. And you just keep going – there’s depth, there’s journey. Take a look at your business and see how it stands up to the layer test, or where you need to add a touch more magic!

Key takeaways:

1. Customer first: An immersive brand thinks about every tiny element of interaction with their customer. It really is all in those small details which, combined, wrap a magical experience around your customer.

2. Embrace both online and offline: You can create magic with both physical shops and online shops, and if you have both they can work together.

3. Stir the senses: Always be thinking about the emotional connection and how you engage the senses – they’re key to truly immersing you customers in your brand from top to toe!

4. Layer on layer: Check your business stands up to the layer test!

Hear more from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

A brand that can marry non-profit with truly great product is somewhat of an enigma, so Holly was thrilled to chat to Kirsty and Alistair on her podcast about how they’ve done this with such skill and attention.

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