Woman standing in a store with product on shelves behind her

The art of creating a magical brand experience

Brand & Purpose
With Kirsty Telford & Alistair Hall, from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies


How can you make your brand stand out? The brand experts wizards at Hoxton Street Monster Supplies share their advice on creating memorable retail theatre and an immersive customer experience. Read on to discover their secrets…

Woman's hand holding pot of brain jam on a green and pink tiled background

Brand magic is in the detail: how to create a memorable brand experience

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

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is a fantastic example of creating a first class brand experience. An incredible culmination of charity and retail, they are the storefront to the hidden world of Ministry of Stories — a charity that supports young people in East London to find the confidence, imagination and potential through the power of creative writing. This brilliant cause is tucked away behind a secret door within the most magical shop, selling supplies specifically for monsters. Neck bolt tighteners anyone?

Back in 2019, our founder, Holly Tucker, sat down on her Conversations of Inspiration podcast to chat to their Deputy Director, Kirsty Telford, and Art Director, Alistair Hall. And it's fair to say that from invisible cats to monster pen pals, they know a thing or two about building an immersive brand…

Giving customers something to remember

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 it?”

How to engage your customers

An invisible cat won’t be right for every business, but it is details such as these that, layer upon layer, build an experience 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. Tapping into this really is good business advice.

It’s in creating an immersive, magically, all-consuming experience that you can set yourself and your products apart from all the other things on offer.

Kirsty says, “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 you’ll receive an original letter written back, by Betty or by Pudding.” So how can you create an immersive experience, in store and online? Remember, it’s all in the details…

How to bring your brand to life? Build a memorable in-store experience

Whether you have a physical store or not, it’s building connections and creating an immersive experience that is your USP (unique selling point) as a small business. The ability to do things that big brands can’t is what will allow you to hone a genuine, lasting relationship with your customers (and if you want more tips on that, read our article on Thoughtful Marketing).

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

  • Create a great customer experience before they even come inside your shop. Any space you have outside — a window or signs, for example — has 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’.
  • Make sure the brand experience runs through every customer touchpoint. You want every detail 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’.
  • Connect emotionally with customers by adding magical elements. Think about the invisible cat or the ability to write to one of the monsters. What could yours be?
Quotes on blue-framed windows
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.
Fairy dust in a jar, by Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

Don’t forget online customers too: connecting with customers from afar

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

  • Connect with customers through 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 afar.
  • Find other ways to engage your customers. Help foster your relationship by sharing behind-the-scenes updates. Get customers on your mailing list and stay in contact regularly, or find other ways to reach out to people (through podcasts, for example).
  • Use creative ways to package your products. You can create a good customer experience for online orders too — use beautiful or clever packaging, a handwritten note in their order filled with personality or even include an unexpected treat.

When we talk about brands that really resonate with us, and really pull at our heart strings, they’re the brands where 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 a 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.

Brand experience: key takeaways…

Creating the right brand experience will leave your customer with a memory they won’t forget (which, in turn, could mean repeat business). When building an immersive brand, think through each of these top ‘monster’ tips…

1. Think 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 (think in layers).

3. Use all five senses to build an emotional connection:

When we experience things through our senses, it’s immediate, tangible and memorable — these are key to truly immersing your customers in your brand from top to toe.

Images: Hoxton Street Monster Supplies’ Deputy Director Kirsty Telford, ‘Olde Fashioned Brain Jam’ — by Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, shop window — by Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, 'Fairy Dust' — by Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

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