The Hook and the Catch

How retailers appeal to themselves to lure in like-minded customers
Posted April 6, 2015

The “man bun” and hipsters. Live music and Nashville. Cats and whiskey. Some things just go together.

On a recent trip to Nashville, I visited some local brands in search of design inspiration – and what I found went far beyond simple aesthetic. I was surprised to note a crossover of activity and product in retail – it felt a bit like cross-merchandising life. I met retailers who wanted friends, not followers; love, not likes. Retailers willing to put everything out there to get noticed, and aren’t afraid to deter those who maybe don’t “get” them.

The most compelling thing? Unlike some brands that “try” different promotions, these retailers are true embodiments of their concepts and ideas. They know what their customers will come looking for (hook) and they understand what will keep them coming back (catch). How? Simple: They offer what they themselves want. Hooking and catching is not a difficult thing to do, when it comes naturally.

Here are few examples:

The Soda Parlor lures you in by way of Instagram and YouTube with their lively owner Olan Rogers who designs their signature graphic T-shirts. He designs shirts that he wears himself and throws pizza parties for customers because, well, he loves pizza. He’s a “big kid” at heart and uses lifestyle, instead of demographics, to reach like-minded consumers. People come to The Soda Parlor for soda (hook) and leave with a cool T-shirt (catch).

• After a tour (hook) and whiskey tasting at Greenbrier Distillery, I met Maple the cat (catch) ... and fell in love. During the tasting, she kept popping up in the window, grabbing everyone’s attention. In the end, owner Charlie Nelson picked up his cat for a kiss, cementing any animal lover’s affection.

Pinewood Social is “a place to meet,” and feels more like a scene from the TV show “Mad Men” than a restaurant. For those activity addicts out there, they offer  bowling and bocce ball (catch) along with your coffee and cocktail (hook).

Barista Parlor’s coffee is pretty good (hook). But are you in a motorcycle group yet (catch)? Do you love spaceships (catch)? Or maybe just man buns and beards (catch and catch)? They do too.

• At Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, you can pick from a variety of fedoras, cloche and floppies (hook), then adorn them at the feather bar. But, extra-extra! They will steam and refit your hats as an ongoing service (catch). (Side note: Did you know that miniature replicas of hats were used like gift cards over a hundred years ago?)

It doesn't necessarily matter what the hook is and what the catch is in your retail strategy, as long as the goal is to sincerely connect your likes with customers’ likes. Whether you use product plus service, product plus product, or product plus activity, think about how your customers might mirror your own interests. Then put those interests out there and watch them come in droves.

Can retailers fish? I think so.

Faith Bartrug of FBD Studios (Columbus, Ohio) has more than a decade of experience in transforming national brands. Her background includes brand strategy, environmental design and visual merchandising, and she has been able to practice what she preaches with leading design firms and clients such as Neiman Marcus, JCPenney and Mark Pi’s.