Trends and Innovation

The quest for permanence

Brands should build monuments to their proposition, says Alex Smith, planning director at brand experience agency Sense.

Marketing has a general transience; a temporary nature. Perhaps this is a hangover from media buying, where paying for ad space is essentially an act of rental; of artificially inflating something that couldn’t sustain itself. Therefore, it’s natural to assume that marketing couldn’t possibly last.

But if marketing is increasingly taking the shape of actions and experiences that are amplified through media, rather than units of media standing alone, there’s no reason why those actions can’t bring about things that are permanent. And with permanence comes unthinkable reach and engagement.

If you’re a retail brand, you’re at a big advantage. A nice example is the House of Vans – more like London’s only indoor skate park than a shop, with bars, performances, films, art and more thrown in for good measure.


This raises the question of why so many shops are just shops. In flagship retails spaces, there are things that people would probably rather do than browse products, but which sit harmoniously with browsing products, so why would such an approach like that taken by footwear icon Vans not be more common?

This doesn’t mean putting something experiential in your shop, but rather putting your shop in something experiential.

Check out this You Tube clip here of a walk through of the House of Vans.

Away from retail, brands can simply build monuments to their proposition. And if they want to roll in the CSR angle, so much the better! Shell killed about a million birds with one stone by building a soccer pitch in Morro da Mineira entirely powered by the movement of the players. This action comments on everything from Shell’s ability to innovate, to its commitment to community and sustainability.

Permanence gives this kind of project exponential reach over time, and even the opportunity, should a brand wish, to self-fund.

Check out this You Tube clip here of Shell and Pelé‘s soccer pitch

Of course, the more permanent a piece of marketing is, the more it is integrated into its surroundings and the less it looks like marketing in the traditional sense. Yet the more of an experience it becomes and the more people engage with it. Could a brand really put a value on this kind of activity?