After visiting a zany London pop-up promoting home appliances, GDR’s Martin Reid considers how other home technology brands are showcasing their benefits.
As soon as fellow researcher Harriet Cox and I had set foot inside this experiential pop-up, we were handed an anonymous red cocktail served in a travel-sized shampoo bottle by our effervescent hostess Mrs Jones, who couldn’t wait to show her guests around her “home”. This was a promising way to kick things off, as I would need that pick-me-up to get my head around the journey to come.
Envisioned by event agency Meredith Collective, Whirlpool and Bang & Olufsen’s Keeping Up with the Joneses pop-up invited guests to understand the benefits of each brand’s smart dishwashers, tumble-dryers and connected speakers through immersive metaphor. The experience comes with a price tag; visitors to the pop-up must pay £17.50 to “pop in” and up to £52.50 to “dine in”.
Our anachronistic fifties housewife hostess, Mrs Jones, kindly led us round her unusual home, all the while gushing over the perks of her newly purchased modern technology: she enthusiastically explained the joy of receiving texts from her new fridge to alert her that her husband has had a midnight snack, and how she can control her new dryer through her smartphone! We followed Mrs Jones through her Whirlpool fridge and down into her funhouse home.
In rooms drenched in UV light, we navigated a maze of hanging washing and painted stacks of fictionally branded foods and detergents. Along the way, Mrs Jones presented a different appliance in different rooms of her house, accompanied by the chance to sample quirky delicacies amongst large inflatable bubbles and oversized cardboard cutlery. We sampled macaroon dishwasher tablets and minty cocktail gels served in toothpaste tubes generously distributed by her nightwear-clad husband.
After an impromptu pillow fight, we saw our hostess’s luxurious living room, furnished with a variety of Bang & Olufsen smart speakers that activate by stroking them. Some of these speakers’ prices are comfortably in four figures, and the Whirlpool smart products are also premium priced. Our tour came to an end in an indoor picnic and bar area, where guests could order more drinks and muse over their sensorial journey.
We spoke with a brand ambassador about the rationale behind this experiential pop-up. She told us it was an exercise in brand building: though you couldn’t buy anything at the event, the fun experience would prime potential buyers in the future to reconsider their perceptions about each brand when they’re searching for a new kitchen appliance. Additionally, the pop-up would drive conversation on social media (we certainly took a lot of Instagram snaps) and for positive PR, demonstrating that these brands also have a fun side beyond technological prowess. But at what point does wackiness outweigh the premium brand image?
I’m reminded of one of my favourite case studies we have shown to our clients last year, a range of LG smartphones whose anthropomorphised personalities differentiate the offer in a crowded marketplace. As LG spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal: “you can’t fight hardware forever”. I would agree that the same approach applies to high-end home technologies. Being able to sell the benefits of the appliance beyond its functionality, and appeal to the emotional side of customers, is an effective strategy to strengthening universal appeal and driving future engagement. Particularly for a category where frequency of purchase is low and investment is high.
This isn’t the first time Whirlpool has had a bit of fun with its brand. In a Brazilian supermarket, it installed an overly frosted freezer. When customers struggled to wrestle a pizza out of the freezer, they found a message on the packaging saying: “If your fridge also does this to you, trade it for a Consul Facilite”. In the same category, Samsung’s oversized dishwasher was installed in a plaza in Cape Town, where curious visitors venturing inside got to literally experience the appliance’s WaterWall technology – they got soaked. Whirlpool and Bang & Olufsen get full marks for giving me something to remember and talk about. However, in terms of linking my whimsical experience with my understanding of the unique virtues and benefits of each product, I’m not wholly convinced. Another toothpaste cocktail might persuade me.