In 2015, European e-commerce giant Zalando bought a local inner-circle fashion exhibition called Bread & Butter and converted into an international trend festival open to all. Why would they do that?

To answer that question, Woltti’s CEO Jyrki Aittola goes back to an age-old management gripe about the high price of marketing. “If you complain that marketing is expensive, what are you really saying? You are inferring that attracting customers is expensive. It would then be more accurate to say that marketing is bad, since it cannot attract customers profitably. Instead of saying that a measure or channel is expensive, you should say that it’s bad or non-functional. That will bring you to the real challenge: how to make your activity or channel good and appropriate?” says Aittola, challenging companies to rethink their attitude to marketing costs.

Zalando is just an online fashion outlet for the digital age. Why does a digi-giant need an event? Its bread and butter is in digital marketing and sales.

The digital age calls for physical experiences to leave a lasting impression

“Digital communications miss out on a lot. You cannot see the recipient’s expression, gestures, body language or other non-verbal communication, so there is a big risk of misunderstanding in digital communication. Simply having met and seen your digital counterpart does a lot to build understanding. You have trust, and when you do, you are better able to interpret the digital messages of the other”, Aittola says.

“If personal meetings and experiences had no meaning in the digital age, business travel would be gone. Instead of decreasing the importance of encounters, the digital age has made them more important than ever. Trust and understanding can only be built through meetings with your counterpart.”

“What goes for individuals, also goes for brands. We can hardly remember anything about digital discussions or events. But we remember our experiences, tell stories about them and spread the word about things we have actually experienced.”

“It’s hard to imagine compensating for a failed face-to-face meeting with a digital experience, but a poor digital experience can always be repaired with great personal service. Many complaint cases can testify to this.”

Brand experience builds trust

In the digital age, brand experience is a multi-channel, or rather channel-less thing. It has to deliver everywhere, at every encounter and in every event. And it needs to leave a lasting impression.

Zalando did not convert its bought Bread and Butter exhibition into a sales channel, but as an experience-based lifestyle festival to spread the word of fashion trends and help fashion enthusiasts get in touch with the brands they love. After all, festivals are not just about fashion, but also about music, food and fun – building connections and trust.

Zalando made a considerable investment in this. In September 2017, the three-day festival attracted a crowd of 30,000 in Berlin and millions of online viewers. So, we are talking about a bigger thing than Finland’s mega event Slush.

“The secret to Zalando’s success is not about just providing the right products for the right price online, fast deliveries, good customer service and hassle-free complaint processing. That’s just what you expect from any online shop today. The brand experience is created by exceeding your customers’ expectations. For Zalando, the entertaining and unexpected Bread & Butter festival was an experience that surpassed expectations, and whose message to the target group, precisely tailored for the brand, will spread to their peers”, Aittola says.

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