In major high streets, where Benetton has got about 6,000 stores globally, brands are fighting a silent but ferocious war. It is a war for attention. We can say, considering the store as a living medium and accordingly with social networks, that attention is the real currency on the street.

If attention is the currency, time of people is the net capital. This is why Benetton turned its strategy around flagship stores from traditional product display to immersive media experience. The main goal is grabbing people attention, subtract it from competitors, engage in with a deeper and more visceral relation with users (i.e. prospect customers). To achieve that you firstly need to get rid of all product display on store’s windows and transform them into digital membranes that allow the brand to talk with people and people to feel part of the brand.

This is the strategic scenario for Benetton Live Windows, a digital place-based media project that so far covers flagship stores in Milan, Barcelona, Munich, London, Moscow, Shanghai, New Delhi and more. The whole project (platform, visual contents and interactive applications) has been fully conceived and developed by Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research centre based in Italy.

Alfio Pozzoni, Research and Innovation Director at Fabrica, is also Project Leader and Creative Director for Benetton Live Windows Project. He is a visionary at the intersection of marketing, art, pure research and design, with a long track record with top and luxury brands: “Our primary objective was to make the stores more visible. In order to achieve the goal of being seen and noticed, we had to establish contact with people outside the stores. We are working to enable people to communicate with the company and vice versa. By creating these media walls, we have formed a digital link between the store and passers-by”.
Fabrica is also the place where all contents – videos, animations, interactive applications – are designed and produced. All the stores are centrally controlled by Fabrica, where they designed an original content management system after having tested main market solutions without a positive outcome - none of them really met their needs. Everything is ad hoc: there is just a very poor recycle of contents from other channels. “I think if you want to achieve something extraordinary you always need to create your own tools”, Alfio Pozzoni says.

Giovanni Flore, Project Manager since the start-up of Benetton Live Windows: “We never recycle contents from other channels, because we believe that our media walls exist in a living environment, with people moving from place to place. This demands a different kind of accessibility and a number of other things that are not relevant for the press, online publicity or billboards. Benetton sells more than just clothes, it also sells an image which people associate with the young, with colours, joy and social issues. Moreover, we leverage users themselves as real-time content providers and distributors.”

That is why interactive applications are essential, because they offer an intuitive, universal language, which allows everybody to get involved in an entertaining and informal way. It is a language that works very well indeed. The effect is evident: during the day and at night, groups of people gather in front of the Benetton flagship stores where the ‘live windows’ are installed. The key of that experience is fun. “Fun is the key – Pozzoni says – to get a major memory retention. Positive experience live longer: this is what we want, to offer people new kinds of positive experience, letting them playing with their own image, in a public context. This positiveness activates some changes in social behaviour: people smile, laugh, have fun, share with the others. Many of them capture that experience with their mobile devices. This is a powerful multiplier in the experience and in its dissemination, from word of mouth to social network updating”.

Talking about content from a fashion brand point of view, product should be paramount. With Benetton, it’s not exactly like that. The language for product is 3D based, the intention is that of projecting the image out of the pane, breaking barriers and creating an immersive environment made of rotating objects and smooth sound design.

Product by itself is not the dominant gene in Benetton’s DNA. Social issues, local concerns, young creative talents are centred in the project’s strategy. Fabrica has promoted a network for fostering young creativity in the venues where it is installed with the Benetton Live Windows. The most prestigious art and design school and academies are cooperating in content conception and production: from Elisava in Barcelona to Parson’s in Paris and Hyper Island in Stockholm.

Current and further researches include the use of intelligent materials, the integration of sensors, new studies in the impact and the result assessment, new interactive applications and more and more technological research to enhance the dialogue between people and stores.

About Authors:

Alfio Pozzoni has been working at Fabrica since 2006 and currently he is in charge of expanding and exploring the new territories of communication and research. From 1973 to 1987 he worked as fashion photographer for a number of top international magazines. In 1991 he begins his long time collaboration with Louis Vuitton for which he has been art directing numerous projects and events worldwide, among which the Louis Vuitton Cup (1991 and 1994 editions) and the company’s 150th anniversary in New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Other important clients include Philip Morris, Jaguar, Prada, Harry Winston. At Fabrica Alfio Pozzoni has worked as team leader for the exhibition Fabrica: les yeux ouverts presented at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (October-November 2006), at the Triennale in Milan (June-July 2007) and at the Shanghai Art Museum in Shanghai (October-November 2007). Alfio Pozzoni is currently project leader for the new Fabrica project for the Benetton Group in the field of the retail design and experience.

Giovanni Flore is currently Project Manager for Fabrica projects in the field of retail and customer experience. He has a sound professional background in Marketing and Communication in consulting firms and creative agencies. He has gained a wide experience in all communication and marketing mix, as well as an expertise in a number of industries, such as music and entertainment companies, financial services, government services, and fashion. At Fabrica he is in charge of management for projects regarding the Benetton Group.