Marketers see June as a month of sunshine — the perfect time to kick off summer campaigns — but also of rainbows, as they scurry to take advantage of Pride, the annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. While some of these efforts fail to fully capture the spirit of the monthlong event, Bloomingdale's this year is trying to add depth to its Pride-related marketing with an Instagram-minded pop-up in stores.
Pride is grounded in history, activism and inclusivity, with its genesis surrounding the commemoration of the Stonewall riots. Given that the occasion is about supporting an often marginalized community, marketers like Bloomingdale's must answer the question: How can a campaign replete with attention-grabbing tactics like pop-ups and social media encapsulate the meaning behind Pride?
Bringing theater to retail
Bloomingdale's centered its recent "Pride for All" campaign strategy around philanthropy and sparking user-generated content (UGC) through a series of in-store creative displays. It hopes to deepen its connection with shoppers this month through a thoughtful product assortment and in-store activations that evoke the spirit of Pride — and drum up funds for a charitable cause.
Attention-grabbing visuals inspired by the colorful LGBTQ+ flag surround the merchandise in the Carousel section of New York's 59th Street store. Once shoppers pass through an overflowing floral archway, floor-to-ceiling LED screens serve as a backdrop for the social media-minded installation that is supported with Instagram and Twitter content.
"Retail is theater. That's in our DNA," Bloomingdale's CMO and Executive Vice President Frank Berman told Marketing Dive. "Activations and events have been longstanding parts of our story, and Carousel amplifies that further by letting guests put themselves into the show through their phones."
Sparking shareable in-store moments
Carousel, which launched in September 2018, features themed pop-up shops and events inside select stores to draw interest for limited-edition clothing collections created by guest curators. Past Carousel pop-ups include "Good for the Globe" sustainable fashion and "Urban Explorer," which showcased stylish bike helmets, luggage and streetwear.
This spring, Bloomingdale's worked with "Out" magazine Editor-in-Chief Phillip Picardi on Pride-themed merchandise, such as t-shirts for gender nonconforming customers and tops flaunting logos of iconic gay nightlife venues, per a company announcement shared with Marketing Dive. Picardi curated items from a variety of inclusive brands like Patrick Church and Chromat.
The "Pride for All" activation was created entirely in-house by the retailer's social and integrated marketing teams. For Bloomingdale's, the broader Carousel initiative elevates the ordinary shopping experience by incorporating eye-catching visuals and in-person events into retail activations that bring cultural themes to life, Berman said.
"A big part of how we define Carousel is in these shareable moments," he said. While in-store creative displays aren't new to Bloomingdale's — former CEO Marvin Traub raised the bar for product showcasing in the 1960s — Berman says the retailer is now working to amplify its "Instagrammable" moments through UGC on social media.
"Customers come into the Carousel space and purchase merchandise because they're intrigued by [the display], so how can we help them share it and share the Bloomingdale's story?" he said. "It's always more credible when someone else tells your story."
A broader look
That strategy of using in-store activations to drive social content creation aligns with broader trends in retail marketing. Nearly three out of four (71%) shoppers access their phone while in stores to read product reviews, compare prices or tap into virtual try-ons. To match these customer desires for "brick-and-mobile" experiences, many retailers have begun to more intentionally integrate mobile features into their store spaces to drive social engagement and UGC.
Bloomingdale's marketing strategy now includes purposely tapping into shoppers' natural inclination to pull out their phones while browsing to take photos and share things that inspire them, Berman said. The retailer is adding a philanthropic element to this spring's Carousel installation. For every social media post that includes #BloomiesLovesHousingWorks, the company will donate $1 to Housing Works, a New York-based nonprofit that fights homelessness and AIDS.
"We're now tying the campaign into a cause we've been supported of for years," Berman said. "Housing Works and Pride [are] about being yourself and being comfortable with that. That mission is very Bloomingdale's."