Smaller Brands Excel Through Better Phyical Branding

What does a retailer do if they are smaller and who do not have a marketing budget to draw customers to your store? You use simple ingenuity to make the store speak for itself. Smaller brands can excel through better physical branding. Why not showcase your brand’s best assets?

This insight focuses on DeAnn’s recent store tours in Germany and the Netherlands which proved how highly effective strategies don’t have to cost a lot. 

Introduction – Smaller Brands / Physical Branding

There are millions of smaller brands in the world competing in all categories including apparel, lifestyle, fitness, etc. Many of these brands sell similar items. Those that are succeeding in capturing customers are ones that goes one step further through ingenious physical branding. Let’s take a look at four examples:

The Pool Jewelry

The Pool is located in Amsterdam, Netherlands
This jewelry collective uses one carefully chosen shade of swimming pool blue on everything that isn’t moving inside the store to create an incredibly eye-catching storefront that consistently draws customers inside. There is a rich and saturated blue that glowed through the windows of this store. Curious onlooking cannot help but go in, snap some pictures for social media, and perhaps purchase an item or two.

Inside The Pool Jewelry store that took inspiration from a swimming pool.

Henri Willig Cheese & More

Henri Willig Cheese & More – multiple locations in The Netherlands
Using the product as decoration is a time-tested way of creating a big visual impact. This store made cheese, sold cheese, and served cheese to a steady stream of happy customers. If you like cheese, you are drawn to go inside. I do, and I did, and it was so good.

This pic is from the specialty store Leidsestraat location. Many of their locations feature eye-catching cheese blocks.


Booxycle is located in Dusseldorf, Germany
This is a great example of a much-loved small neighborhood business. This establishment’s “Pay What You Want” and book recycling policy has connected it to the community. kept it in business for more than a decade despite the growth of digital and audiobooks.

Booxycle is a neighborhood second-hand bookstore that’s thriving.


Stussy located in Amsterdam
Not many streetwear brands from the 80s are still coveted by the cool kids today. Creating some friction is one way Stussy stays in the game. The store’s policy of restricting entry to 6 people at a time accomplishes several things. It helps staff offer better service and reduce theft; gives the shopper a fantastic in-store experience; and creates a line of customers outside the door excitedly awaiting entry into what must be a special place — not unlike the velvet rope line outside a popular nightclub.

Stussy Amsterdam flagship store

About 20 kids waited over 45 minutes to shop at this store. By the time they entered, they were eager to buy something to mark the moment. I was glad to see they were not deterred in the least at seeing my middle-aged self right in line with them. Speaking with the staff I learned this 45-minute line was one of their lighter days! And I did buy a t-shirt because I too am not immune to an effective marketing gimmick.

Final Words

Smaller brands don’t have to fret about customer traffic to their stores if they use some creativity in their physical branding. The four examples DeAnn showcased brought a sense of wonder into the mix. Customers are intrigued by the physical elements such as a swimming pool and made it their mission to visit these stores to absorb the experience.

The smaller brands are well aware of their distinct identity, products, and customer demographics which allow their imagination to run wild in-store designs. Who says physical store experiences are over?

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