Build-A-Bear’s Complete Brand Experience

I think many of my blog posts are too long.  In an effort to try to balance giving you complete thoughts and short(er) blog posts, I’m going to break this one up into two.  This is the first in a two-part series on Build-A-Bear’s Complete Brand Experience.

Leave it to a toy maker to get it right. 

Last month, I sat in on a session at Kioskcom and heard Brandon Elliott from Build-A-Bear speak.  I’ve been in Build-A-Bear before with my daughter, but didn’t recognize the superb job they do in creating a complete brand experience.  Yes, their sales associates are super friendly and use “bear” in as much of their vocabulary as they can – that’s not what I’m talking about.  What I’m talking about is extending the in-store experience (the offline experience) well beyond the store.  What I didn’t understand was how effectively they’ve created a cohesive, multi-channel brand experience.  Merging the offline with the online.  Using multiple “screens” as compliments to each other, not duplicates.  Creating brand evangelists, in part, by being channel agnostic.  So, after hearing Brandon speak, I had to go back into Build-A-Bear and experience it all for myself.

I was hypersensitive of my surroundings, so of course, the first thing I saw when I walked in was:

Score #1.  This company has a purpose.  They’re not in the business of making stuffed animals.  They’re in the business of making best friends.  Big distinction and one that is the foundation that enables them to create such a deep experience.  Relationships with stuffed animals end in time, for one reason or another.  Relationships with best friends are timeless.

So, here I was, faced with the joy of picking out my new best friend.  And although he wasn’t a bear, I knew him when I saw him. 

Score #1.5.  Every time one of these particular friends are chosen, Build-A-Bear donates $1 to the World Wildlife Fund.  Once I picked him out, the next step in the process was to bring him to life.  And here, in the store, you do that by picking out a heart, of course.  Before the heart goes in, you make a wish and give it a kiss.  Nice touch.

Score #2.  Details, details, details.  It’s not about picking out a non-stuffed animal and then getting it stuffed.  It’s about bringing this new best friend to life in a real & meaningful way.  This is part of the brand experience and there’s not a friend that gets made who doesn’t have a heart with a kiss and a wish.

Once I brought him to life, I was able to make him a legitimate member of the Cearley family by creating a birth certificate on the in-store kiosks.  While these kiosks are purely designed for utility, they are designed for a specific audience – kids (to be specific, 10 year old girls.)  All of the prompts on screen and buttons on keyboard are color & shape coded.  It’s a very easy process to go through – right in line with the rest of the experience.

And so my new best friend, Tex, was officially born.  With a heart, a kiss, a wish and a kiosk.

Score #3.  Personalization.  As you can see, Tex is a baseball fan.  I could have made him anything I wanted through all of the clothes and accessories available to me in-store.  Although not a huge deal for me, kids love this part of the experience because they get to personalize their new best friend from head to toe.  Socks, shoes, sunglasses, purses and everything in between. 

This is the point, in-store, where my experience ended.  I was handed Tex’s real birth certificate, Tex himself, and directed to Build-A-Bearville online.  Just as the purpose statement that I saw when entering, I was left leaving with this new promise:

Isn’t this experience great?  Even if you don’t care for making new best friends, you have to hand it to Build-A-Bear for creating such an immersive brand experience – the details – from what you see, to what you hear, to what you do, every step of the way.  And this isn’t even the complete picture, but it’s here, my friends, where we’ll pick up next time…

3 thoughts on “Build-A-Bear’s Complete Brand Experience

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