It wasn’t supposed to happen, really. The sun was warm making my skin smile, as we walked along the picturesque cobbled streets of Cannes in the South of France. A feeling of old school glamour hung in the air. As this was a work trip (we were there to shoot a multi-day wedding), with only one evening and one morning to ourselves, I hadn’t really planned on doing any shopping. But turning the corner the window display caught my eye instantly, the pastel coloured arrangement pulled me towards itself as if with an invisible thread. With the full intention of just ‘taking a peek’, we stepped inside a patisserie that fantasies, or perhaps movies, are made of.
Everything was so pretty, so meticulously arranged, and the staff looked more like pharmacists from a time gone by, as they very seriously filled in gorgeous boxes with colourful little pastries. I guess the jig was up from the moment I turned that corner, I was always going to walk out of that store with a pretty bag of my own, even if the smallest selection set me back more than a full dinner would have. And yet, I had no buyer’s remorse. Everything about the experience, from the beautiful displays, to the meticulous store and the serious service and gorgeous packaging, not to mention the quality of the product and the weight of the history, added up to an experience that felt worth it. All these things alone wouldn’t have done it. It is the combination of a superior product and great branding, that creates success stories such as that of Ladurée’s expansion from a single Parisian bakery, where the double-decker macaron was invented, into a chain, and a worldwide phenomenon.
When we turned the next corner we were faced with one of the now omnipresent (at least in France and in the US) Sephora stores, lures of which, again, were pretty hard to resist. Sephora is another interesting example of how branding, or a product, or an idea alone doesn’t work as effectively, as they do when seamlessly combined.
Interestingly enough, originally the brandname of Sephora was created by Boots, who had owned a chain of stores in France since the 70’s. While the brand might have been strong, Boots was trying to impose a similar model to their original stores, which at that point was a more old fashioned combination between a pharmacy and a perfume shop, and it had not found proper success in France. It wasn’t until Dominique Mandonnaud acquired the Sephora brand from Boots and used it to rebrand a whole new chain, combined with a new retail format of selling perfume and cosmetics in the way we are now used to, on the shop floor instead of from behind the counter, that a true super brand was born.
What makes both these brands interesting to me is the very long evolution from a revolutionary idea, to a superior product, and the development of a strong identity, all which in the end combine to making a brand that is irresistible. A brand that people can instantly visualise and will have an emotional response to, but that will also deliver on the expectations. It shows how a successful brand is about a lot more than just a clever visual identity or a trendy website.
On the last morning, we rewarded ourselves for our hard work by camping out on the beach, sipping cold water while digging our toes into the warm sand. That really was the most blissful couple of hours I've experienced in a while.
I managed to take quite a few photographs on our little walks around Cannes. I'm always surprised by how many images I come home with, when at the time I felt like I hardly took any!
For some reason I felt pulled towards these more modern buildings among all the classical beauty. Perhaps it's the contrast that attracts the eye?
All the ice cream colours of Cannes were simply delicious.
The ocean, blue sky and some palm trees. My idea of heaven.
It was a shame we didn't have time for any museums or galleries. But perhaps it's a good reason to return one day sooner rather than later.
I hope you enjoyed this little postcard from Cannes! If you have any examples of brands that you can't resist, do share with us in the comments below!