Irresistible Experiences

Welcome to the first in a new series of columns brought to you in association with experiential marketing, brand activation and consumer engagement specialist CircleSquare. This monthly column aims to inform, surprise and provoke, to take a different perspective on the role of design in the channel and to address how art can and should meet science in delivering great engagement and experiences. We hope you enjoy this new regular eZine feature and welcome your feedback. By CircleSquare.

“68% of travel retail professionals will have better sex after reading these top tips”

Well done, you fell for our salacious headline and entirely fabricated statistic. Despite this article being informative, amusing and beautifully written, it’s unlikely to have a significant impact on your sex life. The big question is, does reading it constitute a meaningful experience?

For example, will it still have the same effect if you’re reading this on your laptop while browsing Instagram on your phone, or eating your lunch? What if you can’t remember anything about the content in five minutes’ time? What if we asked you in three days which creative agency wrote this article, and you named somebody other than CircleSquare?

Naturally you’d have to wash your mouth out with luxury soap but, on paper, all of these would tick the box for engagement. They’d also be a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

Delivering meaningful experiences in travel retail is the fuel that powers our working day (along with all the delicious chocolate and restorative eye cream our lovely clients regularly send us). But it’s not just a case of ‘build it, and they will come’ – travel retail is riddled with little hurdles and complexities that need to be negotiated before we can skip to the good bit.

Let’s start with our audience, who are both dream and nightmare in equal measure, like Janus the two-faced Greek god of gateways and transitions (he must have had his fair share of tricky flight transfers).

In the driving seat: CircleSquare has supported chocolate house Cadbury in delivering some of the most striking recent activations in travel retail confectionery

In the driving seat: CircleSquare has supported chocolate house Cadbury in delivering some of the most striking recent activations in travel retail confectionery

On the upside, our travellers are trapped in a shiny retail theme park until their flight whisks them away. They have time to kill, money to spend and are often in a travel mindset which gives them permission to buy stuff they wouldn’t normally consider; some of us have tiny wooden clogs from Schiphol to prove it. They’re heavily skewed to millennials, who love an Instagrammable experience. Surely our job is easy, like shooting fish in a barrel?

If only it were that simple. The problem is the 149 other things travellers have to think about. How much time do I have, where shall I get food, which gate do I need? Where are my bags, did I put liquids in my carry-on, where can I find a phone charger? What did I do with my boarding pass, which gate number is it again, OMG am I even in the right terminal? Where can I get coffee, should I use the bathroom here or by the gate, did that announcement say my flight was boarding, where did I put my passport?

Game of Thrones: The campaign around the eight-strong TV series-themed Scotch whisky range was one of the most successful activations ever for the brand owner (through CIrcleSquare)

Game of Thrones: The campaign around the eight-strong TV series-themed Scotch whisky range was one of the most successful activations ever for the brand owner (through CIrcleSquare)

In the midst of all this noise and sensory stimulation, we have at best three seconds to stop them in their tracks with something that wipes all other thoughts from their brain and gives them an irresistible urge to find out more. It’s not easy…but it’s also what we did at the beginning of this article and you’re still here, right?

The Hendrick’s bath tub has become a popular and highly engaging staple of retail environments across the world

The secret lies in the art of creating a ‘Hook’. It’s the same principle that makes you watch an entire TV box set because the first five minutes of episode one made you gasp, or finds you ploughing through a book at 4am because page one was a jaw-dropper. At risk of this metaphor getting a bit gruesome, a good Hook hits you between the eyes at the very beginning of the story, so you can’t look away; you MUST find out what happens next.

Twelve years ago, the world’s largest premium gin (Hendrick’s, since you asked) was hardly known in the world of travel retail. Then a bold marketing manager trusted his instincts and his creative agency (CircleSquare, since you asked) to put a visual merchandising display into Barcelona Airport. Instead of a shelving unit, we filled a vintage Victorian bathtub full of bottles of gin; something which looked entirely out of place in the glossy modernity of a Spanish airport.

What happened next was exactly what we hoped – travellers couldn’t look away and felt compelled to come closer, desperate to solve the puzzle of why there was an old bathtub in an airport.

Sales of Hendrick’s increased by nearly +4000%, and there was an incremental effect on other products too, as people who would not normally enter the store came to find out more about the bathtub and ended up buying other stuff.

The original one-month promotional slot for the Hendrick’s experience was extended for a further six months – you could call it the ultimate retail Hook, as consumers felt the irresistible pull of a simple yet compelling activation.

Over the coming months we’ll be using this column to lift the lid on the secrets of successful travel retail experience, and how creativity and human understanding are a match made in heaven. If you really can’t wait that long, drop us an email (below) and we can hook up.

*About Circle Square

CircleSquare are experts in experiential marketing, brand activations and consumer engagement, with a special focus on global travel retail where they’ve been delivering award-winning work for over 15 years. CircleSquare’s in-depth understanding of this unique channel has earned them an impressive client list, including Diageo, Mondelez, Luxottica, Lacoste and L’Oréal Luxe, alongside retailers like DFS, Dufry and Heinemann.

CircleSquare has offices in London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, covering every phase of the experiential journey process from strategy and creative to design and delivery. You’ll find their work in retail stores, pop-up spaces and airports all over the world.

Contact: Executive Creative Director Philip Handley at

The Moodie Davitt eZine

Issue 278 | 6 April 2020

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 12 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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