August 5: In June, German carmaker Volkswagen opened Autostadt, Europe’s first automotive theme park on cars. The company spent $424.4 million to build the complex. Situated in Wolfsburg, the park features displays, events, a motor museum, special areas for kids, special chambers to check how your car fares against wind and vibration, and even a section where you can design your own car. All this merely to persuade customers to buy a VW car. Companies are going out of their way to lure customers to buy their wares.

Such parks makes one wonder how far will sellers go to persuade customers to buy their stuff?

Very far, if a report in The Asian Age newspaper is anything to go by.

Shopping for Buyers
Shopping for Buyers [Illustration by Shiju George]
Attempts such as the theme park are being called ‘Wow’ experiences. It is hoped that looking at all the razzle-dazzle around him, the customer would be forced to say ‘Wow’ and end up buying the product.

Several other brands are following in Volkswagen’s footsteps. The tea company, Brooke Bond, is starting a chain of tea bars across Britain to persuade young customers to drink more tea. These tea bars will be called Ch’a. They will compete with the popular coffee bars, which are available all over Britain. The idea is to make young Britishers fall in love with tea.

But what is the point of all this, you might ask? One will shop when one has to, when one needs the thing.

Experts say, that is not shopping, it is buying. According to them, in the new age there will be a marked difference between buying and shopping. Buying is what we do when we order essentials for our homes. But shopping will be an experience in itself. We will regard our shopping trips like picnics, or visits to the zoo. It will be a leisure activity. Which is why sellers will have to provide more than just the product. They will have to provide some fun as well.

So serious are companies about this selling method, that they are even hiring special consultancies to develop the experience for their brands. A brand is identified by name as the product of a particular firm or manufacturer. These people are known as branding consultancy enterprises. One such consultant said that appealing to all the five senses is important. Only then will customers be interested in the company’s product. That’s why the smell of the brand will be as important as its feel and sound. Or at least that’s what these experts are saying.

A filmmaker in Tamil Nadu has already caught on. Besides the appropriate sights and sounds, his film offers scents too. You smell roses when the hero chases the heroine in the rose garden. How has this miracle occurred ? The director has devised a small device like a tape recorder, stuffed with dry ice soaked in perfume. That is placed in front of the screen and operated to match the image.

So how successful has the director’s ‘brand’ become? Right now, we have no reports.