Monday, October 24, 2011

Article on Business Standard

Parx in search of makeover

Preeti Khicha / Bangalore October 24, 2011, 0:27 IST

The Raymond Apparel brand is trying hard, but creating a strong brand perception won’t be easy.

Parx, the fastest-growing brand in the Raymond Apparel stable, is launching a new retail format. The initiative is part of Raymond’s attempt to reinvigorate the ‘beyond work’ casual wear brand and make it relevant among youth in urban pockets and metros

While the brand has been growing close to 40 per cent in the last two years, sales numbers for Parx indicate growth has been coming from mostly multi-brand Raymond stores in Tier 1 and Tier 2 markets. The area where the brand has taken a beating is in the metros, where international brands like Jack and Jones, Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica are challenging Parx’s image. Indian brands like Arrow (Arvind Brands), Kruger (S Kumars) and Allen Solly (Madura Fashion and Lifestyle) too have been turning up the heat in the Rs 7,200 crore men's casual ready-to-wear market (overall men's ready to wear is Rs 24,000).

Industry experts claim Parx is hardly an aspirational brand today. A major shortcoming for Parx, compared to rivals was that it did not offer a complete wardrobe experience, which means it focused on selling ‘casual shirts and trousers’, while others did occasion-wear selling, like club wear or evening wear.

So, the product portfolio went through a change a few months back to include styles and fits which are contemporary, like slim fit and muscle fit designs. “Besides club wear and sports, the brand wants to have a bigger play in jeans. “We will launch an extensive line of ‘Parx jeans’ early next year,” says Shreyas Joshi, president, Raymond Apparel. And Parx is hoping that a refreshed product mix will appeal to youth in the age group of 25-35 years. To create a distinctive identity, a few months ago, the brand unveiled a “new symbol” – the racing stag, which will feature on all garments. This is a strategy adopted by brands like Ralph Lauren (uses horse) and Abercrombie and Fitch (uses deer) in the US, where symbols alone drive brand appeal.

The upcoming stores in Mumbai, Pune and Chandigarh will be image drivers for the brand. “Designed like a home, the foyer and hallway will display ‘core offerings’ like shirts and trousers, the den will showcase club wear, and the lounge will house denims,” says Sanjay Agarwal, founder, Future Research Design Company. Product display and merchandising will receive greater attention. Raymond is spending Rs 2500-3000 per square feet on the new design. The existing 22 exclusive brand outlets (EBOs) will gradually be transformed to the new design.

To enhance the retail experience, the brand is placing ‘tweet mirrors’ in the fitting room, which will allow consumers to share images with friends and family while trying on an outfit. Experts say this will add up as a clever way for the Parx brand to build its database of customers.

The focus on exclusive brand outlets (EBOs) will allow Parx to reduce its dependence on sales through multi-brand Raymond stores. For the Rs 185 crore brand (third largest in the Raymond Apparel portfolio, after Park Avenue and ColorPlus), EBOs bring in only 10 percent of sales, while multi-brand outlets and Raymond stores bring in 30 percent and 60 percent respectively. With the new strategy, Joshi aims to change this. The brand wants to increase the footprint of its EBOs which currently dominates the NCR (national capital region), to the Western region.

Retail experience apart, the company is also counting on communication to give the brand image a makeover. “This is the first time we are launching a television commercial for Parx,” says an excited Joshi.

Yet industry observers point out creating a strong brand perception is not going to be easy. As the head of an apparel brand who does not wish to be named explains, “Building a brand identity is not just about a new retail design or communication. It requires a complete retail eco-system which includes a sharply differentiated product and a retail culture, rather than a textile mill mindset.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Architecture as Brand Communication

This is an impressive statement by world reknown Architect ZAHA HADID for Roca brand. Says Sanjay Agarwal of FRDC-"Iconic architecture statement will go long way in creating brand's image. It has slowly established its importance over conventional advertisement tools"

Posted by Design Stories on October 16, 2011

A new project by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photography by Luke Hayes

Zaha Hadid Architects, acclaimed winners of this year’s Stirling Prize, have designed the new Roca London Gallery located in the well-known Chelsea Harbour district near King’s Road. Roca is a leading global bathroom brand which, through its renowned Innovation Lab, is dedicated to developing cutting edge, technologically advanced products that continue to set the benchmark for the industry as well as to underline its position as market leader.

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) were chosen by Roca in 2009 to create a versatile reference space capturing the essence of the brand and its values. It is also the latest in the series of Roca Galleries globally, which include the Roca Barcelona Gallery, the Roca Madrid Gallery and the Roca Lisbon Gallery. In all cases the Galleries have been designed in conjunction with architectural studios of international repute and are universally characterised by their design, quality and innovation as well as the imaginative use of materials and the most advanced interactive technologies.

The Roca London Gallery expresses Roca’s commitment to innovative design, sustainability and wellbeing through an architecture that offers visitors a unique experience which is both visually and interactively engaging. Taking its inspirational cue from the idea of a space created by water in its various different states, ZHA’s bespoke design defines a flowing and porous space for the 1100m2 Roca London Gallery.

The dynamic language is characteristic of the practice’s many projects globally, yet specific to the functional needs of Roca as a brand, and evolved in a bespoke manner for its purpose. With utmost precision and functionality, it integrates the latest communications technology the Gallery is equipped with in an aesthetically responsive and seamless manner.

Zaha Hadid Architects have created a precisely ordered, intimate and enjoyable sensory design environment which stimulates the visitor through its active and engaged relationship with Roca’s exceptional bathroom products. The concept defining each of the Roca Galleries is to take the visitor far beyond simply researching and choosing products in order to create a uniquely enjoyable sensory experience, enabling visitors to enjoy all the qualities of the brand. Instead of a conventional showroom, the Gallery is an immersive reference space of ‘edutainment’ for the wider community capturing the essence of the brand.

The Roca London Gallery is a single space of 1100m2 including connected, semi-open zones for product displays and a meeting room space seamlessly incorporating a range of state-of-the-art interactive technologies and audio visual resources. Designed as a versatile multi-purpose environment, the Gallery will host a wide range of social and cultural events of interest to Roca, including exhibitions produced in-house and externally, meetings, presentations, debates and receptions. Zaha Hadid Architects has fully addressed this need for a place defining harmony between form and function in which visitors experience the very essence of Roca.

The design brings about a connective language between the architecture and the bathroom products, with the movement of water ‘carving out’ the interior and moving through the Gallery as individual drops. A flowing, all-white space made of faceted GRG (gypsum) panels serves as a central axis of the Gallery. Around this a number of smaller connected semi-enclosed spaces can be viewed through openings in walls. As a result, the visitor never feels enclosed in one space, but can always see beyond it into the space through overlapping and cutaway forms that enable a pleasing permeability to the Gallery.

The design theme of water movement extends to the dynamic façade of the Roca London Gallery, which appears initially to the visitor approaching the architecture like a set of ripples in movement across the exterior of the ground level space. The grey façade has large apertures for the main entrance and windows and an appearance of tactility, creating a sense of intrigue on the street as the visitor approaches.

Water defines the landscape of the interior space, creating a sense of mobile liquidity reinforced by a series of elongated, illuminated water drops. These cascade around the ceiling as a set of lighting fixtures, down the walls as shelves for books, media and small products, and onto the floor as tables and seating. Their fluid lines of convergence both lend each area of the space an individual identity and connect them by the way they define a feeling of movement.

All the panels, which are made of GRC, or fibre reinforced concrete and extend up to 2.20 metres in height, have been pre-fabricated in moulds and constructed on-site. The façade is made of 2 x 4 metre panels of 800kg each. The panels creating the interior walls are 6cm thick and made of two waffled concrete layers sandwiching a honeycomb mesh that can stress in different directions and is very robust as a composite material. The furniture is made from GRP, or reinforced plastic, including the cove-shaped reception desk. The lighting scheme created by Isometrix is also innovative in a complementary way, with special features including washing the walls in light and a mix of direct and dispersed mood lights.

Part of the brief was to include a series of bathroom product ensembles integrated in the space, and the Gallery’s walls give way in six locations to semi-enclosed, cave-like spaces of GRC panels for the product displays, as well as to the bar and reception area. The cocoon-like meeting space has a wall of GRG, a continuation of the Gallery’s central axis. A special feature of the Gallery is the floor of the product exhibition areas, which has a mosaic of porcelain tiles designed exclusively for the space by Zaha Hadid Architects. With each one cut and laid individually, the design creates an optical effect inspired by a water current.

The language of fluidity and natural movement is driven by ZHA’s commitment to parametric design tools and to the creative possibilities arising from the constant evolution of manufacturing processes and techniques. Both panels and the moulds used to create them were realised via 3D modelling, and produced in a sequence so that they would be fully compatible.

The architects’ geometry is akin to natural forms, with no one point in the space being projected vertically. They enjoy being challenged by this and the innate complexity of the process of bringing the design to respond fully, through modelling and testing, to very specific social functions.

New technologies and social media have become the primary communication tool today and for the visitor to the Roca London Gallery they play a key role. These new media resources enable visitors to be entertained as well as to learn about the values, history and special achievements of the brand, including its social responsibility and commitment to the environment and to water sustainability. Touch-screen interactive technology sited at the entrance is treated by Zaha Hadid Architects’ design as an integral and complementary element within the Gallery.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Media Façade

A new form of art in architecture

The term Media Facade is often associated with over-dimensional screens and animated, illuminated advertising, and places like Times Square, the Strip in Las Vegas and Hong Kong are trailblazers for this media architecture. The façade itself is dematerialized and turned into one huge advertising medium for sending messages. At the onset of dusk the building moves into the background and serves only as a backdrop for the light show which then becomes the main attraction. Media facades can evoke the most diverse emotions, from a big city feeling to annoyance at light pollution. They are also seen as tourist attractions, Pop Art or as eye sores.
Architecture tends to use media facades more and more as a stylistic feature. What used to be applied to facades after construction more in the way of a blemish is now part of the planning process and offers new scope for visionary design which coined the term 'Mediatecture'.
Here we are will introduce the most significant ideas, projects and products.
Illuminated advertising Tokyo

Mechanical Media Surface
Screens and lighting elements generally offer a change of the three dimensional perception of an immobile object. The first known interactive media surface was, however, made up of a mechanical display and was the result of the work of a team of architects, engineers, mathematicians and programmers. It is precisely this spatial change that creates different surface images which makes the 'Aegis Hyposurface' so revolutionary. The display has been constructed using reflecting metal plates that are moved pneumatically and react in 'real-time' to electronic input. Sensors transfer impulses from the surroundings of the display and these are transmitted to a matrix of rotors to which the metal plates are attached. The movements of the spectators are transferred in 'real-time' to the display and transferred in exact detail into expressive, naturally looking flowing movements.
Mechanical Media Surface. Photo: decoi

Detail Media Surface. Photo: decoi

At Jean Nouvel’s famous 'Institute du Monde Arabe' a mechanical media surface has been permanently integrated into the façade construction. The façade is made up of a lavishly constructed lattice window to which blinds have been attached which imitate those of a camera. Using their reaction to the intensity of the sun,
light shining into the building can be regulated.
The visible mechanics and the design of the blinds come together in an ornamental pattern that changes in interaction with sunlight.
Institute du Monde Arabe. Photo: Sébastian Couderc

In contrast to mechanical media facades, where surfaces are haptic and tangible, projections form an intangible content beyond the surface onto which pictures are projected. The challenge is the interaction of the surfaces, the technology and the content of the projections. Basically there are two major categories of projections: frontal projection and reverse projection. Frontal projection can be used on a variety of surfaces; ideal of course are projections on to surfaces that are as light coloured as possible while reverse projections are made onto translucent screens that can, for example, be made of glass and acrylic glass.

BMW Museum. Photo: atelier brückner

BMW Museum. Photo: atelier brückner

Computer animated light installations
Since media technologies are being developed at a tremendous speed, things that are technical wonders today are mainstream tomorrow. Even in the planning phase, products that we mean to use can become obsolete. The challenge of designing media surfaces lies not only in the technical effect but is aimed at the desired innovative and artistic applications of media elements as part of the architecture and the choice of content.

Realities united, the studio for art and architecture, is a forerunner in mediatecture and has gained its first international acclaim with a media facade for the Museum of Modern Art in Graz. Here media content and technology are artistically integrated.

Highly ambitious specifications for a semi-transparent skin were meant to transport processes from the interior of the building conflicted with the requirements for usability and the budget.

The specifications for an exhibition area asked for a double-shell construction with few apertures which made the transparency of the glass skin obsolete since it was only placed in front of the inner shell. The then still new LED technology was very expensive at the time so that the budget would have been used up after a few centimeters of quartz.

The installation that realities united installed, however, has given the outer shell more significance. Ordinary ring-shaped fluorescent tubes in the space between behind the façade resulted in 930 gigantic pixels. Once Tim and Jan Edler, the founders of realities united realized that the somewhat antiquated fluorescent tubes could be easily controlled, the skin of the building became a screen. The original goal was achieved and artists have been designing new light programmes ever since. The building now conveys art through abstract images. 

This is how Tim Edler describes the attraction of fluorescent tubes : Modern LED facades are quickly technically obsolete, but fluorescent tubes appeal to the nostalgic feeling.
Artists are commissioned to programme the facade using abstract content with low definition for the 'screen'.
Museum of Modern Arts, Graz, Austria. Photo: realities united

Realities united are certainly ground breakers for architecturally ambitious facades and we shall therefore present two more of their innovative projects:

The façade of the Iluma Shopping Center in Singapore demonstrates that an image or a text message require a systematic matrix while the pixel elements can have any geometric form. This insight allows for many design options. For the Iluma façade crystal shaped plastic tubes were developed that are arranged like a mosaic. Behind the structure there is a constant net of LED lights.
Iluma Building, Singapore. Photo: realities united

luma Building. Photo: realities united

A combination of several architectural trends make for the attractive aesthetics of the Iluma building. A return to ornament, the Retro glamour of Las Vegas in the 70s and a computer guided illumination with LED technology turn the Alumna building into a sparkling crystal.

The A.AMP (architectural advertising amplifier) building, also in Singapore, copes successfully with the problem mentioned earlier. A large modern high resolution screen is extremely effective in advertising but difficult to integrate in a facade. Realities united solved this problem by conceding the high-end LED screen to the client for showing advertising films in high resolution. The LED display was, however, linked to a system of reverse projections to the inside of the facade. As the offices empty out slowly in the evenings curtains come down in front of each desk to become one large screen

A.AMP Building, Singapore. Photo: realities united

A.AMP Building. Photo: realities united

Special software analyses the moving images of advertising spots on the LED screen and generate a colour reflection with reverse projection technique onto the curtains. This results in a smooth transfer from LED screen to façade 'screen'. Even though the resolution of the installation on the façade is low compared to that of the LED screen both are seen together as a complete installation, with the brain seeing the coloured areas as part of the advertising film.

LED facades and architectural materials
The trend for LED facades for purely architectural purposes, as part of a building shell, has produced a number of new products.

Mediamesh. Foto: ag4 media facade

Illumesh® & Mediamesh® offer efficient ways to upgrade facades optically. Basically both are made up of a metal mesh that is combined with LEDs. Wherever a lower resolution is sufficient for writing, signs or coloured areas, Illumesh® is the system of choice. For the medial design of images and videos Mediamesh® should be used.

Illumesh uses LEDs in a way that there is reflection from the mesh. The particular weave of Illumesh creates a shimmering effect on the surface. 
Mediamesh® uses LEDs that are closer together and that radiate outwards.
The semi transparency of both metal weaves gives the façade a shimmering dress during the day, at night this retreats to make room to the light show. The LED metal mesh comes in strips of any required length and up to 8 meters wide.
Illumesh. Photo: ag4 media facade

Illumesh detail. Foto: ag4 media facade

The company Creative Technologies markets several interesting LED projects 
- Stealth™ has been developed for indoor and outdoor use but is mainly suitable for temporary installations. With a low weight of only one kg per module (0,6 sqm) and a transparency of over 55 % Stealth™ has an impressive image quality, resolution, flexibility, form and luminance. Its resolution is 25 mm, the individual LEDs have therefore a distance of 2,5 cm. Depending on the size of the installation, moving pictures of high quality and high brightness can be achieved. The individual modules are panels that are easy to connect and have integrated electronics and video processing.

Stealth. Photo: CT Germany

LED Interactive Tiles are interactive LED elements that react to the location and movements of objects and persons using pressure sensor technology. The LED tiles measure 10 by 10 cm and have integrated software that allows accessing each individually. LED interactive tiles are only suitable for indoor use

LED Interactive Tiles. Photo: CT Germany

-Nova® lives up to the promise of its name seeing that the three dimensional imaging of contents has been until now a sensational novelty. In co-operation with ETH Zurich (Swiss federal Institute of Technology) special software has been developed that supplies the so-called voxels (volumetric pixels) with video and graphic image sequences.

Nova. Photo: CT Germany

Nova. Photo: CT Germany

SmartSlab is the name of the company and of a product that was introduced at the Architectural Biennale 2006 in Venice. SmartSlab uses two bionic principles – the honeycomb shape and the compound eye.
The stability of honeycomb is a protection for the electronics and makes the system robust; polycarbonate offers transparency and high mechanical stability – all this makes SmartSlab ideally suited for external use. The compound eye principle gives a better and clearer picture imaging than other systems.


LEDs are certainly going to be a standard with light planning and advertising. This is going to have an effect on our architecture and cityscape. The challenge for architects, however, today and tomorrow will quite simply be to bring art and commerce under one roof.

Susanne Fritz 

Is Indian Marketing Coming of Age?

ITC, India’s cigarettes-to-software conglomerate, recently launched Laboratoire Naturel, an initiative to boost its personal care business. Spread over an area of 10,000 square feet, Laboratoire Naturel is a consumer and product interaction center in Bangalore with state-of-the-art skin and hair evaluation clinics. ITC’s personal care research and development (R&D) division has a team of around 70 scientists. At any given time, around 10 to 12 of them will be working at this center. Approximately 50 consumers are expected to be present at this center every day to offer their insights.

According to V. Krishnan, chief scientist for personal care and head of Laboratoire Naturel, the center is a platform for scientists to directly interact with consumers. “We expect this to significantly add to our drive to offer innovation-led products.” Sandeep Kaul, chief executive for personal care products, adds: “We already have various touch points with customers to understand their preferences, but the idea behind this new initiative is to involve customers at a much earlier stage so that we can get it right the very first time and get to the market much quicker.” Kaul notes that the rate of change of consumer expectations is much faster now than ever before and it is therefore critical for companies to be in sync with these evolving expectations.

S. Ramesh Kumar, a professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore (IIMB), agrees. “Probing into the psyche of consumers for futuristic offerings is the next logical step to catch up with the dynamic environment.” According to Kumar, world over, brands across various categories are becoming increasingly youth centric. With 60% of India’s population under 35, this is an even more important segment for Indian companies. A process of involving consumers in co-creation, he says, helps to capture the perceptions of different segments of youth, “not only about the brand, but also about their rituals on grooming, their lifestyles and aspirations.”

Talking recently to the Indian business daily Business Standard, Vivek Gambhir, chief strategy officer at Godrej Industries, pointed out that consumer insight is now going beyond market research. “Conventional methods,” he noted, “are designed to avoid failures rather than feeding into innovation.” Godrej has a Hair Care Institute where consumers test to-be-launched products. It also has a laboratory where designers work closely with consumers while creating product and packaging design.

Harish Bijoor, a brand strategy specialist, sees such initiatives as the coming of age of Indian organizations. Pointing out that such initiatives are common globally across various sectors, Bijoor says co-creation of brands “is all about a movement and a mindset that respects consumers not only as people who consume, but as people who have a voice in what they wish to consume and how [they wish to consume it]. Marketing in India has typically been a top-down process. Today, actions such as these are signs of the marketer maturing to be a peer-to-peer entity…. I believe that we are catching up [with the global companies].”

But in this age of social media, are brick and mortar-based consumer interactions passé? Bijoor does not think so. “Brick and mortar initiatives are important to ensure that we do not lose out on the value of the real in an ocean of the virtual. The consumer is still most comfortable in real settings rather than virtual [ones].”

Meanwhile, Indian companies are catching up with their global counterparts in the virtual space, too. ITC, for instance, has recently launched online customer-connect initiatives for two of its personal care products. “We are trying to set up a two-way communication process. One, consumers tell us what they like about the product. Two, we are using them for creating ideas for the future by understanding their needs and aspirations,” says Kaul.