Since opening in 2014 to international acclaim, boasting a raft of Australian ‘flagship’ stores, an award-winning architectural fitout and a launch party Hollywood would be envious of (directed by Baz Luhrmann), Emporium Melbourne quickly became synonymous with the city.
Yet, after five years of strong performance, it began to see a sudden drop in engagement. Coupled with the impacts on retail of Covid-19 (Melbourne was the world’s most locked-down city), it was time for Emporium to reassess its purpose in a city bound for change.
SomeOne were brought on by Vicinity Centres, after a global competitive pitch, to help redefine and re-energise Emporium’s brand and connection to the city it calls home.
Situated in the literal heart of retail in Australia, Emporium occupies the original Myer building — Australia’s very first department store — and offers a uniquely blended experience of retail, dining and entertainment that can’t be found elsewhere in Australia. Including an entire floor dedicated to Australian Designers, many of which first found their feet in Melbourne and now have their flagship locations inside the centre.
If you’ve ever been to Melbourne, you’ll be familiar with the pride Melburnians have for the place they call home. It’s the cultural capital of Australia. The crowd people want to be part of, the clique they want to hang with, the party that unites the best in style, culture & community.
So, how do we reconnect a wavering brand to the people and place that first gave it purpose?
Teaming up with research agency, Crowd DNA, we surveyed and conducted ‘in the field’ video diary sessions with a mix of Melbourne based and travelling shoppers, as well as in-depth interviews with a cross section of culturally influential Melburnians including fashion heads, writers, musicians and on-the-pulse community leaders. What we found rang true across the board:
Melbourne is a city made by its people. It’s a creative hub for community and connection, and everything they choose to engage with needs to embrace these things. Especially post Covid, where community is more important than ever.
The research gave us a clear path forward and it was one of bravery and bold choices. If Melbourne is so intrinsically connected to its culture, and Emporium is deeply rooted in Melbourne, then we needed to bring the two together.
‘The House of Melbourne’ is part strategic position, part promise and part signal of presence in place. Used to guide internally, it also has a consumer-facing voice and acts as a stake in the ground for future development of the centre. It’s a benchmark for brands, partners, events and experiences they choose to collaborate with to live up to. And it’s unapologetically ‘for Melbourne’.
The broad nature of the position leaves room to grow while also giving Emporium a clear voice in the experiential retail market — one nobody else can own.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But… you can make it work harder. The E motif no longer gets tucked in the corner, too small to see, but proudly leads the communications. A bold cornerstone for the visual identity, much like the Emporium building is to Melbourne.
No two executions are the same, just as no two individuals are. It’s a deliberate embrace of diversity. Every design decision in the new brand is about balanced contrast, from the high-flash photography, to the scale of the E and the collision of personalities the campaign is built around.
Julien Bertouille, Senior Designer, SomeOne
To punctuate the strategic line, we explored different ways to visually represent ‘The House of Melbourne’ before deciding simplicity was the right choice. Leaning into the significance of place, a newly introduced graphic icon depicts the heritage facade of the building, punctuated by the E motif.
Expressing ownability and authenticity across the brand, the use of the icon defines ‘House of Melbourne’ moments — this might be a flagship store launch, a unique community collaboration, or something that only Emporium can lay claim to. It’s a mark of quality and curation.
A community focussed brand needs to show up as community forward. It needs to be vibrant, visceral and not confined to a single colour or style. It’s embracing the difference and nuance in each person’s story. So, working with the talented folk at Crowd DNA\Socialise, we captured the intertwined stories of three Melbourne born/based trailblazers through a series of high energy ‘day in the life’ films and accompanying library of effervescent photography.
It’s this (initial) triptych of narratives that colour the brand, surrounded by white space to amplify the voice of each protagonist:
Karinda Mutabazi — The Queen of Style
James Parr — The multi–hyphenate community champion
Briony Wright — The Curator of Culture
The very conscious use of white space elevates Emporium’s premium experience, while the imagery captures the raw beauty of Melbourne’s community.
As brand builders we’re often compelled to add details. Yet here the storytelling captured in the research stage was so beautifully poetic, we knew we needed to build a brand that championed the narrative rather than the other way around.
↓ Film: A story of style, culture & community • Sound on ↓
The films come together to create an interweaving, chopping and changing hero film unlike anything Emporium have done before. With no direct ties to specific brands, and using the image and voices of real, influential Melburnians (supermodels are so last season) they now have a genuine perspective that is beyond their own internal view. One that celebrates the place they call home. Melbourne.
It’s not often you get to build a brand with so much genuine community input. The Emporium team really embraced this opportunity, and the resulting voice of the brand is one spoken by and for the people of Melbourne.
Thanks, of course, to our community of super creators who brought this brand to life:
Emporium (Client community)
Sher Yen Tan
Crowd DNA (Research & production community)
Creative Director – Tom Dabner
Client Services Director – Rebecca Bosustow
Lead Designer – Michelle Jin
Senior Designer — Julien Bertouille