Shopping centre activation has hit a new level in the past five years. Driven by increased competition, improved retail mixes and a desire to occupy a singular position, Centres and brand experience agencies such as ENGAGE have sought to create integrated campaigns that contain a mixture of peak moments and always-on interactions. ‘Place-making’ – the term used to describe the process and outcome of being inspired by local stories and characteristics – is finding increasing value in the shopping-centre space, particularly as it pertains to design and visual elements. Our involvement in the Grand Central launch was a perfect example of this new approach, and one which we took very seriously based on the visibility of the outcome and its propensity to drive PR content.
Launching in spring and around the same time as the iconic, 60-year-old Towoomba Carnival of Flowers, the subject of our installation seemed an obvious one. The variety of textures, colours, shapes and hanging options available to florals also gave us – and the designer – plenty of scope to vary the execution at each of the three locations. However, as an experiential agency, well-versed in product launches and property development events, we know that impact and memorability are created when an artful twist takes the viewer in an unexpected direction. Hence our decision to install giant, colourful PAPER flowers from the roof of the new Centre. A paper application also mitigated operational concerns around upkeep, longevity and appearance.
Experienced paper artists are not easy to find however, especially ones working on this scale. Thus, a significant consideration in the planning stage for this project was finding the right collaborator, which happily resulted in the engagement of Benja Harney, a paper engineer extraordinaire. With over 12 years’ experience developing a body of work that pushes the possibilities of the paper medium, Benja and his studio, Paperform, are at the top of their game in this country.
Central to the design phase of the installations was identifying techniques for representing Grand Central’s four core values. An exhaustive process of modelling and experimentation allowed us to work closely with the designer to achieve an on-brand execution that truly spoke to all four values with sensitivity and devotion: ‘Genuine’ was captured by respecting weight and gravity and hanging the heaviest elements at the lowest point. ‘Charming’ was evident in the detail and warm, matte finishes. ‘Spirited’ was brought to life via bold colours matched subtly and through interlocking forms. ‘Pioneering’ – perhaps the hardest to manifest – was referred to in scale and by juxtaposing repetition with open form. Anything we produce, from visual displays to brand and sponsorship activations, always takes the soul of the brand as its most influential element. Nothing else creates the kind of ENGAGEment we are known for.
The final piece of the puzzle was the installation, which despite a few operational issues – such as the remoteness and size of the assemblage area – was seamless. Nothing is ever a certainty in large-scale activations that take shape in spaces being completed as you are bumping in! But this is the nature of shopping centre launches and one that we are very comfortable with.