Scouting for Insights
In a London museum on November 3, Ron Pompei was struck to see visitors sprawled on the floor of a massive art installation that replicated a hazy, sun-filled sky. Pompei made a note to share this image with his longtime clients, trendsetting retailers Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, who would love to see more people linger. It’s all part of this architect and artist’s bid to reinvent the mall.
From Ron’s original entry:
Tell us what you do and the specific challenge you faced.
We provide creative consulting to retail, museum and hospitality projects. We work with clients to understand the emerging culture and the growing shift in values. Many companies and their designers favor the influence of trends and personal preferences and often miss important opportunities to create real experiences for truly connecting with their audience and building communities around their brand. We embrace the underlying cultural and personal values that people hold dear and that affect many of their decisions. Culture and community should be recognized as integral to commerce, and vice-versa. This has been our challenge since our inception in 1990. Pompei A.D. brings a unique creative approach, steeped in empathy for people, their values, and their desire for transformational experiences. We understand people as multi-sensory beings who experience environments with all of their bodily senses, through equilibrium and kinesthesis, and with their spatial, rhythmic, linguistic, and interpersonal intelligence. Our approach has attracted clients with similar values, and we help them create transformational environments for today’s emerging culture.
What was your moment of truth?
I was an installation artist in the 1970’s, and spent a great deal of time traveling to ancient cities in the world. Through my work, I had a vision of creating unique, culturally based experiences and environments that would become site-specific destinations for social interaction and respond authentically to the communities and core values of young adults. I met Urban Outfitters’ founder, Dick Hayne, in the early 1980’s, and we shared a vision of how retail environments could reflect the core youth values of self-discovery and self-creation. Every store we have designed for them since has been an evolution of this insight – the stores are informal, open platforms, where the customers are co-authors of the experience. In 1990, Pompei A.D. collaborated with Anthropologie on a cultural, community-based brand concept and followed through on the design and execution of every retail location to date. The site-specific designs and sensual atmosphere that are the hallmark of Anthropologie have captured the imagination and the aspirations of women ages 25-45. Each store is an experience of discovery rich with distinctive merchandise, infused with the work of installation artists. The results have been extremely successful. Customers relate to the stores as social destinations, sometimes spending hours socializing, shopping, and just hanging out. And both brands have increased sales and produced exceptional results throughout the retail recession. Urban Outfitters is publicly traded and twelve month revenues through October 2003 increased by nearly 20%.
What were the results?
Pompei A.D. developed from a small start-up to a multidisciplinary team of over thirty people and a close team of outside collaborators, working with an exceptional international clientele. The firm’s approach, integrating commerce, culture and community, creates transformational environments that are highly successful in strengthening customer loyalty. In addition to Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, clients include The LAB, MTV, Volvo, Sony, UCLA, California Academy of Sciences, MAVI Jeans, Esprit, Discovery and Levi’s. Ron has published several articles, been interviewed by US and international journals, and is highly sought after as a conference speaker.
What’s your parting tip?
Create for the customer. Empathize, understand and celebrate their personal values.