Lessons for Digital Engagement I Learned from Saks Fifth Avenue

Dec 18

Not too long ago, I stopped in New York City to take in some of the holiday tourist attractions, including the window displays of major department stores. Although I saw several, the one that really stuck out to me was the Saks Fifth Avenue display because of its clever—and unexpected (at least for me)—integration of digital components that invited onlookers to engage with the display. In one window, computers displayed a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns driven by your movement. In another, there was a display featuring photos of regular, everyday people. The display had clear instructions for how to get featured in that space: go up to the 9th floor of the store and have your photo taken. Finally, the side of the building featured a huge holiday light show with a very cute Yeti.

These digital touch points struck me as being good examples of two major digital tenets that we focus on at Ogilvy—value exchange and word-of-mouth—that could also be applied to public health or behavior change efforts.

Value Exchange

The integration of photos of Saks’ shoppers as part of the display is a great example of a value exchange. Ultimately, Saks was offering people the opportunity to become a part of its famous window display, but only if they go into the store. People who might have just looked at the windows and moved on now have a reason to go in, giving Saks the opportunity to sell to them. Both Saks and the consumer win.

With a little creativity, this digital value exchange-based approach can be applied to public health and health behavior change efforts.  If we were to create programs that offer people a memorable, fun, and interactive experience by enacting a healthy behavior, everyone involved wins. Think about when The Fun Theory created a piano out of Stockholm’s subway stairs. People got to make music, but they also got extra exercise that day.

7 Drivers of Word-of-Mouth

The overall experience of the display also speaks to the 7 drivers of word-of-mouth. At Ogilvy, we believe that being able to answer “yes” to these questions helps ensure that digital campaigns are going to be talked about and shared. They are:

  • Do we have a good story?
  • Can people SHOW their involvement in a visible way?
  • Do we offer something new to talk about?
  • Do we let our supporters be creative?
  • Do we invite people to participate?
  • Do we offer them some value?
  • Do we remind people to spread the word?


I wouldn’t say that Saks excelled in all of these areas, but I would say they created a unique and participatory experience that people (like me) are likely to remember much longer than static window displays that didn’t. Keeping these 7 drivers in mind when we create health behavior change programs can help the programs better spread from person-to-person, gaining the credibility that comes from being recommended by a friend.

Below is a video better explaining the display. The shopper photos can be seen at 0:08-0:11s, the light show 0:11s, and the computer kaleidoscope around 0:30s. There are also great photos that people have uploaded to FourSquare (see what I mean about driving word-of-mouth?).

What other examples can you think of where a fun and interactive experience has helped people be healthier or safer?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 8:48 pm and is filed under Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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