Activations In Travel Retail – What Next?

Activations play a big role in Travel Retail. They act as points of interest in the store to drive footfall and attention. There are some activations that clearly work very well. You see shoppers take notice and interact. Other activations are dull and boring and do not do well at all.

So what really happens with them? Well, you often find the following:

  • It can be dull and ineffective – Wrong brand, wrong execution
  • It can be dull but effective – Right brand, wrong execution
  • It can be interesting but ineffective – Right execution, wrong brand
  • It can be interesting and effective – Right brand, right execution.

Very little is done to evaluate the true effectiveness of activations, to identify the right target audience and the right brand combination to maximise returns on investment.

Over the years I have seen more than my fair share of uninspiring activations. In today’s market, where phones hold so much influence, there needs to be something more engaging to really grab the shopper’s attention.

So Where Should We Be Looking?

There is a lot of talk about the educating the shopper and it was a visit to Washington DC that led to a lightbulb moment for me. A friend recommended The Spy Museum. My son loves that kind of thing.

It…. Was…. brilliant.

It was probably one of the best museum’s I have ever been to. Interestingly, some of the executions were highly effective yet appeared to be low cost.

If we are serious about educating the shopper, it makes absolute sense to look to the very latest thinking in museums and galleries.
Here are my Top 5 and why:

The Spy Museum, Washington DC

Brilliant levels of interactivity, inspires curiosity and uses simple technology to create a wow moments (i.e. the room that makes you feel like you are stepping into cyberspace).


The Cabinet War Rooms, London

The war rooms Winston Churchill used under Whitehall to command the war effort. Great use of parabolic sound (highly focused areas of sound) to bring the displays to life. Also great for interactivity.

Alcatraz, San Francisco

A brilliant audio tour that shares the stories of inmates. It makes you feel like you were back there when it was still open.


The Met, New York

A truly wonderful art gallery that restores your faith in humanity and its capacity to create beautiful works of art. The standards of execution are very very high indeed. It is spotlessly clean, the retail offer is superb and the staff are super friendly and helpful.


The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux UK

This might be a little left field here because it is tiny amongst these giants but it was a superb place to go. Highly educational and interactive. Everywhere you looked there was something that you could interact with. We went with low expectations but we were wowed.


Bonus Location : Battle Abbey, East Sussex

This was the site of the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066. It has a museum and a school as part of the abbey now. The walk around the grounds with the audio tour explaining the events that took place is simply brilliant. You are taken on a journey.

What binds all of this together?

Immersive experiences that use interactivity, audio & thoughtful creativity to convey a memorable story. If I could use just 2 things from all of this, it would be parabolic sound and the cyber room from the Spy Museum.

So Where Next For Inspiration?

My view is to look to the latest thinking from Museums and Galleries to create truly memorable experiences for shoppers to engage with. Bulk stacking product or creating something eye-catching is not enough.
Have a great week.


Founder & Managing Director
One Red Kite Limited

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