Journey: This image from the Dulux Colour Forecast inspired me to change my whole business

Photo: @lisacohenphoto Styling: @heathernetteking and @breeleech for the @duluxaus Colour Forecast2017. Chair by @fanulifurniture, weaving by @warpedthreads, teapot by @sophiejanemoran from @craftvictoria.
Photo: Lisa Cohen. Styling: Heather Nette King and Bree Leech for the Dulux Colour Forecast 2017. Chair by Fanuli Furniture, weaving by Warped Threads, teapot by Sophie Moran from Craft Victoria

No, it doesn’t include that cute shaggy dog.

Before I explain how, let me give you a bit of history.

Why I created The Third Row (short version)

In 2010 I returned to Brisbane after 5 years in London to find that many of the local independent retailers that contributed to the unique identity of our city had closed. They clearly didn’t have the knowledge or tools to take advantage of the global boom in online retail. With 10 years’ experience producing websites under my belt, I thought I had a good shot at creating a platform that enabled smaller independent retailers to thrive online.

So, I found a tech co-founder and together, we built a shopping website based on these theories:

  • if you put products from many independent retailers and designers together into a single search, they’ll be more likely to reach the ‘convenience customer’ who wants to compare many products at once rather than visiting many separate sites – we were right about that
  • by showing  related publicity – styled imagery and editorial – alongside products in the context of powerful product search, people will be more likely to buy – we were right about that
  • independent stores will benefit from being within a platform which excludes mainstream brands and chains – we were wrong about that

‘We’re in good company here’

Since launching The Third Row in 2013, we’ve recorded over 5000 instances where products on the site have been mentioned by a blog, magazine or Instagrammer. In other words, we’ve stared at an absolute TRUCKLOAD of styled imagery and editorial created by publishers and influencers.

We noticed that ‘we’re in good company here’ was a phrase frequently used by independent retailers and designers when they were featured alongside mainstream brands and chains.

Contrary to our theory, the smaller brands felt that they benefited from being positioned beside big brands. They thought they benefited, but did they really?  Didn’t the big brands overshadow the smaller brands? Didn’t big brands and chains (at their very worst) stand for mass production, knock-offs of original design, sweatshops and slavish following of trends – the complete opposite of many smaller design brands? (I know, I know – harsh, and certainly not true of all mainstream brands.) It wasn’t until I saw the Dulux image that I could clearly articulate why they DID benefit.

The chemistry of brands and content creation

So it hit me: a kind of chemistry occurs when publishers, influencers, stylists, photographers, and writers create content.

The brands of the products, retailers, publisher and even the  content creator (yes, they have brands too), the trends that are referenced, the shapes, colours, textures and words used, all combine and create a reaction, like a chemical reaction.

In this image, the paint by Dulux, the chair by Fanuli, the ceramics by Sophie Moran, the styling by Bree Leech and Heather Nette King, the photography by Lisa Cohen, the shapes, colours, textures and brand identities, all interact to create an impact on the viewer that amounts to something greater than the sum of the parts.

Being positioned beside a mainstream brand, like Dulux, makes an independent brand/maker, like Sophie Moran, seem more established.

Being positioned beside an independent brand/talented maker like Sophie Moran, makes a mainstream brand like Dulux seem more special and  exclusive.

The most talented content creators (content chemists!) – like Bree Leech, who also styled the 2018 Dulux Colour Forecast (a feast for the eyes) – have a knack for understanding how brands interact and combining them so that a big ole serotonin explosion goes off in the minds of those of us consuming the content.

So, I was wrong. What now?

Thanks to Dulux, Bree Leech, Fanuli, Sophie Moran et al, I realised that positioning many independent retailers and designers together is NOT the most effective way to market these businesses.

The marketing magic happens when you use engaging content to position complementary brands – independent and mainstream – together. Publishers and influencers have a REAL talent for that.

In 2018, The Third Row will relaunch as a software tool creating beautiful product search engines for publishers and influencers. It will:

  • enable publishers to unite their brand community in the context of an experience designed for online shopping
  • enable brands to get more value from their PR by showing their mentioned products and related editorial in the context of beautiful product search on publisher websites
  • exploit publishers’ and influencers’ talent for creating engaging content
  • enable publishers to earn recurring income from their product recommendations
  • enable a publishers’ followers to easily find and shop from brands they’ve featured

We hope you’ll follow along as we enter the next exciting phase of our journey. If you’re an interiors or fashion publisher who’d like to know more about integrating beautiful product search into your website, I’d love to hear from you:

An image by Bree Leech for Porta Timber, featuring timber mouldings by Porta Timber, armchair by Arthur G, side table from Crate Expectations, light from Ben-Tovim Design, painting by Sandra Eterović, photography by Middle Of Nowhere, paint by Dulux .
Photo: Mike Baker. Styling (content chemistry): Bree Leech for Porta Timber. Featuring timber mouldings by Porta Timber, armchair by Arthur G, side table from Crate Expectations, light from Ben-Tovim Design, painting by Sandra Eterović, photographic art by Middle Of Nowhere, paint by Dulux.

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