Topshop’s Cooke reminds us why music is fundamental to bringing emotion into digital


Justin Cooke, CMO at Topshop, took to the stage at Decoded Fashion in London Thursday with one simple message: “You CAN do emotion in digital.”

While he pulled on quotes, videos and nuggets of inspiration from the likes of Steve Jobs through to Mark Zuckerberg, not to mention Walt Disney and Sir Ken Robinson, what resonated the most was the powerful role music plays.

As Leo Tolstoy once said: “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” Cooke added: “Music is killer for me; you can take people down with it.”

He used the example of an Instagram shot he took of autumn leaves made all the more sentimental with the hashtag #paolonutini added to it. Or this beautiful animated Twinings ad that acts as a metaphor for taking a break from our hectic lives, while The Calling’s Wherever You Will Go by Charlene Soraia plays in the background.

But there was one example he gave that stood out more than any other, and that was the rain orchestra. If you haven’t seen it, do click above now – it’s almost worth knowing less about it when you do so for the first time.

… Spine-tingling isn’t it?!

What’s even better is that it’s also a phenomenal example of content that works beautifully for a brand, in this case Burberry, Cooke’s former employer.

Can a fashion house “own” weather? In this case, quite phenomenally so. From personalised animated GIFs of drops pouring down the window, to a partnership with The Weather Channel during the Olympics, rain has become as much a part of the British heritage brand’s campaigns as the outerwear it is promoting.

The autumn/winter 2012/13 Burberry show used this orchestra to fake a thunderstorm above its London Fashion Week tent, and the same now plays in its new Regent Street store in London. At the top of every hour, the lights dim and each of the screens circling the floor transform into a “digital rain shower” – quite a show-stopping moment for the unsuspecting shopper.

“We’ve tried to choreograph it so that you have content specific to certain areas, but then all of a sudden the whole store turns into one rain cloud and makes you stop and smile,” chief creative officer Christopher Bailey told The Business of Fashion at launch. “It’s not just about shopping. The important thing for me is that when you go in, you feel entertained.”

As Cooke explained: “People say you can’t feel that stuff… but when you’re at a show or in-store and that surrounds you, my god you can feel it.”

He pushed for brands to harness emotion to help their consumers feel more connected with technology and with things online. Super simple, but a great reminder that sometimes it doesn’t need anything more magical than that.

BONUS: Cooke also referenced a piece from The Wall Street Journal, The anatomy of a tear-jerker – a great look at how scientifically our emotions really get going through music.

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.

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