For Its First Out-of-Store Brand Activation, Coach Created a Visual, Spiritual Playground

Installation challenges how people perceive the brand—and their own lives

Visitors walk through four rooms in an interactive experience that allows them to draw, play games, write postcards and, well, question their future. Raquel Beauchamp for Adweek
Headshot of Diana Pearl

This Coach is not your mother’s Coach.

This week in New York, the legacy fashion brand took a leap into its future with the debut of Life Coach, its first-ever external brand activation (outside of its own stores or a runway show). In the temporary space on Grand Street in Soho, visitors walk through four rooms in an interactive experience that allows them to draw, play games, write postcards and, well, question their future.

To create Life Coach, Coach partnered with the projects*, a culture-specializing brand consultancy led by founding partner and global business director Jack Bedwani and partner Nick Ingate, pictured left.

“They came to us to say, ‘How do we do this? How do we actually have a meaningful impact on culture? How do we participate?'” said Bedwani. The duo worked closely with Coach CMO Carlos Becil on the execution. The resulting product is Life Coach, which hopes to push Coach out of its traditional, luxury leather goods lane and challenge consumers to think of the brand in a new way.

“You probably showed up to this with a preconception of Coach, but you’re going to leave with a whole different perspective,” he said. ” … There’s a freshness to Coach.”

And yes, the play on words is intentional. “We loved the idea of not being sure if this is a life coach experience, or a Coach experience,” Bedwani said.

Life Coach is open in New York from now until Sunday, June 17, but Ingate and Bedwani say this is only the beginning for the product. They’re already brainstorming how they can bring Life Coach to other metropolises, and how the experience would take form in those places.

“How this works in Japan is different than how it works in Paris,” Ingate said. “It’s up to us work with the marketing team at Coach to take the essence of what Life Coach is, and for that to live as different touch points in different markets.”

The Life Coach experience

While visiting Life Coach, people walk through four rooms, each as dynamic and Insta-friendly as the previous one. In the first, televisions stacked on top of one another show static and other generic images, with two pay phones nearby. Pick up the phone and a soothing voice will speak to you about starting your Life Coach journey. At the end of the room sits the “Life Coach,” who offers visitors a small pouch holding three coins.

Though the next doorway, visitors will enter “Logo Mania.” What started as a blank white room meant to look like a subway station (complete with a worker sitting behind glass inside a kiosk) will become more and more covered with drawings, signatures and other scribbles throughout Life Coach’s six days. Those in the kiosk hand out buckets containing stencils and markers, and nowhere is off-limits when it comes to drawing, from the floors to the walls. Bedwani said this room is about making consumers feel like they’re a part of the Coach discussion.

“We wanted to create an experience where Coach isn’t just telling you [what to feel] or making you feel something, but where you can participate in the conversation,” he said. ” … What’s on the minds of New Yorkers today? For Coach, as a New York brand, it felt like the right way to start.”

Next is the biggest space that’s “just about having fun,” according to Bedwani. Made to look like a Coney Island-inspired fairground, the second room is complete with a zig-zagging walking path made from wood that was once part of the Coney Island boardwalk. There’s skee ball, an animatronic fortune teller who spits out a fortune after he’s fed one of the coins you received in the first room, a spin-the-wheel game and a photobooth. There’s also a section of the room where you can write a postcard to yourself. Coach will be mailing these out in August, in time for the new moon.

“This is your Insta moment,” Bedwani said of the colorful space.

The fourth and final room is the “dark forest”: A dark room lit by a soft blue glow, with “branches” hanging down from the ceiling. Tents are also placed around the room, and in each one sits a tarot card reader. (The readers have a wealth of experience and celebrity clients under their belt.) At the end, every visitor leaves with a horoscope for the rest of the year, penned by celebrity astrologers the Astro Twins—who will also be appearing in person at Life Coach on Wednesday.

Throughout the space, signs of Coach are present, but subtle: Zoldar, the animatronic carnival fortune teller, is draped in a zip-up sweatshirt covered in Coach’s classic “C” print. That same print appears on the pouch holding your coins, or on the skylight in the third room. Massive, purple, glitter-covered profiles of Rexy, the dinosaur Coach has used as a logo in recent years, frame the doorway from the third room to the fourth.

Ingate said they’re expecting 8,000 visitors (effectively selling out the space) throughout Life Coach’s time in New York. But don’t expect to pick up a purse while you’re there—ticketholders will have to visit Coach’s nearby store to purchase any products, as Life Coach is about an experience, according to Ingate.

“This is the gift that Coach is giving,” Ingate said. “We’re not trying to sell you stuff. There’s no merch tent at the end. There isn’t an email capture.”

See more photos below.

 


@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.
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