Walk it from end to end scrutinising the shop windows, and there are obviously hundreds. But try it another way – scrutinising, instead, the shopping bags actually being carried by the street’s shoppers – and it seems there’s just one.
Which is, of course, Primark.
I’m not actually convinced that anyone buys anything at all from any shop on Oxford St other than Primark. You just don’t see bags from Selfridges, or John Lewis, or Debenhams, or M&S, or any of the big department stores, let alone any of the specialist clothing, jewellery, footwear or electronics retailers. You just see Primark bags.
Being so massively visible on what I believe is still the UK’s number one shopping street has to be worth millions and millions in advertising terms to Primark. To anyone coming to the street in need of a bit of guidance (like any one of several million tourists, for example), it says that Primark is the only place where you’ll find things you actually want to buy.
Inevitably, this leaves me searching for an analogy in the financial world. Have any firms made anything like the same kind of effort to encourage thousands, if not millions, of consumers to promote their brand on their behalf?
In London, I guess there’s one analogy which works reasonably well – the thousands of rentable “Boris bikes,” originally sponsored by Barclays and now by Santander. Similarly, this mobilises thousands of people, recruiting them to the cause of building brand awareness. But that is the only one I can think of.
OK, I admit that Primark has got it easy. When you’re selling goods to people, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that providing them with branded bags to take the goods away might be a good idea. And the reason why I can’t think of an obvious analogy in financial services is that there isn’t an obvious analogy in financial services.
Still, I think it would be well worth while to give the whole subject a bit more thought. Amid today’s blizzard of paid, owned and earned media, I reckon that if dominant enough, “carried” media – that is, media carried around the place by your customers – is one of the most valuable kinds.