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Brands Strut Their Stuff in New York's Times Square

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 26, 2011 12:00 PM

What do fashion, a Chinese news agency and pizza have in common?

Times Square – hotter, and more popular than ever! And not just because it's summer.

This past Saturday, Express, the fashion retailer for style-conscious Millennials, set out to break the Guinness world record for the largest number of people modeling on a catwalk.  And despite temperatures hovering in the 100’s – they did, showing that wannabe models cannot resist a catwalk, no matter how crowded or sweaty.

A total of 1,243 people walked the Express runway, including the Naked Cowboy, police officers, tourists, and just regular locals, shattering the previous record of 521 set last year by Galeries Lafayette in Paris.  

Participants walked away with a free photo (to upload to "their favorite social media site,") and an Express T-shirt emblazoned with: “I Was a Model for a Minute." Five walkers garnered $250 Express gift cards and others received mystery cards of $10/$30/$75 retail value redeemable at any of their stores nationwide. 

It was all a promotion for the official runway show taking place that evening, with models showcasing Express’ Holiday 2011 collection. The move follows another recent Times Square launch by an American apparel retailer: 77kids, the American Eagle-owned fashion brand for kids, which has opened its first NYC store there.

In another corner of the square considered the marketing crossroads of the world, Xinhua, the Chinese government news agency, has leased space for a 60 x 40 foot LED sign set to debut next Monday.

The Xinhua sign, meaning New China News Agency, will be located at 2 Times Square, just under the sign for Prudential, and just above the Coca-Cola sign, and two from South Korea, for Hyundai and Samsung.

“A lot of Chinese companies are coming, or getting ready to come, into this country with their own brands,” commented Jeffrey Katz, CEO and principal owner of Sherwood Equities, holder of properties that include 2 Times Square and 1 Times Square, to the New York Times.

Xinhua, which wants to promote its brand in tandem with China’s rising economic clout, signed a lease “in excess of six years,” in a deal hope to be “a harbinger of other Chinese brands coming to Times Square.”

“They’re leasing it. They’re not buying it. That’s good for the home team,” said Katz, in response to possible American uneasiness of their occupancy. 

And elsewhere in Times Square, America's largest pizza chain has taken over a 125-foot-wide electronic billboard with a cutting-edge twist.

Domino's is broadcasting customer comments from its "Oh Yes We Did" brand transformation campaign, tied to its online Domino's Tracker — which keeps customers apprised of their online order status with their feedback, be it "good, bad or neutral" — to the masses that pass through Times Square daily.

"Our customers deserve, and have come to expect, honesty from us ... and it really doesn't get more open and honest than this. Our hope is that most of the feedback is positive, but our top priority is that people are seeing what is real,” said Domino's Pizza president/CEO Patrick Doyle.

The billboard will be active through Aug. 23, and users of the Tracker feature on Dominos.com may see their photos and reviews posted on the 4,630-square-foot Times Square billboard, also part of a TV campaign with two New York-area Domino's store managers tracking the feedback on in-store screens.

Domino’s is reframing its brand in a transparent project in this most public of settings after consumers indicated their disaffection with the brand (in 2009) for poor quality, delivery service and faked product photos.

And the latest craze to take over Times Square? An augmented reality app that lets visitors take over the area's electronic billboards and signage with street art. Personal branding vs. corporate branding? Now that's a sign of the Times (Square). Check it out below.

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