Urban Barn – a hip, well-positioned home furnishing brand with soon-to-be 40 locations Canada-wide.

I had my first Urban Barn experience this past fall when I needed a dresser.  Great location, good selection, good service.  Dresser delivered… done.  Since then, Urban Barn has stayed in touch through occasional emails, but from a “brand experience” perspective, I thought we truly were done.  It was an efficient purchase and I’d certainly recommend them, but (as my favourite brand guru Seth Godin would say)… there was nothing “remarkable” about it.

Nothing remarkable, until now.  And if you haven’t heard about “Robbie”, HomeOnHowe and what’s going on with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver BC… you will.

Here’s the promote:  “Imagine Big Brother but with only 1 houseguest – Robbie.  For 17 days, during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Robbie will live (yes, live) at the Howe Street Urban Barn location.”

Translation:  He can’t leave the store for 17 days.

As of this post, they’re 24 hours away from launch… kicking-off with Robbie doing his own Urban Barn Scented Candle Torch Relay on Granville Street at 9am tomorrow, Feb 12th.  (Hysterical!)  On location, they’ve minimized the extra furnishing inventory, added plenty of flat-screens and invited anyone and everyone to drop-by and hang with Robbie during his 2+ week cave-man stunt.  There’s voyeur-videoing 24/7 so, if you happen to be bored watching luge finals, you’re welcome to check-in on Robbie (could be scary, but hoping Robbie has bathrobe-decorum.)

For anyone in the hood looking to participate, there’s a Special Events Schedule.  So, besides the obvious Olympic line-up, you can also sign-up for Wii Challenges, Comedy Night, Open Mic Night, and more.  (Thankfully, they’ve also installed a shower…because that was the caveat for whether or not I’d drop by and visit Robbie.)

Anyway… how much fun is that??


I have never even seen Big Brother, but from a brand experience perspective, Urban Barn has suddenly re-engaged me with this crazy dude.  And from a consumer perspective, they’ve taken an average brand experience and taken it to new heights by drawing me into a fun, compelling story.  An immutable law of marketing.

Urban Barn’s corporate party line to the media is that “they hope they’ll be top-of-mind in March” when the dust settles after the Olympics.  You know what?  Between the buzz Robbie’s creating and the drama in the coming days ahead, I don’t doubt it.

But don’t just take my word for it… check out the following video to really set the scene.  (Note:  The bleeping of the word “Olympics” is compliance with the International Olympic Committee’s strict rules around word usage… again, funny… engaging…and compliant!)

SIDEBAR:  The Olympic machine has been unleashed in my fair city and it’s beyond exciting.  I’ll let the networks cover the sports… stay tuned for in-the-trenches updates on how the “corporate sponsor” brand experiences unfold.