Sometimes I think the world we live in has become one big commercial. You can't watch TV, surf the Internet, read a magazine or take a drive without being inundated with brands and their advertising. That isn't necessarily a bad thing but it shows how ubiquitous branding is in the products, services and environments we interact with on a daily basis.
One of the latecomers to the world of branding is the physical environments we live, work and play in throughout our days. Now when people think about branding, the first thing that comes to mind is a company's logo. While a logo is part of a company's brand it is really more than that.
So what is a brand then? I like a definition I found in a Design Intelligence article by Christine Astorino entitled “The Promise of Space: Branding and Architecture in Theory and Practice”
'Though consumers commonly associate a brand with a logo, slogan, or product, the brand proper actually exceeds all these things. A true brand is an emotional experience, one that is specific to a product or a service or an environment. The experience extends beyond tangible objects to include thoughts, feelings, and sensory reactions to the designed object, space, or activity. These emotional components are the essence of brand and the first step in the process of designing communications, products, identities, and environments."
So a true brand is something much more intangible than a logo or catchy name. But unfortunately many businesses believe that their logo is their brand and go a little logo crazy. How many of us have entered a company’s facilities lately that have their logo EVERYWHERE? From logos on every exterior and interior piece of signage; to every piece of clothing and office supply; to soap in the bathrooms ... Logo overload. While a logo should always be part of a good brand and be visible in a company’s physical space, it is only one aspect to think about.
Companies need to remember it is also about the experience and feeling that their company portrays to its customers and their employees and their physical space plays a part in that. A business may be selling a service or a product and their brand should be apparent in everything they do. From external communications, to how they interact with their clients on social networks and in person, to how their products look and feel or their services inspire value or trust. These all are part of branding and how a company designs the environments they work, live and play in are also equally as important.
Working for an A/E design firm has given me a unique insight into how buildings can support and even enhance a company’s brand. Things like color, textures and materials all can and should reflect the brand. Even how an office layout is designed has an affect on not only the clients that visit but the employees that work there. A high tech startup company that wants to be portrayed as young and nimble shouldn’t be stuck in old and dreary cubical farmed spaces. We’ve all been in spaces that have disconnects with the brands they want to portray and no amount of logo placement can over come that. Designers have real challenges in making that balance and communicating that with their clients. Not a challenge I would look forward to myself. But I think as marketers we need to do our part as well and help on our end.
As SHAPE continues to help companies develop their brands and how they want to be seen in the world and by their customers, we need to try and remember to communicate to our clients the importance of their environments in their branding. Help them understand how logos are only one part of the branding discussion and how their environments can be impacted by them.