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Brands are people in disguise: Environment isn't floor finishes

Posted by Chad O'Connor  October 3, 2013 11:00 AM

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[The We are the Creative Industries series: The Creative Industries - video game companies, design, marketing and architecture firms, and talented people who write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music, just to name a few examples - are an important part of Massachusetts' economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 workers. Click here to learn more.]

Many brand strategists believe the age of marketing your company using a fancy space is over. After all, consider that 10% of Americans work from home at least once a week; department stores are losing out to online retail giants, even boutiques today are online and selling worldwide! Online companies like Trunk Club, Gilt, and Farfetch are proving to high-end retailers such as Barneys and Nordstrom that customers don’t just want designer products, but competitive pricing as well.

Does your brand really need to consider an environment as part of your identity?
Billion dollar entities like Microsoft wouldn’t have invested the majority of their rebranding capital in a retail space division, if they perceived fancy space to be a thing of the past. Environments offer the greatest brand interface for any consumer. A physical space for a brand is an opportunity for customers to attend an event. However, physical environments are generally the most complex, cost inhibiting efforts a brand can undertake. This is why when branding an environmental experience, companies must think big, but start small.

Generate impact.
Environmental experience doesn’t need to brand a consumer’s entire physical surroundings. An environmental exercise in branding doesn’t need to be a grand office space or a glorious retail space. Consider that the tangible experience is a potential opportunity to promote any type of business; by using products, packaging, and guerilla marketing strategies in promotional materials makes a short or temporary experience just as impactful as brick and mortar. Will this campaign be indoors, outdoors, within a shopping center or a city block? By considering the venue, your visible competitors, and the mindset of your potential customers at the time of the introduction, you can play to your strengths and create an environmental experience as memorable as your imagination (and city hall) allows. The magic happens with continuity in the campaign, as a brand you’re considering each touch point and every detail in the environmental experience.

Ensure you have the proper building blocks.
Some brands need to quickly leap to a physical space. So, my advice to a growing fresh brand is to keep it simple. When designing an environment that represents your brand, ensure the space combines the practical functionality needed for the purposes of your customers and employees, and also acknowledge that the practical is not memorable.

Just as a car isn’t distinguished by your ability to start it and drive it to your destination, your space’s usefulness is of limited marketability. Consider how interruptions in an occupant’s expectations of a space can be a huge risk versus reward game. If played well, you can derive a great impact. Leave people with something exciting to take with them (metaphorically speaking). Consider how an aesthetic element, generally something that interrupts the ordinary, can also act as a marketable brand quality. This detail within your environmental experience should relate to the visual and virtual aspects of your brand. This use of design continuity helps reinforce your brands value and allows consumers to more easily remember what is specifically unique to your brand.

In previous articles in this series we discussed how continuity in design is applied to your brand’s visual and virtual experience. We also touched on how brands are really people. Brands need the whole package to win over an audience.

When a brand’s visual, virtual, and environmental experience are cohesive, a brand identity becomes more than a great experience for customers, it becomes worthy of a customer’s loyalty.

Michael Luciano Abbate is Lead Designer and Head of Experiential Identity at REPENSO. Check out Michael's work and connect with him at

[We are thankful for Global Business Hub’s support of the Creative Industries. Please note: This article does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development or its Creative Economy Industry Director for the Commonwealth, nor is it an endorsement of any views, products, or opinions contained therein. The author is solely responsible for the content.]

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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