An often-overlooked opportunity that delivers big benefits
The power of consistent branding is widely understood, and that’s why companies typically invest their marketing dollars in all the obvious and essential customer touch points: marketing collateral, advertising, product packaging, business cards, websites, etc. But there’s one essential element that many companies overlook: workspaces and facilities.
Because of their scale and immersive nature, every space that employees, customers, and clients experience is an opportunity to create a powerful impression—one that can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
In this article, we’ll show you why investing in spaces is worth it, and we’ll share our approach to environmental branding, one that we’ve fine-tuned through years of designing spaces and experiences for Fortune 500 companies. That includes everything from high-profile, sky’s-the-limit projects to ongoing, phased renovations to quick, small-budget overhauls.
The expertise we’ve honed working with large corporate clients can be scaled to businesses of all sizes. In fact, we’ve applied our expertise to our own office space. We’re proud to say our transformation of a long-vacant, 77-year-old property has received a lot of attention, including being named a finalist in the Memphis Business Journal 2019 Building Memphis Awards. But enough about us.
Why should I brand my workspace when it’s mostly seen by employees?
Lots of business leaders think this way. Not because they don’t care about employees, but simply because it can be hard to connect the dots between branding a space and actual employee—and company—benefits.
Of course, most spaces aren’t exclusively for employees. Whether it’s a corporate campus, production facility, call center, or satellite office, existing and potential customers and clients typically visit. Whether that’s infrequent or frequent, it makes a powerful impression—good or bad—every time. Beyond that, the impact it makes on employees, both current and potential, delivers benefits that impact your business in real ways.
When branded well, your space can help you:
Attract—and keep—top talent.
Every business leader knows that effective employee recruitment and retention is essential to overall success. And while branding isn’t about aesthetics alone, looks do matter.
A creative, modern workplace aesthetic consistently TRIPLES the appeal of an employer’s workplace facilities. In turn, appealing workplace facilities double the likelihood of a candidate choosing an employer, regardless of the combination of other variables.
—Hassell and Empirica research study: “Does Workplace Design Affect Employee Attraction?”
Beyond appearance, the benefits are extensive.
An innovatively designed office can impact employees’ productivity, ability to collaborate on projects and their sense of belonging in the space. Even more so, warm and welcoming offices can go a long way in attracting top talent, retaining great employees and reducing staff turnover.
—Office Space Blog: “How First-Class Facilities Make Lululemon One of the Best Places to Work”
Engage and inspire your team to enable peak performance.
Expressing your core attributes tangibly is a powerful way to engage the people you count on to propel your business forward. After all, your employees spend a lot of time and energy in their workspace. Making it positive and cheerful motivates and energizes, while a lackluster space is draining. And keep in mind, the investment you make also speaks volumes about how much you value your employees.
Workers who are highly satisfied with various aspects of their workplace also demonstrate higher levels of engagement. Changing the work environment can be an important part of an organization’s strategy to enable peak performance while enhancing employee engagement.
—2016 360 Steelcase Global Report: “Engagement and the Global Workplace”
Bring your brand to life for internal and external audiences.
Clients and customers can glean a lot about you by simply being in your workspace. Spaces can reinforce your company’s brand attributes and express your personality, whether that’s warm and inviting, or cool, hip, and progressive, or anything in between. Without care and attention, your space can also unintentionally communicate unfavorable things to both employees and visitors that paint an inaccurate picture of your company culture and values.
Branded office spaces help reinforce and align key messages, strengthen brands and move businesses forward. The space must ‘talk the talk’ and be consistent with the values and expectations of leadership.
—WorkDesign Magazine: “2018 Workplace Trend Predictions”
Our approach to environmental branding: The how-to
An environment that stimulates the senses helps create a space that wows visitors and motivates employees to bring the best they have to the workplace daily. This is achieved through the walls, floor, furniture, glass—the materials and surfaces are endless. Murals, photography, design, and words can all work together to make the environment more than gray walls. But where do you begin?
Here’s how we approach branding in a workspace, no matter what the size.
Start with a walkthrough.
Every space is unique. Planning is key to creating a successful space that will resonate with its intended audience, stay on brand, make the best use of your budget, and meet project goals. This all begins with a walkthrough to:
- Assess the entries, office spaces, conference rooms, breakrooms, gathering areas, common spaces, walkways, and even the restrooms.
- Observe how traffic flows and how people use/experience the space. These two steps are essential as we consider what will work in each area. For example: We wouldn’t place wordy graphics in a space where people are moving through quickly. We’d choose something designed for quick visual consumption.
- Take lots of pictures from different views and angles. These are valuable references as we explore ideas and show designs in context, whether internally, to gain buy-in from clients, or to get cost and time estimates from vendors who are creating and/or completing installations.
Visualize the totality of the experience.
We think in terms of the entire experience, not each area individually, and let the flow of the space inspire the elements. We don’t force a cookie-cutter approach everywhere, but instead strive for a consistent and cohesive approach across all spaces, considering, of course, what will make the greatest impact practically and creatively.
Consider branding elements. Your space is a canvas, and the possibilities are endless.
Branding elements can include simple or full-size wall graphics, 3-D elements, furniture, digital elements, and framed art. You can use features that symbolize or leverage the company’s branded assets and products, visuals that point to your company’s history and future, and bold words and phrases that embody the brand. We follow several rules of thumb:
- It’s not about logos and paint. We’re going for emotional expressions of the brand: intentional use of color, iconic brand elements, dynamic imagery, and tight crops.
- The space should stimulate, so posters with corporate speak are a no-no; the space should be reassuring, aspirational, and motivating.
- Size and scale can do a lot to evoke awe. Walls aren’t just something to hang a framed picture on; they’re giant canvases that can feature a massive wallpapered photo or a full-size painted mural.
- Walls aren’t the only canvas. The floor, the ceiling—every space has potential.
- Allocate some defined areas and organized ways for employee messages/postings/bulletins to be displayed, but don’t let them dominate.
As we consider elements, our touchstone is always to stay within the spirit of the brand. While one space may be cutting edge and another more traditional architecturally or aesthetically, branding is the binding–color, typography, iconic elements, and the core message. If the brand has a simple overall look and feel, we go with that as the starting point. Just because there’s an open wall doesn’t mean it has to be busy and filled with elements.
That said, sometimes a space is begging for something outside a specific brand look and feel. Maybe the area just needs to be different to achieve the desired effect or create that “wow” experience. These are the exceptions, not the rule, because when there are no brand guideposts to stay within, designing a workspace can become more time-consuming and expensive.
Ready to explore the possibilities in your space?
We can help. Whether you need a few fresh ideas, or a partner to manage the project start to finish, we’d love to help bring your brand to life in your space.