Best Practice

Leveraging Your Physical Space

To Connect With Customers and Team Members

Most people get a feeling of excitement when you walk into a store whose products they love.  Take the Apple Store as an example. The place is almost always buzzing with excited customers, eager personnel and gadgets galore.

In addition to the products and services being delivered, you can feel the company’s brand as you enter. The neatly (if not obsessively) arranged products convey Apple’s commitment to organization and simplicity as seen in its software products and device operating systems.  Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said, “It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple.”

The presence of natural wood against the backdrop of industrial textures like concrete is a subtle nod to the inspiration of nature and its focus on environmental sustainability. Even the brightness of the t-shirts worn by Apple Geniuses (its moniker for employees) reflects the company’s focus on creativity and empowering the artfulness of its users. Brash color against the stark backdrop of clear glass, light wood and white paneling almost tempts customers to create.

Each corner of the Apple Store has a purpose. When it comes to your company’s physical space, you should think the same way. If you do not, you are missing an opportunity to announce and reinforce your brand promise to customers and team members.

Thoughtful Creativity

On the other hand, when you walk into some offices, you might only see arbitrary decor that lacks a tie to what the company values at its core. Drab wallpaper, beige paint and generic framed landscape reproductions tell customers very little about who you are, how you are different and why someone should want to work with you. Yes, you might be able to pass this type of decor off as safe or conservative, but your customers might pass you off as lazy or uninspired.

If you have ever eaten at a Tijuana Flats restaurant, you certainly know there is not anything drab or dull to be found. The bright paint colors on the wall and hand-painted, graffiti-inspired wall murals and phrases espouse its inventive and “anything goes” approach to food — front and center in the Tijuana Flats manifesto. The framed celebrity-autographed headshots convey a sense of longevity and widespread acceptance. Photos of U.S. troops stationed across the world posing for pictures with Tijuana Flats gifts of hot sauce reflect the brand’s sense of purpose and the philanthropic legacy of its Just In Queso Foundation. The place oozes brand personality and purpose without anyone saying a word.

In Winter Park, The Alfond Inn (owned by Rollins College) may very well have taken a generic approach to its interior design. Rollins could have simply borrowed decor and finish selections from any industry trend or baseline sample, but it opted to go “all in” on the infusion of institutional values and beliefs. Its distinctive display of contemporary artwork is intentionally curated to reflect a civic-minded point of view that embraces the liberal arts and encourages critical thinking. The Inn’s selection of artifacts like vintage yearbooks and faculty-authored works conveys longevity, legacy and the intellectual contribution of the Rollins community. Even the in-room video loop plays a role by informing guests that a portion of all proceeds supports student scholarships — a reminder of the private college’s inextricable link with philanthropy.

Values, Beliefs & Personality

While your brand may not have a contemporary art collection, it undoubtedly has values, beliefs and personality. You can start by documenting the various attributes of your brand’s core purpose, values and personality. Then, look to incorporate those elements into the decor, lending intentionality to every drop of paint, image on the wall, down to the coffee and refreshments you serve. The Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation is known for offering books from its library on the topic of giving, meant to inspire philanthropy within its community while the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation showcases historic artifacts in a museum-like fashion.

The more you infuse those into your space, the better chance you have of explaining and reinforcing your brand to those who visit. And instead of dismissively passing you off, they will pass your name along to others as having a space or place that inspires, tells a story and resonates.

Matthew Certo is founder & CEO of Findsome & Winmore, a digital marketing agency, and author of Formulaic: How Thriving Brands Market From the Core.




Timothy Baker is founding principal of Baker Barrios Architects, a commercial architecture and design firm.

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