The importance of environmental branding and its impact on brand experience

“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” — Paul Rand

The importance of Environmental Branding in marketing, hospitality and retail design sectors is not to be underestimated. Environmental branding includes interior design, graphic design, landscape and industrial design. Paying attention to every detail and crafting an authentic story has the potential to engage customers and when you have your customers truly engaged, this can lead to a more robust brand.

Branding is essential in the creation and success of an organisation. In a post-millennium, mainly digital environment where the diversity of companies and subsequent range of consumer choice can be overwhelming, having a well-suited, recognisable brand is essential to shout above the noise of competition in the market and to create a strong relationship between businesses and customers.

Once the visual aspects of a brand have been established, the brand strategy and its application must be considered in order to familiarise the brand to a wider audience. A weakly formulated brand identity is a problem, but a successfully realised identity that is then implemented in the wrong way is a far worse crime against branding.

 

If a company doesn’t understand its own brand, how can it expect anyone else to?

 

A brand strategy is a company-specific set of policies an organisation adheres to when communicating with the public or other businesses, it could be described as the brands ‘voice’ and is the identity that brings together all aspects of a business; to be successful, it is critical the brands message and character should be apparent and communicated effectively to customers at every point of contact.

Interior design can be creatively implemented to help express a company’s philosophy as a physical and material environment showing both the tangible visual brand and the, less easily quantified, ‘brand experience’.

A good example of this can be found at Google, who want to portray an image of innovation and modernity. These messages are expressed by means of quirky interior branding in all their offices worldwide – they aren’t all identical in design but all promote a laid-back, 21st century approach to the office environment.

From an immense three-dimensional logo in the reception area which forms the abstract front-desk, to the touches of colour used in their visual brand that render the office interiors, the occupants are regularly given subtle reminders of the brand which can subconsciously ‘locate’ them, reminding them of the brand throughout the journey within it.

Far from just plastering the logo on every wall, Environmental Branding represents the characteristics of a business and requires a mix of multiple design disciplines which can include anything from interior design, circulation, logistics, graphic design, branding, materiality, lighting etc. All of these elements are required to create a successfully branded environment, resulting in a more shared understanding of the brand’s intentions between the business and the customer.

The leading method for achieving an engaging space is through employing the device of ‘storytelling through design’. It is tempting to claim that storytelling is related to thematic concepts such as Hard Rock Café. However, storytelling is engaging; it allows individual interpretations and triggers imagination.

A good story requires authenticity. One of the best immersive visual storytellers is the darkly whimsical writer and director Wes Anderson. Renowned for his meticulous attention to detail, Anderson convincingly transports the audience to whatever fantastical world that particular film depicts.

A lot can be learned from Wes Anderson’s detail-focused approach, as these cinematic principals are just as beneficial when designing a branded interior experience. People inherently want stories, it is innate for us to look for the message in everything, to make sense of events. Therefore, creating a brand-promoting space is a great way to leave customers with positive mental associations with your company. 

The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain recently employed some film and theatre professionals to help them achieve the “total guest experience” by breaking down what the customer sees as they arrive and proceed through the space. Like brand application, this story doesn’t need to be consciously obvious to customers.

The narrative in a space is vital; the customer journey and experience should be established early on in the design process, as it is key to use as a building block for how visitors engage with storyline. Do the work for them, so that they don’t have to.

 

Written by Account Executive, Alfie Johnston.