As a marketing agency with an extensive background in conceptual branding and interior design, we believe there is an important distinction between the two disciplines in our approach to designing a brand experience. Our clients don’t come to us with a ‘design’ problem; they come to us with a business problem that can be solved through design. The solution required an understanding of how the visual identity of a company can be applied to every touchpoint experience including the physical space the company creates for itself.
Starbucks Design Concept
Starbucks is an amazing example on how a brand seamlessly executes design and why it is important for a business to care about branding all the way through their interior space. No matter where your opinion stands with Starbucks, the brand is undeniably a design powerhouse. Their concept stores perfectly encapsulate its internationally recognizable brand as their design plays a key-role in localizing the customer experience through the consistent implementation of the global brand DNA. Store elements are localized to reflect the neighbourhood in which franchises are placed in but continues to stay true to the Starbucks experience. This creates a sense of belonging. It isn’t just a coffee story; it is also a local cultural story. Their intention is to resonate with the locals as well as tourists.
Starbucks employs their design concepts through the use of smart design to evoke feelings from all visitors and consumers. They want customers to feel comfortable and warm – creating a space where they can take their time to sip on a coffee or crank out some work. The brand also uses luxury furnishing, comfortable seating and dim lighting to convey a welcoming setting that makes visitors feel like part of an exclusive community. Anyone who has seen the Starbucks brand would be able to recognize that they are in a Starbucks store. Why? Because Starbucks understands that their interior space should be an extension of their customer service, experience and brand identity. Being able to cultivate your unique brand experience helps you and your audience to understand who you are, and it is what makes your business stand out. Below is a step by step outline of how we recommend effectively bringing your brand into your physical space.
1. Collaborate & Schedule
When working on a new branding project, it’s best to involve all stakeholders: brand, architects, marketing agencies and interior designers. Having all participants in the same room at once means fewer rounds of discussions on concepts and direction and key partners can look at the space together and agree on shared goals. Collaborating early on leads to better ideas and more efficient project management overall. Rather than working separately on each discipline, attempt to think of the project holistically. This will lead to a more aligned design and better customer experience. When we consider each discipline, we can better determine what should work best for the individual customer journey which ultimately leads to the success of the brand. It’s important to do some research beforehand and present your brand agency with the necessary information. This will greatly speed up the process in the designing phase. Make sure you have a long-term project plan with dates, milestones and accompanying responsibilities assigned to each member of your team. This will help avoid many issues that may arise later. Remember that the ‘store’ is an integral part of your online business and needs to be consistent. Therefore, work hand-in-hand with your brand agency to ensure this is coherent across all platforms and channels including marketing, packaging and even signage.
You may have a plan, but do you have a budget to match? While you may have a great comprehensive plan, without a budget, it may as well be a piece of paper collecting dust. Planning is key to making sure that you are able to complete your project. It's the most important aspect that should be taken into account early on and reviewed consistently over the development of your project. Your budget needs to be realistic, based on what your plan can afford and also include how you are going to generate revenue. Maintaining a realistic and detailed budget throughout your business helps you makes better decisions by knowing where you stand in terms of your current cash flow.
3. Brand Pillars
Think about a brand pillar as being the "DNA" of a brand: it's the fundamental framework that makes up the core of its identify. These are the key characteristics of a brand that set it apart from the competition. In retail, these are often expressed via store design, visual brand identity, product packaging and messaging. Here are some questions to think about when defining your brand pillars:
What does my brand represent?
Why do customers like my brand?
What is my position in the market?
What does my product or service mean to customers?
This should be communicated and revisited consistently throughout all customer touchpoints. Brand pillars create consistency in your company's visual communications, resulting in a cohesive customer experience that attracts new customers and encourages existing customers to return. It's critical in an engaging way. To ensure that customers are constantly connected to your brand, you should regularly reimagine interior design that conveys your brand's personality.
4. Interior Mood Board
The most important thing about interior design is the feeling or mood. It's important to be able to capture that in pictures and words so that your vision of your space is understood by everyone on the project. Every stakeholder needs a visual direction. A mood board is, in essence the visual representation of your design concepts and a proven strategy for sharing ideas. This outlines a collage of images that demonstrate the look, feel and tone associated with your brand. Combining the various textures, colours and patterns that will be used they help communicate design concepts better than any description ever could. The key to curating a successful mood board is picking the right images. Certain image types such as textures, objects or patterns (as opposed to photographs) are best used as repeated elements over different compositions in order to achieve an ideal balance.
5. Map Out a Floor Plan
When you're designing your store, you need to know how the design of your space will affect traffic flow. To make sure your design is right for your business, you have to take a look at your floor plan. It's an important to think about the space and how you are going to use it in order to create and maximise your brand image. A floor plan is a diagram of a room from an aerial perspective to help you plan for furniture placement and how many people will comfortably flow through your space. With a good plan you'll know the right size of assets to purchase and where to place it for maximum usage and comfort. Interior design is all about planning and when you are doing a planned renovation now is the time to create a floor plan so that you can keep your costs down and your design is going to be exactly what you want it to be when you open.
And now it's time to take some risks! But first, establish your budget. There are two parts to this process. First, have a clear idea of what aesthetic you want to convey and how it aligns with your brand, your business or store. What kind of brand positioning is your store trying to project? Is it the kitsch factor? Or is is the relaxed contemporary vibe? You see, each of these design styles comes with different variables in furniture that need to be taken into consideration. Start with thinking about the signature pieces you'll need to convey your brand. Next, add some smaller items to add colour and personality to the space. Buy a few pieces that you love to give the space some depth while also remaining functional. Keep in mind, when decorating, it is good to have a balance between items that are permanent and temporary fixes. Carefully choose colours and patterns that actually bring our your best features and express your brand identity. What is it that makes you stand out? Consider complementing textures to inspire interaction between people and objects.
7. Execute and Refine
This is where you should sit down with your contractors and other involved stakeholders and discuss the execution. As your space starts to come together make sure that it's aligned with your brand pillars and that every decision is deliberate. Once all of your 'need' interior pieces have arrived start arranging them in your space according to your floor plan. Test everything our and check back with your interior mood board. Now you can start to really get an idea of how your space is going to feel once it's filled with furnishings, props and everything else. As you start to move things around, think about the flow of the space and how people will move and interact through it. Make sure every piece you selected is incorporated into your final display and that everything is working together to tell the story of your brand.
Once you've finished, take a step back and make sure your space is cohesive, clean and tells the story of your brand. You should be able to look at it and instantly know what your business offers, what products or services are provided and who your target market is without having to read any messaging or your copy in the space. We also recommend that you revisit all of your other brand touch points - website, packaging, social media and advertising, etc. Any of these can be altered to support and enhance your new brand personality. A cohesive brand experience across makes you more memorable and credible.
Back to our example - there are many businesses that sell coffee yet only few can compare to Starbucks. From the beginning, the experiential aspect of the brand has been consistently and effectively implemented in all Starbucks stores across the globe. Applying a well-planned visual identity to your space in order to translate your brand clearly to your target audience is one way you can make an impression on them as soon as they walk through those doors (or hit "enter" online). If you're looking for help with this or any other element of branding, we've got experts on standby at MarketPartner. Whether it’s an office, museum or storefront, understanding how people interact with spaces and then incorporating that into your interior design is crucial for translating your brand clearly to customers. Contact us today so we can start talking about what kind of investment will be needed to make this happen for you.