29th May 2015

Coincidence Or Really Smart Thinking?

By David Adcock and Sean Revell

Combining ideas improves your marketing environments

Our brand environments team has a diverse background. Take David and Sean, who came to us from the competitive markets of high street retail and visitor attractions. They give us a range of specific skills including: strategic thinking, contemporary styling, spatial organisation and a hands-on understanding of technology. They fuse this knowledge to create impressive spaces that help businesses reach their customers. But how does their creativity influence the way we approach a project like a marketing suite? Well, we gave that a little thought and broke it down into a digestible (though not exhaustive!) five key points.

Here they are…

1. Understanding Brand

The world’s most successful retailers understand that creating a store is more than the fulfilment of a shoppers tactical needs or the placement of a logo. It’s about connecting at a deeper emotional level - the embodiment of the brand itself. Walk into Louis Vuitton anywhere in the world and you’ll immediately know where you are and the dream you are buying into. Retail spaces like this must show the essence of the brand through every physical touch point, be it walls, floors, furniture, lighting or décor. This seamless approach is natural as other touch-points such as in–store technology, Omni-channel retailing and lifestyle tracking, have fused the physical and virtual worlds to become a single place in the customers mind.

We know that what’s good for retailers is good for the design and development of marketing suites. They both share a sophisticated customer with expectations of the brand promise. If a developer has spent many months and serious money crafting a carefully positioned brand design for their product then, just like a major retailer would, it is essential that its values, personality and key messages are effectively communicated through all aspects of the project: digital, print or the physical space. Your customers must experience a true expression of your brand in any three dimensional space.

2. Creating a landmark

When the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation selected Frank Gehry as architect for a new museum in Bilbao, his brief included an instruction to design something innovative and daring. When the Museum opened in 1997, it was immediately hailed as one of the World’s most spectacular buildings. The result was a quantifiably positive effect over the entire city. The Bilbao museum cost $89m and over a decade to plan and build. We’d be surprised if any of our clients lavished such grand sums on buildings to house their marketing facilities but the idea of the building as an attractor is a powerful one and has been influential to us when designing any free-standing structure.

For a more relevant reference point we can again turn to the Guggenheim Foundation for inspiration. We loved their recent collaboration with BMW, which saw the creation of a touring laboratory aimed at developing new ideas for urban living. The lab was housed in a pop-up structure - a steel frame wrapped in a mesh skin with a central media space and a flexible configuration that allowed it to adapt to a variety of locations – not unlike the various re-vamped container projects we’ve worked on.

We believe that a distinctive structure will quickly become a powerful attractor and recommend creative architectural design whenever a project allows. As the example above demonstrates, a highly original building certainly gets people talking.

3. Joined up thinking

Marketing facilities must offer their customers a smooth, coherent journey from first point of contact to final transaction. The physical space must be welcoming, present information in an understandable way and deliver a seamless experience through all aspects of its operation.

Again, this is an area that can benefit from our understanding of design for both retail and visitor attractions where products or curated collections are presented in a carefully choreographed sequence either in thematic or chronological order.

In a marketing suite we can adapt this approach to tell a specific story by arranging the space something like this: a greeting and orientation zone linking to adjacent spaces that offer information or activities relevant to the customers need. These should include zones for contextual reference, product interpretation and personal transaction – all aligned to the information they may have encountered on-line and elsewhere. These spaces may each be directly accessible or form part of a preferred route. Either way, the user should be able to find all the information they need by either self-directed means or with the assistance of knowledgeable staff. Upon completion, the user should walk away with a feeling that the visit was an essential part of their wider journey.

4. Brand immersion

Marketing suites are facilities inextricably linked to the product or service they are promoting. This can be anything from an exclusive set of penthouse apartments to a sizeable tract of social housing. But they all share a common goal: to engage their audience effectively. We can do this by creating an immersive experience with content geared to engage the user on a deep emotional level. It’s a bit like being in a real space virtual reality!

Visitor attractions have been doing this for well over a decade and a good example is the current Coral Reefs exhibition at the Natural History Museum. It features a live coral reef as its centrepiece with a three hundred and sixty degree virtual dive wrap around – a kind of Google Street View but for the sea.

For marketing suites, the trick is to amplify all relevant information and eliminate anything else. Direct the users attention through storytelling. Tell them about both product and place. Don’t let them be distracted. Favour video walls over single screens, large scale photography over troublesome reams of text and authentic materials over showy ready-mades. Imprint your vision on them and when they leave they’ll be your best advocates.

5. Staying relevant

No one knows the importance of change like a retail designer – believe us, we’ve been there. High street stores constantly evolve, refresh or reinvent themselves to reflect the ever changing way in which we live, work and consume. Take Argos who have just begun the process of introducing digital format stores across their entire estate - a move that brings them to the fore of contemporary sales and transaction techniques and turns this once flagging high street stalwart into a cutting edge retailer. The store design encourages customers to browse from screen based units, a shopping process that is comprehensively aligned to all channels, linking promotions and other incentives to individualise the experience.

At a different end of the scale, John Lewis is shaking off the manacles of its vast department stores and introducing new, smaller formats that allow them to take their brand to previously unviable locations. This shift is about understanding consumer habits and of course, they are pushing technology hard too.

Marketing property is, in reality, another form of retailing except on a very big ticket scale. The marketing suite is the ‘store’ where the consumer comes to browse, be informed, make comparisons and make a purchase - the same customer journey that is undertaken in every high street every day. That’s why the design must not only be relevant today but scalable and flexible to adapt for tomorrow.

So, when do we start?