You only get one chance to make a good first impression, as the cliché goes, and for many companies that begins the moment a visitor walks into your office, showroom, or briefing center. Immediate assessments are being made about your brand’s authenticity — perhaps even unconsciously. A company’s corporate environment design is the most immediate expression of its brand and values. Read on to learn how three companies are immersing their employees, board members, potential partners, and their communities in their brand story in inspiring and extraordinary ways.
See What the Customer Sees
A legend in corporate environment design is Denmark-based Lego. Early in the 21st century, the company curated an area in its corporate headquarters that was tantamount to an interactive art installation.
“To enter, visitors first donned unibody clean suits and slipped on paper hospital booties. Middle-aged toy buyer and retail guests suddenly found themselves dressed like new fathers about to enter the birthing room,” writes Patrick Hanlon in Primalbranding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future. “In the first room, a television blared about war and violence and the chaos of humankind. A table and chair hanged upside down from the ceiling: The world had been turned upside down and inside out. The next room was the birthing room, and a woman giving birth scream on an audio track…”
And then, after some other theatrics, presto, you were “born,” or perhaps reborn into the land Lego as see through the eyes of a child. There was even a forest of oversized pant legs to evoke the sense of being a toddler again.
Around the World in 80 Meeting Rooms
When Airbnb told the world that we could “belong anywhere,” they weren’t just speaking to travelers looking to rent a French chateau or a dreamy treehouse in Atlanta. The story of belonging was one the brand wanted to tell inside its own walls as well.
The Airbnb brand that consumers see online and in advertising becomes very real in their San Francisco headquarters, where meeting spaces are precise replicas of actual Airbnb rental listings from around the globe, and key moments in the company’s history including the small apartment shared where the founders first launched the company with a set of air mattresses on their living room floor. A day at work can take you around the world; even a trip to the bathroom can transport you to a shimmering aspen forest.
Designing for Your Community
For a retail giant whose mission is to get people outside, it’s perhaps not surprising that REI’s stores have been bringing more of the outdoors indoors in their retail stores. The Seattle and Denver flagship stores feature huge indoor climbing walls where customers can take classes, try out their new climbing gear, and literally learn the ropes. Even the retail displays have become more immersive environments, with products arranged in mock campsites for context. The brand’s community orientation really comes to life in their choice to not only add community rooms in their store. In the Boulder store, a 1,000-square-foot community room is placed right in the center of the store, where classes and events can be seen — and joined — by all.
Now, not every company requires the extreme whimsy of Lego, the global eye of Airbnb, or a towering climbing wall like REI, but those tasked with corporate environment design should keep in mind that a brand-consistent experience not only makes a good first impression, it also makes one that lasts.