Building a Better Business Brand
Developing a consistent professional culture from the inside out is an investment in the future and your workforce.
by Laura Wallace and photos by Meghan Shupe and Turner Photography Studio
Low ceilings, fluorescent yellow lights, high cubicle walls and quiet pecks on the keyboard — it’s a familiar scene. Your co-workers may be gathered around the water cooler or watching the clock so they know the next time they’ll be able to enjoy a little natural light. People quietly sip their coffee as they walk back to an area where they feel disconnected, and perform the same daily tasks that leave them feeling tired and drained. Whether this is your daily work life or the setting from your favorite show, it’s a very real scenario in businesses around the world. Research shows that the workplace environment accounts for as much as 25 percent of job satisfaction, which means if your people aren’t inspired and comfortable where they work, they’re not performing to the best of their abilities.
For so long, businesses were encouraged to “look like a business” by following an invisible rule book of “how to be successful.” Having fun at work was taboo, and bending the business rules made employees and customers uncomfortable for the fear that things were changing. In the early 2000s, a shift happened — not only in the workforce, but also in the way people wanted to work. Companies like Google and Facebook fractured the classic business layout in favor of open floor plans with rock-climbing walls and coffee bars — and all of a sudden businesses small and large realized that there were other options. These large organizations set the tone for the new way to do business; and seemingly overnight, CEOs and employees fell in love with the idea.
We’re in a really exciting time where businesses are applauded for having a unique brand personality. Your brand is what people say about your company when you’re not around; it’s the mission that you stand for; and it’s the visual, consistent use of colors, fonts, logo, tone, photos, and messaging. Being able to give customers the same experience no matter where they’re interacting with you, can also be part of your brand. More than ever, customers want to support businesses that they can get behind. Whether it’s your mission, organizations that you support, overall company values, or the way you make people feel, your customers are your biggest advocates. When they can see a part of themselves in your company, you’ve created loyal, long-term customers.
Businesses invest a lot of time and marketing dollars in external promotion to attract new customers and employees. When the marketing is fun, outgoing, and full of energy, but the place of business is lacking all those features, there is a brand disconnect because your space doesn’t feel the same way. Your office is one of the key elements that can support your messaging with the right execution. More than a third of workers report being ashamed to bring clients into their work place, according to a survey by Management Today magazine. That same survey found that 97 percent of people regard their work place as a symbol of whether or not they are valued by their employer. Those numbers speak volumes as to the impact an office space can have on morale.
In 2016, my team and I at Worx were asked to help brand the newly renovated office for Innovative, Inc. As we began the process, we realized how valuable internal branding was to the office environment. Branding a space consists of using core elements such as colors, fonts, messaging, and other visuals to create a positive and functional working space. This can be achieved by using unique architectural layouts, paint, branded graphics, signage, furniture, lighting, and layout. After completing the project at Innovative, President Jason Rappaport said that he never really appreciated how much of a business asset a building could be. “Our new space has been a culmination of that culture and aligns efforts we have been working on for several years.”
Shortly after the completion of the Innovative project, we realized that our own space didn’t reflect who we were as a team at Worx. As advocates for practicing what we preach, finding the right space for our creative firm was an important next step in our continued growth. After looking at the industrial space in Mulberry Lofts, we quickly began the build-out and branding process. I can say that within a very short amount of time it has elevated every aspect of our business by increasing revenue, boosting company morale, and bringing new opportunities that previously were not an option. “From greeting [clients] with something to drink from our kitchen, sitting back and kicking off a meeting on one of our comfy couches, or spreading ideas out all across the conference room table, I’m able to collaborate in a way that’s professional but personable, and most of all unexpected,” says Sam Jones, a senior designer with Worx.
When your office is “vanilla” and lacking character, it shows. When your space is aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, supports the overall mission and inspires, team morale and customer engagement increase. People are more productive when they have what they need and are comfortable in — and inspired by — their area.
The Mulberry Lofts building showed opportunity to create a brand experience through directional signage. With a large, odd-shaped building, it was challenging for people to find their way around. Through branded graphics and directional signage, we were able to pull the building’s identity together while educating visitors where to park, what entrances to use, and how to find businesses throughout the building. “The ultimate expression of your business is the space from which you work. As an architect and a developer, my own offices as well as the buildings I lease must speak to my vision and our values as a company,” says Aaron Peteranecz, the founder and president of Mulberry Lofts and Design Method Group (DMG). In turn, we branded the DMG office to coordinate with that mission, working closely with Aaron to create a dimensional and layered space that reflects the multiple facets of his business.
Think of your space as a marketing tool, not just an office. A professional, organized, and well-branded space builds credibility and helps you to retain existing customers longer. A new space creates a buzz that encourages people to come see you more often, creating stronger bonds and opportunities to share new and exciting services. “We have seen clients and their employees excited to come to work, and their customers immediately understand what the company is all about,” says Amber Buhrman, the art director at Worx.
While building your empire, take advantage of low-cost ways to enhance your space. A fresh coat of paint, removable wall graphics, updated furniture, brighter lights, and textiles are quick ways to refresh a space that has remodeling limitations. When you are looking to relocate or build a new space, create a list of non-negotiables. When we were looking, we knew we wanted to be elevated, have lots of natural light, and be able to show off bright, exposed high ceilings, because these were all characteristics that supported our brand. From there, we were able to incorporate wall graphics, photography, paint colors, furniture, floor color, desk style, lighting, and décor into our branded-space plan.
Full-time employees spend an average of 2,000 hours in the office each year. That’s a lot of time to love or hate the space you work in. When you invest in your office, you’re investing in your future. Whether you’re working from your garage or taking the first step to creating a new space, each one is an important part of your story. Google may have more than 75,000 employees and its own restaurant, but they started in a garage in 1998 and built their way up.