This article is by David Galullo, CEO, Rapt Studio. He and his team recently completed the design for the Adobe Campus in Utah. He has been featured in the New York Times and is a regular guest on Bloomberg TV speaking to company workplace and branding. Rapt Studios clients include Google GOOG -0.16%, TMZ and The North Face.
If you ask any major corporation, the majority would probably agree—branding is everything.
Except the word “brand” may be the most misunderstood, misrepresented, and misused word in recent memory. So, while branding is a vital element to any organization’s success, the majority of companies might be approaching it wrong.
For years, businesses have branded themselves by operating in silos. They assign one agency to develop their advertising, another to do their website and still another to design their workplace. The end result is a weakened and potentially hollow brand made up of separate pieces, and a brand that never really makes a meaningful connection to either the customer or the employee.
There is a new reality in branding.
In an increasingly chaotic marketplace, yelling louder isn’t the answer. Business today doesn’t come down to what you sell or what you do. It’s about who you are and what you stand for. People don’t come to work every day for just a paycheck, and customers aren’t indiscriminate shoppers anymore. They both want purpose, they want to believe, and they want to feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves.
The simple truth is that a brand isn’t a logo, an advertisement, or a poster hung on the wall in a corporate office. It’s a gut feeling about a company, and smart companies know the power of a brand done right. This happens when everything connects through design—from virtual environments like websites to built environments like office spaces—and it all starts with an understanding of why a company matters. Whether designing a company’s headquarters or field office, their website, or developing a new brand strategy, start by asking two key questions: who are you? And: Why do you matter?
They seem simple, but they’re actually the toughest questions for companies to answer. That’s why most don’t bother in the first place, and not surprisingly, why they struggle and fail in their branding efforts. Finding the answers and building connections to them with an integrated, holistic approach is what ultimately creates a stronger, more meaningful brand.
Take a look at the University of Oregon’s football program. It’s taken center stage in a very crowded market against all odds. The team plays in a small town. It doesn’t have the history and tradition of an Alabama or Texas, and up until the mid-90s,it was considered mediocre.
You can’t chalk up Oregon’s recent success to boosters or Phil Knight alone. Oregon has built a brand that turns heads and cuts through the clutter. From uniforms to advertising, to a brand new, six-floor football performance center that you really have to see to believe, they’ve embraced branding as a central way of thinking. Their why is change, and they’ve built it into everything. It’s grabbing people’s attention and attracting the best recruits in the country. In other words, people don’t watch the team because they’re good—they’re good because people watch.
A lot of other companies out there are doing this as well. Apple and Google come to mind, obviously. Purina took the same approach as well. They completely shifted their culture and revamped their brand. It was an integrated effort that included an office redesign and several campaigns, as well as branded experiences geared toward both their employees and customers. When you meet Purina now, you don’t see a company that sells dog food. You see one that loves dogs. They understand why they matter, and so does everyone that comes in contact with the company.
It’s this sense of oneness and connection that turns brands into movements and people into believers.