STUDY: Most Workplace Branding is Gimmicky, Yours Shouldn’t Be

When we think of a brand, chances are that a logo, several products, and maybe an advertisement will come to mind. Coca-cola and Coke, Apple and iPhones, etc.. However, the differences between great brands and mediocre brands often lies with what is behind them – Employees, values, and work ethic.

If you’ve been reading Office Snapshots for a while, you’ve probably heard me say that office design is not the same as office decorating. Well, in no place does this ring more true than when it comes to branding.

Give Us The Stats

I recently came across a CoreNet/Steelcase (pdf) research article that had some pretty amazing statistics with regard to branding:

The most important metric when it comes to design – “The workplace is designed to encourage behavior that is consistant with the brand” is at a low 50%. Yikes. What that tells us is that the majority of branding going on is the external, flashy, gimmicky type of branding – as opposed to the type of branding that instill brand values into company culture.

A hypothetical example of these stats would be if Facebook, king of the social networks, did not allow the use of Facebook at work. But they did have blue walls, a chart showing the history of the company, and conference rooms named after their various products.

As ridiculous as that example sounds, this research seems to show that many companies are probably in some sort of a similar situation.

Bringing Brand Values Into The Workplace

One recent example I saw that demonstrated the idea of bringing important brand values into the workplace was a redesign of a Vodaphone office in the Netherlands.

The new office was designed to promote a ‘mobile working’ concept which applied mobile work, speed, simplicity and trust. The resulting design included:

  • informal meeting rooms on each floor
  • no fixed workstations
  • building divided in fast, medium and slow zones

While there are obviously differing opinions about that type of workplace, but in terms of implementing brand characteristics into the workplace itself, it makes a lot of sense. Again – imagine a mobile company not embracing mobile.

Organically Build Brand

Another interesting example I recently heard about was Zynga’s branding strategy from early on. Mark Pincus, the company’s CEO, noted in an interview that he began working on branding and company culture early. An important part of his strategy was to just do things he felt like he wanted the company to embrace.

A couple examples from the early days was the company’s purchasing gym memberships for employees – and now providing a wonderful gym at their new headquarters building. Another was that being social was important, so lunch was provided for employees at their first office – a tradition that has carried on past its 1000 employee mark.

The important thing here is that there was no master plan, but rather gradual changes in the life of the business that built important brand values into the culture.

Go Beyond Colors and Logos

It seems like the easiest thing to note here is that colors and logos look nice, but they do nothing to get employees excited about your workplace and office culture – unless of course you are a logo design company.