STRATEGY, DESIGN & COMMUNITY
As a design studio, it really should come as no surprise that we see branding as intrinsic to the strategic and sustainable success of a business. A brand, after all, in the most resonant and aspirational sense of the word, is bigger than what it’s selling. Put simply, it’s the core of a business. With vision, values, story and an epic product that’s full to the brim with memorable moments how can it not be?
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again – a brand is more than a logo. The value in building a brand cannot be underestimated. When the business is one which seeks to change the world, challenge the status quo, create a movement or engage and enable the world’s game changers and experience makers then brand becomes critical. In the space we work in as a design studio, travel, hospitality and lifestyle, our ultimate goal as designers is to build a brand that, over time, becomes bigger than the actual physical space it occupies, one where the bricks and mortar are an evocation of the brand, rather than vice versa.
This is where we consider that in terms of validity brand is an asset, just as the property it embodies. The ‘property’ or location is tangible, but is informed by the somewhat intangible concept of brand- particularly when we talk about design you feel. We see the white space of design (aka the elements that aren’t purely physical) as those that relate to relationships and connection. The white space is heart and soul, and in pure marketing terms it’s that much-coveted social proof concept, where the people who experience the brand advocate for it.
This doesn’t happen by accident, but by design. Brand is where values align, a sense of vision and purpose connects and compels, and ethos is shared. Yet, while it is designed, it’s not overly contrived. It’s grounded in community and culture, and for this reason brands are able to shift, grow, evolve and scale beyond their original imagining, and in the case of our hospitality clients, beyond their initial locations.
The history of hospitality has involved taking what works in one location and applying it to another location, cookie-cutter style. This breeds familiarity and recognition, comfort perhaps. However, it disregards the power of the here, of the ‘new’ location, and it limits the brand to the bricks and mortar rather than taking advantage of the sheer opportunity that comes with discovery and local connection. It also fails to take into account that for an ever-increasing number of conscious consumers, a replica experience is of less interest than a space of connection as well as soul-expansion. As per one of our clients’, Locke, a significant commercial opportunity comes with offering people not just a place to park their suitcase for a night, but a space ‘To Stay, To Live, To Be.’
To be clear, the commerciality of this is significant. From an ‘aparthotel’ in one central location through to nine unique properties across Europe, our client Locke and their investors Brookfield, have a brand identity and framework that has allowed them to scale, at pace, without losing any of the integrity of the brands founding position and vision. The brand evolves and shifts to encompass a 'local flavour' - nothing cookie-cutter - while staying true to the ethos, story and promise of a space to be lived in.
This is where design and brand extends beyond the location, location, location. Community and culture is key. While the actual demographics of that community and culture may vary, when brand is tied to values and a shared or universal purpose, modifications, alterations and adjustments to the brand elements retain the consistency to meet the brand promise while removing the potential for a cookie-cutter experience.
Bottom line- brand building is the unifying concept that supports a scaling or expansion effort. It does the heavy lifting of driving commerciality. It’s worth the investment!
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