Is flexibility the future for brand?

How strict should brand guidelines be? Are we (branding & design agencies) sometimes victims of our own making

Whilst there is of course a need for consistency in order to clearly communicate the brand image and proposition, as well as fully engage with the audience, do we sometimes take brand guidelines a little too seriously?

Brand is increasingly becoming about personalisation, which by its very nature means there needs to be some flexibility; Coca-Cola have already demonstrated the success it can have with its ‘swap our name for yours’ campaign. However, these brands are taking it one step further with their own spin on personalisation, in terms of the environment in which they operate.

In order to boost the personal relationship with their audiences; Gap, Starbuck’s and Urban Outfitters have opened specialised ‘local’ stores which make them relevant to their surroundings hence heightening their connection with customers. So, is this personalisation at the next level? Can you (and should you) stay true to your brand as well as adapting to the audience and environment?

At the Downtown Disney store, Starbuck’s remains true to its brand essence, but takes some cues from its affiliate, Disney, to make the in-store experience more appropriate to the venue and its customers.

Ultimately, brand experience is still at the heart of this development so it seems the future for optimum brand engagement is: global brands can be local.


Christina Nutter
Senior Account Manager, 10 Associates


These comments are in response to an article published on Cassandra Daily.


LIFE / 9 JUN 2014

 has not only been a definitive tenet of the Millennial zeitgeist, but a widespread reaction to globalisation affecting everything from foodretailart and technology. Now, retail chains are narrowing the scope even further by opening curated, hyper-localised stores as a way to establish a more grassroots identity and create a more personal relationship with neighbourhood customers.

Urban Outfitters, Williamsburg

Urban Outfitters, Williamsburg: Urban Outfitters might be known for supplying hipsters with their favourite big brands, but the new Williamsburg store known as Space Ninety 8 focuses on Brooklyn’s local makers. The brand knows their Brooklynite audience’s value on provenance, so strategically-placed placards point out the store’s local offerings and tell the stories behind the items. Marketplace, the store’s dedicated section for local talent, stocks standout designers in the Brooklyn artisanal scene like Dusen DusenJulie Thevenot and DGIMI. To further vibe with the ‘hood, Space Ninety 8 is a community meeting place complete with a restaurant, rooftop bar, DIY workshops and art.

Gap, New York City

Gap, New York City: Although the poster child of normcore, Gap has no plan to be left in the dust as competitor retailers experiment with designer collaborations and flashy pop ups. With the goal of luring shoppers back into brick and mortar stores, Gap’s Fifth Avenue concept shop named “Lived In,” mixes a curated selection of the brand’s products with like-minded lifestyle products such as New York-based Inventory Magazineand recipe journal Gather. Creating an “authentically local shopping experience in the middle of Manhattan,” the brand references NYC’s industrial heritage with vintage Americana styling – think packages wrapped in craft paper, bound in twine and rubber-stamped.

Starbucks, Disneyland

Starbucks, Disneyland: After opening several localised locations over the past few months including a minimal store in Japan and a train car in Switzerland, Starbucks finally has a store at a US Disney theme park. Located in California’s Downtown Disney, the coffee shop honors Disney’s animated heritage with a 10-foot interactive video wall that projects a cartoon history of Starbucks. It also has interactive touch screens to inspire moments of creativity for the many children visitors. Inspired by Southern California’s spirit of al fresco dining, the café is also LEED certified and features over 1000 native plants designed in the shape of a coffee cup.