Like we always say… great brands are built from the inside out.
We are 95% through a huge workspace overhaul with one of our key clients, AB Agri, a fast paced, ever expanding global business who are working hard to nurture a consistent culture and DNA throughout the company, and as such have tasked us, as their brand and design agency, to help them bring their brand story, values and vision to life throughout the building.
It’s fair to say, gone are the days where if an office was clean, safe and warm it was seen as good enough for the employees, and where culture, values and work ethics were just ‘words’.
It used to be that the boardroom, the executive offices and the reception area were the face of the brand and the rest… well, you were lucky if you had a coffee vending machine and a stapler that you could call your own.
In fact, we would go as far as to say that it was probably the advertising and creative sector that led the way with building ‘brand temples’. They were the first to embrace the need to create an environment for employees where people wanted to work, and enjoyed being at work. It was an extension to the agency portfolio of work and where clients wanted to come, because ‘your offices are so much nicer than ours’.
So, what do we mean by a brand temple?
In a nutshell it’s about creating an office/working space that reflects your brand, your culture and values as a business, and offers attributes over and above a water machine and an early finish on a Friday. Building a ‘brand temple’ for your business can deliver amazing rewards – employee loyalty, talent attraction, like minded clients, improved productivity and happiness – yes, happiness is just one of the results that are measured and presented back as a result of an enhanced working environment. In fact, it is now not necessarily seen as just a ‘marketing department exercise’, but an investment in people and their value to the business.
Over the last 5 years we have seen more and more of our brand and design work focussed on employees… you’ve heard of B2B and B2C – this is all about BTE.
Take Rentalcars.com as a perfect example of this, and a brand and office space that we are in awe of here at 10. According to the Manchester Evening News, they invested £2.7m in a refurbishment of their offices in Manchester and are now seen as one of the coolest offices in the area – pretty awesome for a worldwide car and van rental business.
The CEO Ian Brown clearly has vision, understands the value of employees, and also appreciates how this refurbishment really does reflect their ethos of ‘anything but ordinary’… quirky meeting room, free breakfasts, fresh food, unique themes, and so much more. In fact, enough to make the commute from Leeds to Manchester worth it every day for one of our designers’ partners.
In our Brandschool® workshop we use exercises and content that show how the strongest brands are built from the inside out and the top down. There are so many great examples out there now – not least one of our favourite clients, AO.com – the giant online retailer who we rebranded 3 years ago. If you visit AO Towers or the Parkland in Bolton, you’ll experience a great example of a branded space – it even has its own nail bar! Make no mistake you are immersed in their world, and it’s unique to them.
Google has always been the iconic brand with quirky, bright and bold working environments around the world. It reflects them as a leader – their vision and the value they point on their employees. We were quite surprised to see how the new UK offices are somewhat different in look. Maybe the bright and quirky has had its day for Google, as everyone tries to be a ‘me too’, and so they are pushing the boundaries again?
This time they used the Olympic cauldron-artist Thomas Heatherwick to help with the design and have gone for more of a muted and industrial style to the office design. One thing is still very clear though – they have not moved away from one consistent thread that links all of their worldwide offices to the brand values – ‘the comfort and wellbeing of its employees comes first’ – barista serviced cafe, quiet areas, ergonomic chairs, massage rooms, swimming pool, onsite doctors – all common features which aim to keep employees happy, which in turn they believe contributes to Google’s success.
Not only for the big boys…
We are 10 people and in 2016 our agency was short listed for the Inspiring Office Spaces Awards. We invested heavily in our office environment when we moved into the Watermill in 2012. We wanted to create a space that would reflect our culture, provide a variety of workspaces that nurtured creativity and productivity, and was something that we could be proud of. It worked… our team is happy, our clients love coming to spend time with us, and our brand temple is our very own case study.
In 2015 we rebranded The Safe Shop to Safe.co.uk – an online safe and security business, with big ambitions and a real in depth understanding of the power of a brand. Even though they were only a team of 16, they embraced the brand temple ethos, and over the weekend prior to the external launch of the new brand, completely changed the offices to support the new brand and values – manifestations, furniture, meeting rooms and main office. Not only did it create a fantastic story for them, it really helped the team to embrace the new brand and feel part of the exciting changes. It was interesting when talking to their latest recruit recently, who had worked for two well-known brands in the North West that still haven’t embraced the brand temple ethos… we will be in touch!
What was very poignant about the conversation was how she’d recognised and applauded how great it was to see how they’d embraced the brand in the offices, which she didn’t expect, but which had instantly made her think, “they must really care about their employees”.
Millennials, remote working models and Generation Z
We hear so much about this generation of employees and their career aspirations, attitudes to work, values and visions, that to attract and retain the best talent businesses need to make sure that the office environment is a true reflection of your culture and values and an extension of your external facing brand model. Admittedly, this is not all that Millennials want, but with culture and values rating highly in their employer choice criteria, the environment that they will be working in will be important.
Remote working models have also been on the increase over the last few years, and so there is also the question of whether it is as important for remote workers, and we would say yes and even more so. They need to feel that they belong to an organisation that offers a hub for uniting people. A place that reflects stability and reminds them every time they are there what the company stands for – values and culturally. If it isn’t clear and all around them, it would be very easy to forget, feel distant and not engaged with the business or the brand.
As for Generation Z, who are currently being watched like hawks by behaviouralists, economists and trend forecasters – what will they aspire to see, do and value? It certainly will be very technology driven. Let’s face it, they were all introduced to tablets at the age of 2, but for some reason in our lunchtime chats in the office, we think they might be a little bit more grounded, which could suggest that culture, CSR, values and ‘the greater good’ and ethics of an employer will become even more of a feature in their lives… we will have to wait and see.
It’s safe to say that longer working days, changing employment models and the fact that millennials are now the largest demographic in the workplace, means that more and more businesses need to put ‘brand temples’ on their list of brand extension work.
Finally, one last brand that has only come to light after watching Michael Roux’s Hidden Restaurant series recently. Yeo Valley – a family owned organic dairy and farming business in the South West, who we believe have taken the phrase ‘brand temple’ to the next level and done it so incredibly well.
The Yeo Valley Canteen – yes, they are using the ugly word canteen – but according to The Telegraph, possibly the best canteen in the world. It started off as a heavily subsidised staff restaurant, serving quality/locally sourced ingredients and beef/dairy products from the farm on the menu every day for just £2.
Everyone loved it so much that they decided to open it up to the public for breakfast and lunch, serving exactly the same menu as the staff. The public pay approx. £12 for the same main meal and sit with the staff… and why not!
Supporting British producers is a top priority at Yeo Valley. They wanted to reflect this and their core values of being modern, open, social, populist and proud, through their products and staff, and so decided to open their amazing canteen and the Yeo Valley world to the public. A very brave but very genuine brand expression that clearly works – there is a 6 week waiting list, and that was before Michael Roux’s programme.
So, what can you take from this?
Brand amplification, business story telling and talent attract, are the 3 core reasons to put brand temple on your list of things to do this year.
As we have hopefully demonstrated, great brands are built from the inside out and the top down. Great brands do not need to be the big brands we see and hear every day. How do you demonstrate your values and culture every day? Do your employees love being at work, do they shout about how amazing the culture and environment is that they work in, do you feel a sense of pride when you look around your office, and do they want to stay and grow with you?
As I write this article, one of the largest brand temples has just opened its doors. If you needed any further proof of the ultimate ‘living the brand’, see Apple’s new flagship office, Apple Park. Simply mind-blowing.
We ‘worship the brand’ at our temple every day. We tell everybody we meet that our office is a ‘magic box in the forest’ and we truly believe it is. Come and see for yourself.
Jill Peel, Co-founder + Creative Director.