WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT.
A friend of ours has invited us on a tour of Israel. Yay! In his letter to us, and in a book he wrote about the connection between “The Land” and the Bible, he points out that learning the land provides great insight into the Book. It gives it a sense of place. This makes all kinds of sense. And it seems to have a great application to branding.
Retail brands, in particular, benefit from a sense of place. Some brands do great in their initial location. But, underestimating the importance of place, they whither in subsequent locations.
We did some work on a brand that was started during a boom economy, in the middle of a highly traveled pedestrian route (Main Street). They never had a problem with traffic. In fact, they occasionally complained about too much traffic. They never had a problem with awareness (they were right there). And, because of all the traffic, they could use their front window as a promotional space. Then, they decided to move in order to save a few dollars in rent.
Rather than benefiting from, and synergizing with, the urban energy of their surroundings, they put themselves in the position of having to infuse energy into a location with plenty of car traffic but not much pedestrian traffic. The sidewalk boards that had been primary in their first location became virtually invisible in their new location. And with almost no drop-in traffic, they found themselves having to chose between lowered sales expectations, unrealistically inflated market basket (average total sale), or a major investment in promotions in order to make themselves into a destination. Not willing to do any of those three, the concept eventually failed.
We have another client that is intentional about allowing each location to take on (retain) the sense of place that comes with the hometown it serves. The branding is systemic, but flexible. The concept is thriving.
I’ve even noticed the importance of place with Gibbons | Peck. Our first location was a sort of ratty little space on the second floor of a two-story office building. It was a high-energy location, right on main street. We were packed in like sardines. And everyone could hear what everyone was saying all the time. The place buzzed. And that buzz helped to shape the energy of our company. We were fast moving, creative, and entrepreneurial.
Then, we moved to a much larger space. It was much more corporate. The architecture was much more sophisticated. It was the space that gave us the “curved yellow wall” as a brand distinctive. We could still communicate easily, by taking a little stroll down the hall. But it didn’t buzz. We become more sophisticated and corporate. This was the space we occupied when we developed the systemic approach to branding we now use.
Then, we moved to the space we now occupy. A space that (in the words of the architect) renders an industrial feel. It’s a 100 year old building, a block off of main street, in a slightly more gritty part of town. We have exposed brick walls, a natural plaster ceiling, waxed concrete floors, and lots of track lighting. And, of course, we have an updated version of the curved yellow wall. It has a lot of the energy of the original space (we can all hear each other whether we want to or not). And it has the sophistication of the second space (with a bit of urban edge). In part because of the space, we have become a younger, more nimble, faster moving company. We are folding a lot of social network, events, and promotional strategy into our brand thinking. And, we are learning to keep our music to ourselves (apparently, not everyone is a David Allen Coe fan…who knew).
Since a sense of place has such great impact on how we feel about things, it makes sense that God would use place in illustrating the Bible. Big sea. Little sea. Crazy river that is sometimes a creek and sometimes a tsunami in a bottle. A sea full of salt. Craggy hills. Plains that go from lush green to dirt brown in a single day. Makes perfect sense. People like pictures. So God arranged for the Bible to be illustrated—by the land itself. Cool. Very exciting.