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Have you heard the story of Chicken Little? The story of the little paranoid chicken who kept alarmingly announcing, “the sky is falling”. Today, Chicken Little could very well be exclaiming “the experience is falling. The experience is falling” as we get sucked deeper into the experience economy.

What’s alarming about being driven by the experience economy, you ask, especially in the context of branding. Aren’t experiences driving businesses? If we take a look around, all brands are now getting hyper-focused to create brand experiences that build their brands’ perception. This makes sense, especially because brand perception is put together with every little piece of interaction with the brand. And of course, that applies to the physical space that accommodates the brand as well.

The space that houses the brand cannot be inanimate. It can no longer be passive. If it is then how can it drive brand experience? How does it then impact brand perception? How does it create a discerning value?

The brand space is not only about accurately positioning the merchandise and the brand logo. It more than color schemes and color palettes. Brand spaces have to be designed such that these convey ‘meaning’ to the customer.

The play of purpose

So where does the chicken little story play here? Why did we begin with that story?

You see, one of the main objectives of any branding exercise is to stand out in a crowded market place. And today everyone is just doing that. In this constant tryst to stand out in the experience economy we are bombarding our customers with, you guessed it right, ‘experiences’. But have you for a moment thought, ‘am I doing it right’ or ‘am I doing too much’? Because everyone today is creating ‘experience centers’, I must do it too. And the chaos continues.

Today every brand is hyper-focused on customer experience. Customer experience has become the driver of revenues. Consider that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for great customer experience. Customers are also willing to pay a 13 – 18% premium for luxury and indulgence services.

So, experience is everything today. But will you achieve brand success if you blindly jump on to the ‘experience’ bandwagon? Will just following some ‘spatial design shiny new thing best practices’ support your brand through its journey? Are you following the principles you should? And, should you also design an experience center because it is ‘the’ trend of the season?

Logically, the answer to the above questions is ‘no’. Why? Let’s highlight these points

  • The objective of spatial experience design is to be unique to stand out
  • It cannot be copied. If it is, then it is not unique
  • It has to stand for ‘something’ and has to be aligned to ‘something’. ‘Something’ here cannot be a trend

If you blindly follow the trend, then what difference between you and Chicken Little?

So, what word can replace the ‘something’ in the statement? That word, simply, is ‘purpose’.

Purpose and spatial design

Reflecting brand purpose in the brands’ physical space isn’t usually an obvious consideration. How do you even reflect purpose, the compelling reason for your existence, into spatial design? Are we not expected to follow a design principle when it comes to physical spaces?

Purpose represents what the brand stands for…what it is. It forms the core of every experience and every action of the brand. Take Adidas’ HomeCourt concept stores. These stores mimic the sports arena designed with the objective to make the brand experience more immersive. Everything in the store resembles a sports arena. The entrance resembles the tunnel players use to emerge on to a sports field. The shoe department is a locker room. There is a sports reference in ‘everything’! This spatial design builds on experience that emerges from the brand’s purpose – to be the best in everything sports. And it works.

The Lexus experience center in New York puts the ‘E’ in experience. You’d think that the automobile giant would build this experience center around automobiles. They, however, keep all covert and overt mentions of their product out of this center. The focus here is on the experience and what an experience they deliver. The purpose of the brand is to “Create Amazing”, and they very well do it here!

Experience without purpose equals entropy

Keeping purpose at the center of spatial experience is necessary not just to create that ‘wow’ factor and engage the client in a meaningful way but also to reduce entropy. Entropy is just noise. It is just blindly following the herd mentality – he is doing it, so must I. How can this be a strategy for a meaningfully unique experience?

Without alignment with purpose, creating a spatial design will only drain your resources – both human and financial. Without it, you will only expend your energy and spend valuable dollars to create designs that are clones. How can that deliver value to the customer? How can that build your brand perception? “This is just like XYZ”, your customers will say. The objective of creating an experience then lies defeated. And then we just cry, “the sky is falling”.

Today brands have to be more aware, more deliberate in each of their actions. Designing immersive spatial experiences is no different. Only by staying close to the brand purpose can you ensure that your consumers are not just captivated by the layout but also by what the brand stands for and its core essence. Staying true to brand purpose is the secret ingredient for brand success, even when it comes to spatial design.


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