The old saying that branding is global and selling is local basically means that your company's brand has to be instantly identifiable, possibly worldwide, even though your members typically come from a five- to10-mile radius.
Think about Apple's apple, Target's target and Nike's “swoosh” — all are immediately identifiable with the company and brand. These icons, however, do not stand alone. They work with the company's customer service, marketing and design — all of which contribute to the consumer experience on a local level. When a company allows one of these components to dominate the message, the results generally are not optimum.
For example, some companies may push their logo's colors to be the all-encompassing colors of their club's design, but how many members want to spend their time in a completely purple and yellow room, even if it's just for a few hours a week? Their experience will suffer, and this could become a detriment rather than an asset in the long run.
I am not advocating a complete departure from honoring a company's base colors. The emotional connection that colors provide consumers is an important part of the brand and should be respected. I am just advocating that rather than the brand's color dominating the architectural design, the two should be born from the same concept, do their individual jobs and support each other so that together the icon and the experience can form a powerful message and differentiate your company from the market.
Some people will point to McDonald's and how it built an empire on yellow and red. True, but that occurred in a different time, and even McDonald's is changing. It is in the midst of an overhaul of its brand experience in which its buildings' designs have been elevated to a more stunning experience with regional flavor, nice stone, warm colors, sleek lighting and high-tech looks. This strategic move is to counter the growing trend of consumers moving their support from international conglomerates and big-box brands to supporting local businesses. Locally grown, operated and sourced is fast becoming an important line in consumers' checklists.
Creating brand recognition starts with making the brand easily recognizable. To that end, architecture reinforces signage. For example, Apple store buildings have evolved into beautiful, simple boxes, a carefully balanced move to support the Apple icon. The icon never changes, but the buildings do. The buildings look and feel like one of Apple's products: sleek, sexy and seductive. The architecture and branding achieve the desired goal — you know an Apple store when you see one, but no one is quite like the other.
As brand building becomes more important, we can glean some excellent lessons from McDonald's and Apple. Lock down your brand device, and only evolve it with great scrutiny. Signage, shape, color, device and taglines need consistency. The buildings and interior colors should have a degree of consistency and commonality but should be cousins rather than twins.
One of our clients, a major chain in the Northeast, has specific colors and a specific feel it prefers for its clubs. The company has built an expectation and a language that helps define and differentiate its product. Because its clubs have complete reciprocity, members often spend time in several of its clubs, so a consistent look is important, but the customer experience is even more important. To support the company's goal, we respect its color combinations, but we use them with a new flair and interest, and we use them in innovative combinations and locations. We also introduce new products and materials into the design scheme. Sometimes, we bring in color with wood, brick and wall coverings, which elevates the overall experience.
We recently developed design standards and three design schemes for Anytime Fitness, taking these same ideas into account.
Health clubs are not sandwich shops. People spend time in their clubs. They deserve a rich and rewarding, well-designed experience. Branding in concert with the interior design will ensure that you can compete globally while respecting what you sell locally: the member experience.
Rudy Fabiano, a registered architect and interior designer, is president of Fabiano Designs, an architectural firm for health clubs, wellness centers, sports clubs and spas. The company has produced more than 400 projects in the past 20 years.