April 11, 2022

Environmental branding: what is it and why does it matter now more than ever?

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“When designing for a brand, there’s often a mindset barrier between the print or digital manifestation of it and the way it comes to life physically. Environmental branding is the application of a brand’s identity and character to a space, helping that brand connect in a unique way with those who experience it. It’s a tool that can more powerfully help employees and visitors understand what a brand stands for, and, ultimately, strengthen its relationship with the individuals with which it interacts.”

Matt Jeffries, Associate Creative Director, treetree

Let’s level set. When we say, “environmental branding” we’re talking about transforming a space into an experience that does more than identify a brand, it immerses visitors. Environmental branding is more than words on a wall; it’s a sense of the space and how a brand lives within it.

The goals of environmental branding include:

  • Reinforcing an organization’s culture, mission and values
  • Strengthening employee engagement, pride and loyalty
  • Visually communicating your brand’s vision to customers and prospects
  • Elevating an organization above its competitors
  • Making a space memorable and easy to navigate

There are many considerations that go into creating a successful environmental branding experience. And it starts with intention. While the best practice goals outlined above are great benchmarks of success, an experience should be defined before creation begins.

An environmental branding initiative may require cross-functional partnership and various disciplines including marketing, interior design, graphic design, landscape design, wayfinding or architecture. In short, it’s most often not just about how a space looks; it’s how the space should function and what the desired experience should be.

With remote and flexible work schedules now permanently integrated into our culture, you might be asking yourself, “Does my organization really need environmental branding right now?” Research shows the answer is a resounding YES.

Why is environmental branding more important now than ever?

In its third annual Employee Experience Trends Report, Qualtrics states that only 65% of nearly 14,000 people surveyed intend to stay with their company in 2022. This number is 5% lower than it was in 2021, proving that the Great Resignation is still going strong. As people continue to reshuffle, retaining talent is a top priority for most employers.2 And the workspace plays a major factor.   

Right now, your employees want to see how their company will support them through ever-evolving workplace expectations, shifts and spaces, including back-to-office plans. The pain points your office environment had before the pandemic haven’t gone away. In fact, they’ll only be exacerbated as employees who grew accustomed to working from the comfort of their home come back to the same office they left two years ago. And for essential employees who have remained in-person throughout the pandemic, the burnout factor is real. They feel as though they have given their all to keep business moving, but they don’t always see that their commitment is matched by their employer.3

As an organization, you should be asking yourself what you can offer to employees upon their return to the office. Beyond happy hours and incentives, what value are they getting out of your workspace? In the previously cited report, one of the top trends Qualtrics identified for 2022 is that “people will demand better physical and digital workspaces.” But the organization also identified a major gap between what employees want in their office, and what their employer is delivering.

Environmental branding shows that something has changed

Environmental branding can provide an avenue for employees to reconnect with your organization. It can help remind your longtime employees why they should remain committed to your cause. And for newer employees who may even have started as remote workers, it’s a great chance to make that all-important first impression and begin to forge strong bonds between them and your brand.

Is environmental branding a magic wand that will make your employees excited to shake up their routines again? No, it’s not. But it’s a useful tool that can aid in attraction, retention, communication and overall employee workplace satisfaction.

When you leverage environmental branding to the benefit of your target audiences, it can be an important tool in communicating your values and mission in a way that your employees and customers are excited to embrace.

As we’ve so often heard it said, employees can be one of your greatest marketing assets. The greater their personal investment in your brand, the louder they’ll advocate for it. It’s a truth that applies to everyone in your organization. Your brand matters to your employees, and environmental branding is a tangible way they can be immersed in it.   

Impactful environmental branding is especially important to your millennial employees. As millennials increasingly drive decisions in the workforce, they are seeking deep emotional connections to their places of employment. They refuse to be force-fed agendas—they want to see and feel proof of your brand’s mission. If you give them the chance—and the reason—they will be some of your best company advocates.

Your work environment as an asset

“treetree brings a unique perspective to environmental branding. As strategic partners to marketing and sales teams, we have a deep understanding of our clients’ businesses, their goals and values, and how to create spatial stories that engage associates and visitors in a compelling way.”

Matt Jeffries, Associate Creative Director, treetree

As a marketing agency, our approach to environmental branding is focused on bringing your brand to life and infusing deep meaning into every touchpoint. As storytellers, we’re able to take the conversation beyond the visuals and into the narrative of your brand. We help our clients tell their story experientially to empower employees, inspire prospects and reinforce loyalty in customers.

While most marketing collateral is more ephemeral, environmental branding tends to have a long lifespan due to the required investment. In Jeffries’ experience, a company rebrand or the effects of everyday wear and tear might trigger an environmental refresh once a decade. Because of the potential longevity, your environmental branding should not only be structurally sound, it should also be thoughtful and drive home your company’s mission.

If it’s time to make the investment in your space, take the opportunity to go beyond fresh paint and new furniture and communicate your brand on a larger scale.

treetree is here for your environmental branding project every step of the way. Our experienced team will guide the physical transformation of your brand from research and ideation to material sourcing and execution. Throughout the entire process, we’ll be your brand ambassadors. Our goal for environmental branding in your space is to drive powerful emotional experiences that impact behaviors on your organization’s behalf.

Meet Matt Jeffries

treetree is proud that we have the opportunity to brag about Matt Jeffries. As the lead designer for our environmental branding offering, Matt has spent the past 25 years telling spatial stories for brands of all sizes. His passion for the tangible elements of design has driven him to explore all facets of environmental branding, including research and discovery, complex wayfinding, placemaking and more.

Matt’s talent augments treetree’s experienced environmental branding team, a group of creative storytellers that brings diverse brands to life in physical spaces. Our environmental branding offering is rooted in partnership and collaboration, ensuring your brand’s story is told in thoughtful and impactful ways that support your marketing and business goals.

“Environmental branding should be simple in execution but clever in thought and shouldn’t bend to today’s fads or trends. It can be powerful enough to make you stop in your tracks, or subtle enough to leave you wanting more.”

Matt Jeffries, Associate Creative Director, treetree

Curious what environmental branding can do for your company? Explore our case studies for inspiration.