Igniting the Senses in Branded Spaces

What are the best ways to ignite peoples’ senses in branded spaces?

That’s the question that we — Carey and George Bradshaw, Co-Founders of Creative Butter, and Kevin Perlmutter, SVP Chief Strategist of Made Music Studio, — asked ourselves.

After being connected for our like-mindedness by a common friend at the MIT Media Lab, our discussion began with the recognition that our respective disciplines, visual, content and sonic, are all vital in the holistic design of branded spaces. So we decided to bring our perspectives together and write about best practices for creating immersive, branded experiences people love.

Turning Branded Spaces into Immersive Environments

In our experience-focused world, brands can have an outsized impact in retail stores, tradeshow booths, interactive museums, sponsored stadium venues and more. To be successful, interior design must go beyond finishes, signage and propping, into holistic experience design. That means understanding how to reach people on a truly emotional level.

Igniting all of the senses in a positive way is at the center of high-quality experience design. Whether competing for attention amidst the noise of a tradeshow or creating a thoughtful and narrative experience for museum-goers, the goal of achieving the desired sensorial impact must be taken into consideration.

We believe that there are three interconnected areas to focus on:

  1. Story: A great brand experience tells a compelling story. It is imperative to draw people in, intrigue them and guide their experience so that they walk away with your core message imprinted in their mind in a positive way. Remember—it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. And it’s not about what you want people to know, it’s about how you want them to feel.
  1. Design: Experiential design starts with designing the experience. Consider the story and the journey you want people to have and understand how you will appeal to them both rationally and sensorially. It’s not about a sensory overload, but being very purposeful at each moment to engage, guide and excite.
  1. Emotion: Sound, music and color are the emotional engine for a branded space. They have the power to heighten emotions and connect with people viscerally — before, during and after the interaction. Sound welcomes them, draws them in and carries them through. Like a movie score, it builds anticipation and punctuates what people should take away and how they should feel. Color conveys psychological messages and meanings. Moreover, form, composition and tonality work together in both sound and design to elicit emotional responses and prompt intended interactions. For space ‘owners’ the experience can be richer and more meaningful, and for brand ‘sponsors,’ attribution can be seamlessly and appropriately woven into the environment.

The ROI of Getting It Right

Today, brand managers have an overwhelming number of options on how to reach their audiences and where they will get the greatest return on their investments. While it’s impossible in the context of this article to weigh all of the choices, here some ways to get the best ROI in branded environments:

  • A great branded environment fuels discovery and intrigue. The participant is gently and imperceptibly guided through the curated experience. This branded environment has a great story to tell, complete with compelling design that ignites all of the senses.
  • A great branded environment connects with people emotionally and appeals to the participants’ sense of awe. It incites visceral reactions where they instantly feel something positive, which directly relates back to the brand.
  • A great branded environment pays for itself. It makes participants crave more and gives them something amazing to share and talk about. When done right, it transforms passers-by into participants and then into customers and finally into brand advocates. There is no greater ROI than loyal customers who tout your brand to their networks…free of charge.

Tying it All Together

Branded spaces require a significant investment in expertise, time and square-footage, which is why it’s so important to be holistic and strategic in your approach to designing them. By taking the time to tell a cohesive story through thoughtful design, messaging and use of sound, brands can take advantage of a unique opportunity to forge deep emotional connections with consumers, turning them into long-term brand advocates.

Image via Flickr / jimsideas

Kevin Perlmutter is SVP, Chief Strategist at Made Music Studio.
If you would like to share your perspective, please comment or start a conversation on Twitter @kevinperlmutter or in email: kevin@mademusicstudio.com.

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