When companies try to create “branded” experiences for their consumers, the results can be seriously cringe-worthy. Anyone who’s ever stepped inside a company’s corny, hash-tag-laden “activation” knows that’s not the way to make your brand more meaningful.

So what’s the secret to designing spaces that are actually useful and interesting to people, while remaining true to the brand? We need to create branded experiences that don’t just successfully avoid annoyingly overt messaging and bad hash-tags–they’re downright beautiful and impactfull.

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A branded environment needs to be more than a one-way brand dialogue. Think about it this way . . . if you had a friend who only ever talked about his or herself, you wouldn’t want to speak to them very often, would you?

Draw from an authentically contextual world the audience can relate to. It must be authentic (and not just the buzzword definition of the word). Consumers are savvy and in order to be successful marketers, we must always assume the most of our potential audience.

Our team, along with our clients before any project we seek out to create  memorable, viral, shareable experiences depending on the industry. The key ingredient to achieving this end is to infuse joy into your work from the onset. People relate to joy; they connect to joy.


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If the brand is not colors and fonts but how it makes you feel and what it allows you to do, then the goal of a branded environment isn’t just to be a 3D design exercise, it’s here to invite your customers or your guests to achieve something extraordinary–hopefully through your brand. That is where loyalty and connection gets really extended, and that’s why it’s a good investment for companies.

If you think about it, people can buy stuff in so many channels now, so why go to Target? We were tasked with understanding what the internet of things could allow customers to do in their daily lives. The promise we saw in the home space–it gives your home superpowers. We designed Open House as both a store and a laboratory. Target is so effectively optimized within its own stores that it’s actually a bit of a challenge for them to innovate within specific stores. It allowed them to have a whole lab to experiment with  IoT products that might not do so well within the existing ecosystem of their stores.

It’s not just a store or a lab, it’s a platform for Target to experience new businesses, products, technologies for selling, and new design approaches for the entire brand. From a brand standpoint, Target has great interest in exploring and in demonstrating that it’s interested in innovation and capable of innovation. You can put out a press release, you can buy a big billboard, you make a better logo. Or you can build a lab that is also a store that is also a platform for innovation, and embody, demonstrate, and actualize innovation.

It’s the difference between nouns and verbs. Brands in the past have all been nouns. We’re blue, we’re red, we’re round, we’re square. Now, certainly the way Local Projects thinks about brands, you’re verbs. What do you do? If you want to be an innovative brand, don’t make a logo, don’t write something, actually make something that is innovative and demonstrates and forwards innovation, internally for you as a company.


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My personal opinion is when you go into spaces where the brand is thrust at you, you become a bit sick of it and immune to it, so the message gets lost. When you do it more subtly and you have to seek it out, a visitor to the space it has a longer lasting impression.

For it not to be cringe-worthy, YOU NEED to ended up not using too much branding and instead try to capture the spirit of the brand through the materials and through things like the lighting and the technology that’s used. The building itself, in the pure quality of material, gives you the quality of the brand. In the reception areas, we common use  a lot of modern premium materials. We play with interactive art pieces in the reception areas that communicate some of the value of the brands we design for. Without using too much text or the logo, we are able to communicate that its  a branded environment.

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There are so many ways to answer this question, and most are intertwined with the brand you’re creating it for. But overall, I’d say you don’t always have to use the ‘brand’ to build a branded environment. By this I mean, you don’t need to simply sell products with fancy visuals in trendy pop-ups. It’s more impactfull to show people what the brand is about through a relevant experience.


So, avoid giving away free samples of shampoo and coffee. Focus on making something that reflects what your brand stands for—its purpose—and your audience will engage.