Designing Branded Environments with Tallgrass Business Resources

Looking to promote your brand and company culture? Branded environments can be a great place to start. Meld sat down with representatives from Tallgrass Business Resources to learn more.

Introduction

The expression of an effective brand can visually and emotionally connect both your customers and your staff to your business or organization. Meld Marketing CEO, Melinda Pradarelli, sat down to chat with Jenny Bimson and Felicia Halvorsen from Tallgrass Business Resources to discuss different ways to incorporate your brand into your workplace.

Watch the video or read the key takeaways below for a quick overview of branded environments.

 

How do you broadcast your brand and company culture to the world? Your website, logo, and business cards are a good place to start, but there are many other avenues that allow you to strengthen your company’s image and reputation.

One that people often overlook is their office space. At Tallgrass Business Resources, Product/Design Resource Consultants Jenny Bimson and Felicia Halvorsen know how to help organizations infuse their brand throughout their workplace. It might start with something as simple as using everyday items like pens, mugs, folders, and other promotional items known as marketing “SWAG” (or “stuff we all get”). 

But it’s even more exciting to take it a step farther. Bimson and Halvorsen help clients create ‘branded environments’—spaces thoughtfully designed to help engage and inspire employees and customers alike.

Melinda Pradarelli, CEO and founder of Meld Marketing, talked with Bimson and Halvorsen about how to use marketing swag to promote a company’s unique brand identity. Below are six key tips from their discussion to consider for your own work environment.

1. Think of your space as a tool.

Companies often put a logo on the wall or a sign outside their building to let people know they exist, but you can get much more creative than that and view your entire space as a tool for communicating your brand messaging with different brand placements, including simple and inexpensive swag.

After all, your workspace isn’t just a place to conduct business—it’s also an opportunity to showcase your brand and tell a story about who you are to your internal team and/or external clientele

2. Give employees a chance to celebrate your brand.

Many companies put a lot of effort into marketing their products and services to potential customers and clients. However, your customers aren’t the only ones who should be excited about your brand—it’s also important for your employees to champion your company’s mission, values, and personality. A branded environment can help inspire your employees and foster a sense of community and belonging.

Intentionally designing your workplace to reflect your brand and culture isn’t just a feel-good gesture, either. Having a strong company culture can help you attract top talent and retain valuable employees, particularly in today’s competitive business environment.

3. Start with a goal in mind.

Even if you see the value of creating a branded environment, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start.

Bimson and Halvorsen recommend you think about the outcomes you are trying to achieve before you dive in. Are there certain problem areas you want to de-emphasize? What strengths do you want to highlight?

These kinds of questions can help guide your overall plan, shape the scope of the project, and help you define your budget in a way that makes sense.

4. Involve all key stakeholders, including your marketing team or marketing firm.

Another key tip is to loop in your marketing team or partner marketing firm. As Bimson notes, “There’s nothing more valuable than having all the appropriate parties at the table when ideas are flowing or concepts are being shared.”

Including key stakeholders in your planning sessions can help ensure that you’re not missing anything important. You’ll get a much stronger outcome by bringing different perspectives to the table.

5. Make your biggest impact in phase one.

Depending on your budget and other constraints, you may not be able to implement your entire plan for your workspace in year one.

So what should you focus on first? Bimson suggests you start by making changes that will wow your staff and customers and create a noticeable shift right away.

You can always insert add-ons and extra “bling” later on. The key is to have a long-term plan in place and to start by making your biggest impact in phase one.

6. Be consistent in your approach to brand development.

The final tip is to create a cohesive look from beginning to end.

It can be tempting to add little bits and pieces of brand elements to the office over time, but this can look disjointed if you don’t have an overarching plan and vision in place.

The good news is that building your brand can be a fun and exciting endeavor when you have the right information and strategy to guide your efforts. There is a spectrum of options available, and you can create a customized plan to fit your unique needs and goals.

Want to learn more about infusing your brand into your workplace? Let’s chat! Meld has helped new and existing brands strengthen their image and reputation through both external marketing efforts and interior culture-building techniques.

Read the full transcript

Melinda: Hi, I’m Melinda Pradarelli, and I’m CEO and founder of Meld Marketing in Coralville, Iowa. Thanks for joining us today to talk about how to infuse your brand into your workplace. I’m here today with Felicia Halvorsen and Jenny Bimson with Tallgrass Business Resources. Thanks for being with us. This is something that they do every day. And we’re just going to have a conversation today about how do people think about different ways that they might take things like pens and business cards and all of the different things you do at Tallgrass, too — what we call swag in the marketing business, right — which is cups and all that kind of thing.

Those are part of the way we infuse brand. And then there’s a whole other step that can happen, which is where you actually take it into your office environment. And just, you know, at Meld, because we work with so many different types of clients, we talk a lot about — if you’re a new client, and you are building a brand, how do you start? Where do you start, because a brand is something that touches everything, right? 

And I’m sure you talk about this with your clients. We say, “It doesn’t matter if it’s something that you’re wearing, and you’re out in public, and someone associates with you that brand. Maybe they’re on your website, and they’ve never talked to a person, that’s your brand.” It really can happen at any point. Even your voicemail — people don’t think about that their voicemail is part of the brand. Right? And so, for you guys, what is it that you do as you talk with customers about, you know, what their goals might be related to — do they think about even infusing a brand into the workplace — I guess that’s one of the questions I have.

Jenny: I think we just want to express our excitement about talking with you about this topic. It’s one of our favorite aspects of a project. And so, initially, with the client, this is a new territory for them, and thinking about their brand and how it could be infused through the space, and that’s a term at Tallgrass that we would use as or define as “branded environments.” And so, this is a service that we provide our clients through the design process. But in those early-on discussion points with the client, we find ourselves striving to have that client view their project as an opportunity to showcase their brand. Beyond the, maybe typical logo on a wall, or the sign on the outdoors. 

So when we do a deeper dive, and we begin talking about space, specifically, we challenge them to view their space as a tool — beyond meeting their square footage needs, or allowing them to conduct their day-to-day business from — but a way that they can tell their story. And so, that can be looked at from two different points. Internally, they could portray or express their culture to their internal team, and then outwardly to clientele. It’s how do they want to bleed their brand or experience to others. 

Melinda: Yeah, no, I think that’s fascinating because you know oftentimes, really, up until, I don’t even know, the last 10 years or whatnot, there’s been a lot more research done on — okay, so with your brand, where can it all live? And we know that people who take part or participate and interact with a brand, feel better if things are consistent. Right. And sometimes what gets forgotten is actually your own employees who are interacting with your brand inside. 

So sometimes you guys are probably dealing with a retail space where you both have internal employees, and you have customers coming into the environment. Other times, it’s a workspace, right, where it’s just, you know, at Meld, we are the same way — we have green chairs, and we have an infusion of gray here and there, right, and we have all these things we talk about, because we want our clients — we actually want our staff — to celebrate our brand, too, right. And so, what are some of the things — I love the branded environment term. I think that’s really great. Felicia, what are some of the things, some of the common questions that you might get from somebody coming in to say, “How do I even do this?” 

Felicia: I mean, a lot of times we don’t get a whole lot of questions, but one thing, they are very curious about is the cost and budget. You always want to know what the bottom line is going to be in every project, so a lot of times we try and address this in a few different ways. We try and talk them through kind of what their ideal outcome is and find their goals and just try and express that through different means. You know, not everybody can have the same solution. We always make sure that we tailor fit for each person and every product that we’re looking at, so it’s really something that’s curated together. And the main thing is just have the client be open and honest about what they want that budget to be or what they envision it could be so that way we can make sure that we pull together the right solution the first time. 

Melinda: That makes sense. You know, I think it’s interesting. We have the same thing happen in marketing, right. On our end, it’s like somebody will say, “I’d like some marketing support.” And that can mean a whole lot of different things, so we’re trying to build out a spectrum of options, and I think one of the things that we get that I think could be similar for you is if we have an existing brand that already exists, and they say, “Hey, can you refresh it.” And so in your case, that’s a branded environment that may already exist, and it’s like how do you start to, you know, some people will think of it as, “Do I have to take over the whole environment? Do I have to change everything? Is there a phased approach to this?” I mean, how do you talk through that kind of thing?

Jenny: I think it’s interesting, because like we mentioned, this is a new consideration for folks — with the competition and attracting and retention — it’s nothing people have had to think about before, right, and so quickly organizations are seeing the value in the necessity of doing their own touches throughout their space. So we, in the early-on discussion points, we review what their goals are, but often, I think we find ourselves helping them establish what they’re goals are, kind of combining that knowledge together. 

So through that, you know, we assess what the scope of the project is. Once we have a better understanding of what we’re looking at, then we’re often suggesting to the client that they loop in their marketing team or their partner marketing firm, because there’s nothing more valuable than having all the appropriate parties at the table when ideas are flowing or concepts are being shared. We want to make sure we’re not missing anything that they’re trying to address, and who knows that better than their marketing team or their marketing firm? And then in the end, I think we just witnessed a stronger outcome, when all of the appropriate parties are at the table.

Melinda: We see the exact same thing. I think it’s really fascinating. When we have clients that what I will say is really embrace and then champion their brand and protect their brand, right.

So what you’re saying is, you know, and I always say to clients that we might be working with, and, you know, here’s a five year plan, right? Year one, try and do this. Year two, try and add to that. Most companies can’t afford to make a wholesale change anywhere, but I think what I find interesting, is that we love to work with our partners, like you at Tallgrass, to say, “Listen, here’s what we do.” And we might set the brand and help them set the brand or refresh it, but then we want to make sure that we bring in people like you who are the experts in — how do we bring that into a workplace, right, or how do we bring that into any environment? 

And so we really appreciate that, because like you said, most of our clients are open to the idea. They just don’t know how to get started. You know, and having a strategy behind it and understanding it is really great. Do you, in terms of vendors, like how do you, you know, when you’re talking with a client, like let’s say you’re talking to me at Meld, and I’m like, “I’m thinking about, you know, starting my own branded environment.” How do you assess sort of what my style is, or what the company’s culture is, or any of that?

Jenny: We do a lot of research prior to that first initial appointment. We look at their website. We might ask, within our own company, because we have different divisions at Tallgrass, “Hey, have we done any business with them in the past? What is your knowledge of them? Or does anybody have anybody that is friends, or what have you, acquaintances?” We really try to channel who our client is. We don’t view ourselves as being a dictatorship and telling people what they should do, or what they should have. And then helping them view their brand as an opportunity to be creative. Everybody has such a unique story to tell, and this is the era. Everybody wants to tell that story, so let’s help them creatively think of different avenues that we can do that. You might have some examples to share. 

Felicia: Well, I know that we really tried to delve in a little bit deeper with them and ask some pointed questions to kind of help uncover things a little bit deeper, instead of just trying to be like, “Who are you?” Like, how does anybody know how to answer that question anymore? We try and kind of ask a little bit more simple questions just to try and uncover those things together. And so we can kind of understand who they are a little bit better, and kind of pull those characteristics out through their environment. 

Jenny: And in addition to that, they might, you know be experiencing some internal shift in, like you say, a company that’s rebranding themselves. Well, maybe they’re trying to take advantage of rebranding, or themselves internally, and heightening their culture, or what have you. So we really try to strive on understanding what outcomes, or what problems you’re solving for. So, you know, the solutions we’re presenting meet those needs. 

Melinda: I love that thought, because, you know, we’ve had clients who have an opportunity to go into a new building, and then it’s an open palette, right, and then that’s just great. That’s wonderful, depending on if they have enough budget to cover that. We also have clients who have multiple locations where they may feel like, “Oh, I’m moving into a new market. I have an opportunity to rebrand that space first, sort of see how it functions, right, and then kind of take the step backwards for the other locations.” 

Because we’ve seen people doing that, also, which is a nice way of talking a client through. It’s exactly like when we say, “Listen, we want to come out with a new brand. The major focus will be your social media, or your website at first, and then there’ll be other things that we need to do, but let’s start here and get you on the right path.” So is there anything else that you have noticed, any kind of trends, because as you said, branded environment is sort of newly emerging at times. Is there anything else with trends with that, that you see every day or if there are any other questions that people have when they come in?

Jenny: I think to your point — and suggesting that you create a path for them — we really try to stress, you know, or accomplish making the biggest impact for phase one, so they can witness and experience it immediately. But then we can add in or insert the add-ons along the way, keeping in mind or being thoughtful to the amount of downtime that might be required for each, or what have you. I don’t know what your thoughts are…

Felicia: Well, I think even when they go through this process, thinking of it as a whole, just making sure that they have the whole goal in mind and the end, instead of trying to do little bits at a time. So that way, you have a very cohesive look and brand, from the very beginning to end, whether you start in year one, or end in year five.

Melinda: Though, that is phenomenal. I oftentimes talk with clients about, there’s a reason to think about marketers or people who do what you do as the architects, right, and an architect builds the entire, you know, the schematic for the whole building. You may not you know where are you going to start, where might the possibilities for development be later, but you don’t want to just build the kitchen, you know, or whatnot. And then be like, “Oh boy, we forgot. We forgot to plan.” Or a landscape architect does the same thing, right? It’s like the master garden starts here and eventually it moves to this direction, and I think that I explained it the same way with our clients, so I think that’s great. 

Jenny: And I think, you know, depending on the level of exposure that our contact person might have, it could be a day-to-day person that has been volunteered, or tasked, with leading the charge on their interiors project, and they don’t have any past experiences or exposure to what is such and such called and what does that mean. So we really value that one-on-one time that we get with our clients building that relationship, ushering them through the process, letting them, helping them understand the value in the different elements, but then giving them the opportunity to choose what’s right for you. We’ll continue to throw ideas at you, but at the end of the day, we need you to share with us and be candid. Does that accommodate our outcome, or do we have the budget to establish this?

Felicia: We do get kind of personal with some of them, and a lot of times, you know, uncovering some of their strengths and weaknesses, and kind of trying to address those and make them kind of part of the space, or de-emphasize some.

Melinda:
I think it’s great. I think it’s a lot about form and function, right? And so we always know in an organization that we need to meet both of those needs. There are just some things that — sound needs to be thought about, or spaces, or private spaces, or open spaces — but then you want to add that, that extra flair. 

Jenny: It’s all about the bling.

Melinda: It’s all about the bling in the end. So I want to say thanks to both of you for joining us today. If you’d like to learn more about what Jenny and Felicia do, you can go to tallgrassbiz.com. And if you want to learn more about what Meld Marketing does, you can go to meldmarketing.com, and we encourage everybody to sign up for our Meld Intel, which is about — once a month, we send out an e-newsletter that talks about marketing research, some insights and topics like branded environments that maybe you or your company hasn’t even thought about. If you’re a new business or an existing business that’s interested in talking about your brand, please reach out to us, we’d love to start a conversation. Thanks again for watching our video blog series. Have a great day.

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