Shaping brand identity with facilities

Let’s say Lisa needs to get her car repaired.  She can choose from dozens of shops that are convenient to where she lives or works.  Countless factors may impact her decision, from friends’ referrals to online reviews to the direct mail coupon for 20 percent off sitting on her breakfast table.

One of those many factors will be the appearance of the shops’ facilities.  Are they clean and brightly lit, with uniformed service technicians working in well-organized service bays?  Or are they dilapidated, with oily floors, paint peeling off of dingy walls, and rows of decrepit old cars that haven’t been touched in years?  Or maybe somewhere in between those two points on the continuum.

The Christian Brothers Automotive chain, with more than 100 locations, is an excellent study of facilities, their appearance and their role in creating a powerful brand identity.  The waiting area feels and looks like a cozy living room complete with clean furniture, beautiful flooring and model home-quality décor.  The exterior is usually brick and stone under a shingled roof with a decidedly residential rather than commercial feel.   Bright, open spaces and plenty of windows loudly proclaim, “We’re proud of the work we do and we’re eager to show it off.”

My son, Casey (whose car is currently being serviced at a Christian Brothers shop), and I were recently talking about how all of this effort to create an inviting atmosphere contributes to the Christian Brothers brand identity.  A litany of adjectives and descriptive phrases (brand attributes) peppered our discussion – efficient, professional, conscientious, transparent, friendly, competent and many more. 

It’s also a safe bet that Christian Brothers knows that at least 65 percent of auto repair shop customers are women and that 90 percent of women feel they are not treated well by most auto repair shops.  Christian Brothers’ combination of clean, airy facilities and friendly, helpful staff is undoubtedly a winning formula for female customers. Lisa would almost certainly appreciate the Christian Brothers experience.

Facilities are just as important to brand identity in many other industries.  Web design companies often like to have facilities that look hip, cool and creative.  Corporate law firms usually like to look solid, uber professional and highly esteemed.  Restaurant chains, of course, are especially skilled at using their physical space to create a mood or theme which is integral to their brand DNA.  Think Macaroni Grill or Pappadeaux, for example. 

Don’t underestimate the impact your physical space has on your brand. Remember:  Everything shapes your brand identity, including your facilities.

- Eric Whittington