HOBBY HORSE: Building blocks of a distinctive brand approach

’It’s not architecture, it’s advertising,’ sniffed the Architect’s Journal when Sainsbury built its Homebase store on Warwick Road in West London ten years ago. Such hubris demonstrated a failure to understand advertising and architecture.

’It’s not architecture, it’s advertising,’ sniffed the Architect’s

Journal when Sainsbury built its Homebase store on Warwick Road in West

London ten years ago. Such hubris demonstrated a failure to understand

advertising and architecture.



Buildings have a functional role in confining space just as advertising

provides information to consumers. Buildings, too, can be rich sources

of humour, symbolism and metaphor.



Our inability to notice buildings, to be able to talk about them, to

describe our emotional responses to what are, after all, part of the

warp and weft of our lives is extraordinary. The canny, knowledgeable,

discerning consumer has hit the brick wall when it comes to brick walls.

We can’t tell our squinches from our spandrels or even our Eisenman from

our Venturi.



The lack of corporate daring has forced us to suffer too many bland,

undemanding steel frameworks draped in mean concrete. I don’t blame the

architects but would ask whether the marketers have attempted to exploit

every medium available to them.



Acres of newsprint, like some self-penned obituary, have been devoted to

the coming of the new media but the sheer drudgery of getting to it

leaves me unconvinced that it will ever match the media that earns its

living by demanding my attention. There’s no booting up for looking at

buildings, there’s no tedious segmentation of audiences within

architecture.



The excitement and imagination applied to much commercial communication

has been lacking in the boldest, most permanent expression of corporate

brand values. Nobody can say of a building that it’ll be tomorrow’s fish

and chip wrapper. The consideration of a building as a medium with a

message might encourage a return to the forward-thinking and

long-termism which is slipping away from the management of brands.



The decision by the RAC to build dramatic, highly visible demonstrations

of a modern, 24-hour operation at major motorway intersections has done

more for my perception of that organisation than any of their current

advertising. The Disney Corporation must also rank as one of the world’s

most remarkable patrons of an architecture. The blur between reality and

fantasy, the distortion of the history it claims to represent and, most

importantly, the control of its environment leave one in no doubt that

Disney understands ’integrated communication’.



Apply this test: go outside your office building, take a hard look at it

and decide whether or not it contributes to your colleagues’ perception

of the company. What does it say about your corporate brand?



If we think we’re building brands we need to consider branding

buildings.



Can you imagine how pioneering the first electric staircase for public

use was when it opened in the Harrods building in 1905? Better than the

first interactive informercial, I’ll bet.