Last year I interviewed at a local firm that had a horrible office, or so I thought. It was a recruitment advertising company so I expected a nice lobby with marketing materials to peruse while I waited and great client work on the walls. Instead I was greeted with locked doors, no receptionist and a plain, tiny space. During the interview, I kept thinking that I couldn't believe this company was in this office, when I should have been thinking about the position. The job itself was actually an excellent opportunity, but I had to wonder if I would want to go there every day. The facility was affecting my perception of the company and the firm's recruiting efforts.
But during the interview, my contact converted that negative experience by openly recognizing that the office was horrible. He said it was temporary space being used while the firm completed its new office space on another floor. At the end of our conversation, we went to see that space and I was blown away - there were bright, half-wall cubicles, cool open meeting spaces, stellar video editing studios and other facility brand elements I would expect from that kind of company. It was a complete contrast to where we had just been. After I left, I was relieved that I had seen the new office because I felt I could focus on the opportunity without worrying about the place.
Not that Google needs another boost to its employer brand - it's already the most desirable place to work in the country - but Fortune magazine has also named it the 2007 best company to work for. What I always find interesting is how many of the employment positives regarding Google are about the Googleplex itself, the facility brand. These showcases talk about the Google cafeterias, snack rooms, pools, gym, beach volleyball court, laundry room and other amenities. Not too much is said about the work itself, although you do always hear about the 20 percent rule, which allows engineers to spend that portion of their time on new ideas and personal projects, and has delivered Google products such as Gmail.
But when you compare Google's profile in Fortune to the others, you hear more about great salaries, company loyalty, flexible work hours, family-friendly benefits, career mentors, diversity and other workplace elements than the physical workplace itself. It goes to show how a company's facility brand can impact its employer brand, and help make it a great place to work.
BusinessWeek and the Architectural Record included Apple's Fifth Avenue, New York City store in their combined 2006 Architecture Awards. The simple, elegant design of Apple's outdoor cube and 24/7 open hours make the store a great representation of the Apple brand. In New York City, both the Fifth Avenue and Soho Apple retail locations are as much tourist attractions as computer stores - a great way to introduce potential switchers and sliders to Apple products.
A "preeminent example of the power of architecture on business, and how the public understands and experiences a brand."
I was impressed that the Apple store was the one consumer-facing location to receive the award - the others were company headquarters, where the "users" are employees. While facility branding is important with both customers and employees, it's great that Apple can deliver a mix of elegance and functionality that works for such busy retail outlets.