4 New Types of Branded Spaces
It’s not a traditional shop, restaurant, hotel, or bar, so what the hell is it?
The meaning and function of physical spaces for brands has been changing and expanding rapidly as digital innovations and shifting social behaviours usher in new *kinds* of spaces and demands for brands. Instead of directly replacing them, digital demands new criteria from their physical counterparts and social media behaviours even begin to inform the design of a project entirely.
Here’s a few key and emerging types of new branded spaces we’ve been keeping tabs on (you’re welcome!)
1. Physical spaces for virtual worlds:
The metaverse, NFTs and virtual worlds haven’t done away with IRL altogether – in fact, quite the opposite. Many virtual technologies particularly in a retail context, need a super specific kind of physical environment to support the digital counterpart of the project. Introducing digital-first elements into retail loses value and opportunity if you had to do it all on your own in your bedroom. Otherworld VR, an early predecessor to the ever-expanding world of commercial VR, surreal and futuristic interiors are informed by the imagined worlds the venue facilitates. Even VR’s younger brother, AR, needs suitable physical environments to interact with to be engaging. Zero10’s recent NYC soho pop up is a bricks and mortar ‘shop’, a retail space to buy and try on digital fashion in a physical store (which has basically nothing in it) but has been designed to amplify and facilitate the unique retail process. If you think this sounds niche, Selfridges in-store NFT project ‘universe’ is doing the same, as well as mainstream fashion retailers adopting digital try on technology in store.
“Many virtual technologies particularly in a retail context, need a super specific kind of physical environment to support their digital counterpart”
2. Content Houses:
We’ve all seen a neon-writing flower-walled Instagram ‘moment’ in our local cocktail bar or brand activation but concepting and designing an entire complex exclusively to power a multi-channel social media content machine is a different thing all together. ‘Hugo-House’, which debuted at this year’s Coachella, came as a rebrand initiative from the brand shifting to be a Gen-z focused retailer. The purpose of the project was to create a stage for influencers to create branded content over their stay at Hugo-House, producing a series of ‘big brother’ style video shorts set in the house over the week. The house featured product display in an unusual way, featuring the latest BOSS apparel and accessories in a ‘styling room’ within the house, free merchandise, and VIP Coachella benefits as well as BOSS branded spaces at every turn, to ensure every shot captured was distinctive to brand.
“Concepting and designing an entire complex exclusively to power a multi-channel social media content machine is a very different thing to an Instagram ‘moment'”
3. Bricks and Mortar for Digital First:
Digital services do not technically *need* physical spaces. They are brands that exist primarily in the digital world, so what would a physical space even look like for them, and why would they need one? Well, lots of reasons – but the oversaturation of online brands and app-based services make digital only brands easily replaceable, and perhaps forgettable. It’s no wonder then that even platforms like Klarna have expanded into the world of physical to bring impact and enrichment to their brand. Klarna’s series of ‘House of Klarna’ pop-ups have been seen from London’s Covent Garden to LA and are an opportunity to demonstrate the brand promise in an actionable, liveable way. Part activation and part retail complex, House of Klarna features in house cameos from brands who have partnered with the service (payment offered in ‘pay-in-4’ at the till, of course) and entertainment elements such as live DJ’s. Physical spaces for digital platforms can also come as a result of brand collaboration and as an example of a shared mission, for example Klarna X Haus laboratories creative makeup studio, designed to be a platform, collaborative space, and creative resource for up-and-coming makeup artists.
“Physical spaces for digital brands are an opportunity to demonstrate the brand promise in an actionable, liveable way.”
4. Rooms on wheels:
If we’ve learnt anything, it’s that averagely functional services no longer cut it for the 2022 consumer. We need ultra-convenience, and ideally, we want to have a great or memorable time doing it too. This elevated set of expectations is increasingly applying to travel – either we want it to be enjoyable, or useful in some way – whatever the case, we don’t want it to be ‘wasted time’. When considering converting transport to a branded journey, what kind of experience would we want that to be? Four-Seasons is no stranger to this concept, extending its luxury hospitality offering into branded yacht and jet transfers for a ‘door-to-door’ four seasons experience. The Urban Collectif, a partnership between Citroen, Accor and JCDecaux coining the phrase ‘hospitality beyond hotel walls’ have prototyped a number of different models for ‘autonomous urban transport’, self-driving vehicles that are essentially a ‘living room on wheels’ with the interiors to match. Although not a mass reality yet, autonomous vehicles and the associated brand opportunities are a near future and a space brands won’t want to miss out on.
“Hospitality beyond hotel walls”