Arnd Feuerbaum

Arnd Feuerbaum

Managing Partner, Saint Elmo's Brandspace

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Feeling compelled to tailor future working environments to the needs of employees so they will enjoy coming into the office, the real estate sector is undergoing a fundamental shift. This is especially the case in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the strong shift towards mobile offices. Why and how exactly is this being achieved with the Bold Brand Building approach? And what part can agencies play?

Hot on the heels of ‘customer centricity’, ‘human centricity’ is the new buzzword of choice. And in keeping with a zeitgeist that is geared towards good karma, the extended target group includes, of course, employees too. This reasoning is likely to elicit nothing more than a weary smile from HR managers who have actively been engaged in employer branding for years. Long before human centricity came to the fore, New Work held sway and was already focusing on the workforce. However, one thing that has changed is the sheer intensity of the empathy postulated by companies. Long gone are the attempts to socialise employees into being part of a system that prioritises the corporate goal above everything else. There is little doubt that many employees already wanted things to slow down very early on. However, the social pressure to make this happen has been stepped up massively in recent years. The concept of piecework may already appear to younger generations ike a relic of an ancient capitalist system, or at least diametrically opposed to human-driven – and essentially absurd. This illustrates the paradigm shift to an increasingly deep awareness of the need for a suitable corporate culture.

So what can an agency do for companies here? What part can agencies play in helping to meet the requirements that are moving further and further up the hierarchy of needs – i.e. towards social needs, individual needs and self-actualisation? Newly founded agency Saint Elmo’s Brandspace has dedicated itself to solving this question for the real estate sector – a sector that is predestined for creating a corporate culture, particularly when it comes to commercial properties. With their specific expertise, architects, planners and real estate companies have, in a New Work context, already successfully developed state-of-the-art usage concepts for boosting the morale of their workforce – and have done so with boundless enthusiasm. However, most of the people-oriented elements focus mainly on their functional needs: better light, better climate, quiet places to retreat to and relax, booths for confidential communication, flexible spaces for creative team interactionand smart ways to switch between the office and working from home. These are all real improvements geared towards functional requirements.

But if the focus is on needs higher up in the pyramid, this means that people are also being given space to develop personally. Not for personal wellbeing but still very much within a work context. Or, to couch it in more modern terms: with a view to stimulating a better team performance. When it comes to creative ways for motivating individuals, the real estate sector can achieve so much more in combination with an agency specialising in brand management.

The coronavirus pandemic made it clear just how important it is for physical areas within companies to create experiences that in turn create a sense of identity. Identity serves the needs at the top of the pyramid – in other words, well beyond the purely functional. And identity creates identification and, in turn, a shared culture.

Agencies have always been involved in marketing properties. Usually with the standard programme: naming, corporate design, key visuals, brochure and website. This may have been efficient in a seller’s market and in an environment with a rather limited focus on people. In such cases, marketing is a great way to package it: the large swing in the foyer of management consultancies or the built-in ball pit in the lounge of an especially creative start-up as a real-life symbol of corporate culture – which may even have been adequate in specific cases but definitely caused a sensation for a short time.

However, to gear things resolutely towards the kind of human centricity that future employees will be expecting, you need more than marketing – you need the ultimate discipline in the field of communication: brand management. In practice, this means getting the agency involved early on in the development of a narrative so it is already in place once the usage concept begins. The property can then be geared largely towards that narrative. It helps that agencies, more than any other sector, are practised in identifying the insights of target groups – and have always been human-centric in their orientation here.

If the requirements for the offices of the future are derived from real insights and lead to usage concepts that are resolutely designed to be human-centric, agencies will have no problem coming up with communication ideas for marketing them at a later stage. Complete with a corporate design that reflects the exact narrative while remaining wholly authentic and communicating messages that correspond to what the product has to offer. And if the product in question is an exposed building that upgrades its surroundings, proper brand management is needed. This is sustainable – not just for the initial marketing work but something with real substance. After all, sustainability is the megatrend of the moment. Which all sounds pretty future-proof, don’t you think?

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