Brand Engagement: Brand at Work
Greg Nelson in Brand Design, Brand Engagement Survey

Mars Food Headquarters, Rancho Dominguez, California. Image © Gensler.

When you ask someone what their favorite brand is, they often respond with an answer that represents a product they’ve bought or a business they’ve patronized. Amazon, Starbucks, and Lowe’s are a few of my personal favorite retail brands that many participants also identified as their favorites in our 2013 Gensler Brand Engagement Survey.

Interestingly, what people often overlook as a brand is the place where they spend 8+ hours a day: their own workplace. But the reality is that the organizations people choose to work for are also brands who have promises to fulfill and relationships to cultivate in order to thrive.

What this may signal is that employers aren’t giving the same attention to the relationship of their organization’s brand with their employees as do consumer-oriented brands with their customers.

Sustainable materials and inspirational graphics were designed to communicate wellness and sustainability and to help employees and visitors at the Mars Food headquarters “feel” the company’s purpose. Image © Gensler.

Consumers are the same people who go to work every day, and our engagement survey tells us that they are looking for relationships with companies who possess the same values they do, like capability, responsibility and honesty. Dan Pink wrote in his book Drive! that people are also looking for a clear purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. Many companies have realized this is a powerful business concept, and mission statements are giving way to the idea of purpose-driven organizations.

Brands have the potential to drive more meaningful brand engagement with their employees—often their best brand ambassadors—on a daily basis if they authentically put their values in action in their workplaces. This means everything an employee experiences must be in “brand sync,” from the company’s benefits to the rituals (like all-hands meetings) to the design of the workspace. Everything an employee encounters should manifest the values and clearly point to the larger purpose.

What this means for the people of a company is that their individual purpose is also clear. Every decision they make in their job on a daily basis can be filtered against the company purpose. They can decide whether or not they are in agreement and want to work for this purpose. The purpose can also be a powerful recruiting tool when looking for new talent whose values and beliefs are already aligned with the organization’s brand.

Mars Food is a great example of a company that lives its brand inside its workplace in order to connect employees with a larger purpose and spark engagement. Gensler partnered with Mars to bring their sustainable health and nutrition food mission to life in their Rancho Dominguez, Calif., headquarters by designing functional spaces that are infused with inspirational cues. The company’s values are lived and breathed in words and actions, clearly and consistently, and are instantly understood. By incorporating health and wellness into the workplace, Mars Food is not only reminding employees of the corporate goal of connecting global consumers with healthy food options, but is also sending a message to associates that their wellness matters, too—giving employees something they can be proud to work toward, and a place they can enjoy working in.

A wellness journal was given to every Mars Food associate to record progress on their personal wellness initiatives. The completed pages were then rolled up and placed in a board in the workspace where the entire team could see wellness progress together. Images © Gensler.

Greg is a Design Director in Gensler’s Los Angeles office where he also serves as the Brand Design practice area leader for the Southwest Region. He is passionate about using strategic design to translate intangible ideas and stories into tangible brand experiences that people can see, touch, feel and be inspired by. Greg’s work includes creating brand strategies, branded environments, corporate identities and signage and wayfinding programs across all market sectors. Contact him at
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