Target & The Branded Environment: using space to create a discovery experience

May 18, 2012, 1:59 pm

Last weekend I went to Target to do a little Mother’s Day shopping and I walked into a branded environment. I’ve written about this before for television and social media, but this example was implemented in a physical space.


Let me backup and say that renovation is in the air at Virginia Tech and I’ve been studying/observing a variety of retail experiences—from service transactions to the display of merchandise to wayfinding to in-store traffic patterns. I’ll share more in a future post, but I think that there is a lot that libraries can learn from commercial enterprise in terms of moving people through space and grabbing their interest along the way.


So Target— they recently launched The Shops. In a nutshell, they selected a handful of regional retail stores and packaged their goods (or you could say they curated their collections) and brought them into the Target platform. So now when you walk through the space you have mini-shops within the big box that is Target.


The thing that struck me was how this created some personality and intrigue. I’m not a big shopping person, but I was interested in visiting all the little “shops” as I walked through the store. They added character and built a sense of atmosphere.

Instead of just the Women’s Section, there is The Webster—sexy hip fashions from Miami. Instead of just Home Goods there is Privet House—charming and stylish décor from Connecticut. And there are several other shops from places like Boston and Colorado.


Target could have just incorporated products from these brands and placed them on the shelves and racks inside their stores—but instead, they are drawing attention to them by shaping a discovery experience. They made it fun to browse by highlighting these particular brands and creating a mystique around them. They are also attempting to bring some attention and “coolness” to the Target name. Kind of like when a big rock band brings a young up-and-coming group along on tour to open for them.


So Libraries—we have a lot of boring names for our spaces—like The Commons, The Media Lab, The Group Study Rooms, The Quiet Reading Room. I’m intrigued with the possibility of a more branded landscape within the building—within the learning environment. I think we all see the value of zoning our spaces, but how we name them, how we define them, how we create intention, how we present them — this all factors into the overall experience.


I’m referring to our zones at Virginia Tech with behavioral descriptors, such as neighborhoods, villages and zen gardens—which is more for the architectural expression then for patrons – but perhaps there is a playful way to present library spaces that can add character and personality? How do you brand a group collaboration zone or a knowledge production area? Perhaps this branding approach could be used to present services or collections in new ways as well? Lots of ideas simmering– but go visit Target.


To be continued… eventually…

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