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The Branded Environment of Apple Stores

Abstract The branded environment of Apple has made Apple a major leader in the selling of high priced, high quality technology. The engineers and designers associated with Apple have created a recognizable icon which is repeated differently throughout the many Apple stores. This recognizable icon is the glass staircases which show the innovation and forward moving design ideas of the Apple Company. The Apple stores have a futuristic environment which tends to the customers every need. In designing the Extreme Limits store, I looked toward the branding techniques of Apple.

I repeated the Apple idea of creating a unique interactive experience, not just an artifact to look at. The Apple Store has achieved great success through their techniques to creating an effective branded environment. Keywords: branding, futuristic, unique, recognizeable Branded environments are brands (or stores) that have a recognizable characteristic which is unique, quickly identifiable, and extended throughout the store environment. Components of a branded environment can include the exterior facade of the store, the interior facade of the store, materials used throughout the store, symbols or names used for marketing purposes.

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The benefits of branding an environment can be seen in the success of the Apple Company’s stores. Apple is an internationally known company with stores worldwide that sell Macintosh personal computers, software, iPods, iPads, iPhones, third-party accessories, and other consumer electronics such as the Apple TV1. The first Apple Stores were opened in 2001 the United States with Steve Jobs as the co-founder and chief executive office. Apple has now expanded Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Australia, China, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain and China.

Apple has achieved excellence in creating a recognizable logo and store experience which brands their environment. A major icon which gives branding to the Apple stores is the glass staircase. Upon entering the Apple store one will undoubtedly take notice of the unique glass staircase. In many multilevel stores the upper level is hesitantly approached by customers, however, the sparkling Apple staircase draws the customers to further explore the stores upper levels. The Apple staircase has had a design patent and a separate technical patent since 20021.

The staircases were designed by structural engineer James O’Callaghan and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson2. Each element involved in designing the staircases was carefully dissected from the size of the stairs to the final glazing. In addition to the design of the iconic staircases, a bridge was designed to be as sharp and inviting as the staircases. For both the bridge and the stairs, the weight loads and seismic protection had to be determined accurately to accommodate the original design. A majority of the engineering was focused on the connections between the glass panels, where the most stress occurs3.

For the stairs and the bridge, special hardware and glass was made and comprehensively tested to complete the project. Depp Glass in New York was awarded the job of providing the glass, Tripyramid Structures Inc. in Massachusetts was chosen to provide the titanium hardware, and the construction and installation was performed by Seele GmbH & Co. out of Gerthofen, Germany4. The iconic stairs involved a multitude of top engineers, manufacturers, and designers from around the world. Apple has involved the world in fabricating their high quality branded icon and the stairs have become well known as a feature unique to the Apple stores.

Now Apple is internationally known and the icon continues to expand. Originally, the Apple stairs were wall mounted straight runs of glass levels, but the stairs have quickly been reconstructed to make other shapes such as spiral staircases, multi-angled runs of stairs, free standing staircases, or multilevel staircases. The new Apple Stores located in Shinsaibashi and Shibuya (Japan) incorporated a twisting glass staircase which created a stronger attraction of the customers to the stairs. The staircase expresses the advancements in engineering and branding.

The Apple staircases in Isoclima of Padova (Italy) have an innovation integration of chemically tempered glass balustrades6. The staircases are ever-changing and evolving to constantly be up to date with the latest in glass technology. The Apple staircases are much like the Apple products; sleek, well designed, and using the most recent advances in technology. Apple Stores have furthered their branded environment with their internationally recognized logo, the apple, which is throughout the store, on every piece of merchandise, and on the exterior windows.

Over the years the logo has not changed, however the store layout has. In 2006, Apple designers introduced their new store layout with included stainless steel walls and backlit signage5. The custom-designed ceiling, which is composed of tilted panels etched with semi-reflective glass, creates a feeling of being outdoors in the natural light. Each store is set up to follow a plan of the ground floor being merchandice, the upper floor being merchandise and support teams. On the upper level, many stores has a Genius Bar, where customers can receive assistance.

Some stores are offering a separate IPod bar, due to the heavy usage and selling of Apple IPods. Apple continues to move forward in easy of purchase and interaction with customers by allowing the displays to be interactive. The IPad displays can allow the customer to view information about the product and its warranty. Most Apple stores now offer a theater or auditorium for presentations, workshops, a children’s alcove, studio space, studio training, and other free workshops and work space. All assistance is free to the customers of Apple and located conveniently in the Apple stores.

The creative staff of Apple are highly trained, making the environment feel save for their customers to purchases Apple products with a knowledge support group. Although each store is branded to be recognizable as an Apple store, each store is designed to fit the environment and people of the where the store is located. For example, the Apple store in Manhattan is located in the most trafficked area, Fifth Avenue, and has a Glass Cube design unique only to this store. This use of art and the technology of the future is a principal for New York City architecture and design.

Another example is the 2nd largest Apple store, located on the popular Regent Street in London, was designed to have a larger floor plan to accommodate the largest number of customers in London. The large floor plan is situated in a old eclectic building iconic of the United Kingdom. Apple has strived to create a unique experience at every store which will please the people of that area. However, the icon, the glass staircase in its many forms, is prevalent and undeniable in every store. The branding of Apple does not end at the walls of the store.

Many Apple stores have give-aways of Apple shirts, Apple bags, Apple merchandise, Apple money and more. The flagship store in Shanghai has given away 5,000 commemorative Apple shirts and 1,000 free memberships for the first 1,000 customers to the store9. Apple has made store openings part of their branded experience which promotes customer appreciation and encourages customers to return to the Apple Store. The benefits of the branded environment of the Apple stores include improved brand communication, better customer recognition and differentiation from competitors.

Since Apple sells such a variety of technology, there are many competitors. Apple has become known for the branded experience from the sleek store layout, natural lighting, futuristic design elements, helpful employees and a variety of high quality products. Internally, benefits may include higher employee satisfaction as their retention rate is high, increased productivity, and better understanding of an organization’s mission through the workshops offered to employees and customers. The branded environment of the Apple Stores has helped Apple to become a wealthy player in the world market of selling high quality technology.


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