Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kahler Slater Asks, "What's Your Story?"

I recently had the opportunity to hear an architecture and interior design firm - Kahler Slater - speak at an American Marketing Association luncheon in Milwaukee.

If you're an avid fan of this blog, you have probably become accustomed to reading an analysis of CPG advertising - on TV, in magazines, on the internet, on billboards, in stores. So, you may wonder why I've chosen to discuss an architecture firm. Well, the truth is, that Kahler Slater's operating philosophy fascinated me.

For starters, they approach each new design project with a few rather unusual questions for their clients:

- Does your environment help you achieve your business goals?
- Is your workspace a reflection of your company culture?
- Does your company's workspace inspire your employees?

To answer these important questions, Kahler spends a great deal of time getting to know the company and its employees ... before they ever put pencil to paper. 

They do a deep-dive into the company's employees and what motivates or inspires them.  They intricately understand the mission of the company and its reasons for being. They brainstorm with employees and learn what their hot buttons are. All their efforts lead to the answer to one critical question:

What is your story?

Only then do they begin to design the work environment ... a work environment that encapsulates the entire corporate experience ... from the statement the entryway makes upon entering the building to the personality that is portrayed by the visual images surrounding the office. The workspace becomes a complete manifestation of the corporate brand and culture.

So much has been written as of late about the art of brand storytelling but I must admit that I have never seen a B-to-B brand use this strategy so effectively. It is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity.

Kahler Slater has demonstrated their willingness to share this epiphany with others through the presentations they make, the book they have written ("Better Make It Real") and the white paper they have researched and written on the topic of how culture and work environment can contribute to being selected as one of Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For by the Great Place to Work Institute.

So, I ask you, what's your company's story?


  1. We're flattered by your praise of our process, Sue. I'm an Experience Designer at Kahler Slater and I like to thing of a home. A family wants to live in a house that reflects what they are all about (game room! formal living room!). Shouldn't a company consider the same things?

    PS- I met you through Toby Simpkins five years ago when I was job hunting. Lucky me to land at Kahler Slater.

  2. Marlissa, you are working at a great company with a great operating philosophy. I would love to see what your offices look like - they must be magnificent!


Sue Northey - Find me on Bloggers.com