You can tell a lot about a company from the reception area at the office. And one of the best I've seen in a while is at Unilever's UK offices in Leatherhead, where I was last week doing a session on growing the core.
First of all, there was a nice café selling Unilever food, such as sandwiches made with Hellman's mayo and Flora spread, Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Lipton tea. I was also intrigued by a Knorr kitchen, which had glass windows, a bit like the open kitchens in contemporary restaurants. It looked like people were cooking up and tasting food made with new Knorr products.
1. Brand equity starts inside
I believe that if a company's employees don't like and use the brands it makes, it will be hard to enthuse customers and consumers about these brands. Building strong brands starts inside the company, and your reception is a chance to remind every person in the company about your brands on a daily basis. And if each person working in the office goes home and tells 10 people about the latest bit of brand news, that's a lot of free PR.
Think of all those people coming to reception for interviews: 100's if not 1000's of people each year. Lots of companies talk about their great brands, and just have a dusty old display cabinet with some sun-faded packaging. Much better to bring the brands to life and have people actually using them in front of your eyes.
The same point on communication goes for customers. On the day I was at Unilever Waitrose supermarkets were visiting. I guess they got a much more positive impression of the company and its brands from seeing them presented in a positive way than they would from a normal, sterile reception area.
So, nice one Uniliver for caring enough about its brands to invest in bringing them to life inside their company.