Apple is first to trademark its retail space... Who will be next?

By Sophie Strang

Apple store

A differentiated physical presence could add a competitive depth to any brand.

Apple has recently won the right to trademark the layout of its shops.

German courts had initially rejected Apple’s application for a trademark, but referred the issue to the European courts for guidance after the technology group appealed. The ruling clears the way for Apple to be granted a trademark for its stores in Germany, as well as in the UK, where the company has also applied. Apple also successfully secured a trademark for its American stores last year.

This court ruling paves the way for more brands to create characteristic branded spaces, allowing them to express their core values on the high street.

In the multi-channel world in which we live, this is becoming increasingly important. Since it is no longer possible to dominate media channels, brands must strive to build consumer advocacy by crafting unique, relevant and engaging product experiences that consumers will want to talk about.

Even service brands with little existing tangible value should be considering what a branded physical presence would mean for them and their users. How can consumers experience their brand and its values with all their senses? And we don't mean an advertising campaign, we mean real purpose and consumer value in store. How could consumers be entertained, educated or inspired, how could the service be enhanced tangibly? 

Ask anyone on the street to describe an Apple shop, and the chances are they probably can. But it is not just the glass walls, the long benches or the lofty ceilings that make Apple’s stores so iconic. What really makes them stand out from the rest of the high street is the fact that they serve a broad purpose beyond selling. In fact, the selling bit is secondary- the main purpose of an Apple’s shop is to act as a showroom for their products, a place where consumers can go and play with their newest gadgets. And, further to that, the shops are an important resource for existing Apple customers- the Genius bar offers lessons, guidance and troubleshooting for those in need.

Another great example is Nestlé’s Nespresso. Their coffee boutiques – a brand extension to their in-home coffee machines - make customers feel like members of an exclusive club. A destination where they’re indulged, where they can taste and experiment with coffee ranges and receive expert attention and advice, as well as making product purchases. This successful boutique model created a presence on the high street that combined service and product in a retail-like space and grew from 1 to 320 worldwide locations in only 3 years.

In ten years time perhaps we’ll look back at Apple’s trademark success and label it as the catalyst for revival of the high street. There’s no doubt that a differentiated physical presence could add a competitive depth to any brand- I wonder who will be next? My bet’s on Samsung…

To read more about ECHO's predictions for the future of design, why not pick up a free copy of our insight journal, Absolem? Click here to request your copy.

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