Lessons from Apple & Victoria’s Secret

August 2, 2004 by

When you walk into a retail store everything has a purpose. Someone thought about every design element, from the racks, to the lighting, to the location of the cash register. Good interior design will evoke positive feelings for the retailer, facilitate shopping, and encourage buying. While those aren’t exactly the goals of the church, we can learn a lot about interior design from the approach of two upscale retailers, Apple and Victoria’s Secret (Lingerie!? Gasp!).

You can’t compare computers and panties to Jesus and the Bible, but we can get some insights that might influence what the inside of your church looks like.

Interior design usually has a direct correlation to a company’s vision. Wal-Mart stores are usually crowded and piled high with goods, reflecting their emphasis on value. Target, on the other hand, features wide, clear aisles and rarely is merchandise stacked to the rafters, reflecting their focus on the customer experience.

Walking into an Apple retail store is a whole different shopping experience. There’s plenty of space, customers are encouraged to play with the products, and there’s as much attention to every fixture in the store as there is to every aspect of the products. You can learn a lot from Apple’s approach, and Adaptive Path has simplified it for you with “Six Design Lessons From the Apple Store.” (Update: You can also download it as a free PDF)

Key lessons include:

  • Create an experience, not an artifact.
  • Honor context.
  • Prioritize your messages. (what one thing do you want a visitor to walk away with?)
  • Institute consistency.
  • Design for change. (especially important since churches rarely have the budget to redesign like major retailers)
  • Don’t forget the human element.

Victoria’s Secret
The intimate apparel store Victoria’s Secret is another story. You’re probably familiar with the stores swathed in pink. Most outlets feature plenty of pink, on everything from the walls to the shopping bags, as well as soft lighting to accent the products. The stores are usually broken into several rooms, creating a private and intimate experience. The fitting rooms are even off in a corner, separated by a hallway from the main store. All of which seems to work for hawking sexy wear. The over-the-top pink accents the girly image and the privacy works wonders for blushing customers.

But times change. Victoria’s Secret stores are now in the midst of an overhaul, seeking to dump their blushing Victorian image and align their stores with their sleek commercials and flaunting runway models. The new approach has some good ideas (using neutral colors throughout the store so the colorful products pop) that have been successfully implemented in their flagship New York City store, but it’s not yet clear if the refreshed image will work across the country.

A redesigned store in Minnesota’s Mall of America replaced private and intimate with wide open and sterile. Every corner of the store was visible from the front entrance, including the row of fitting rooms along the back wall, which left legs and heads exposed — not exactly the preferred setting for trying on lingerie.

What About the Church?
So what does selling computers and underwear have to do with church marketing? The bottom line is that church marketing has to do with every possible way a church communicates, which includes the interior design elements likes pews, stained glass windows, altars, and choir robes. Of course Apple and Victoria’s Secret have a few more dollars to spend on their interiors, but churches can learn from retailers’ design decisions.

Churches can vary from gothic cathedrals to simple storefronts. The goal isn’t to copy commercial stores and turn the church into a marketplace. Someone had a few choice words about that. But the feeling a particular design evokes can be important. Is your sanctuary inviting and comfortable? Or does your congregation prefer a holy and awe-inspiring worship space? Remember that there’s no single correct answer. The idea is to think about how design choices reflect and advance your church’s goals.

Does your church go with the standard pew (padded or not?) or the more practical folding chair? Or do you toss the standards out the window and go for thrift store couches?

Are the walls of your church blank or adorned with artwork? Either option is valid as long as it fits your goals. What kind of artwork hangs in your church? Store-bought replicas of masterpieces, or original creations made by members of your congregation?

Does your church rely on the practical and efficient fluorescent lighting or do you banish the annoying hum and go for lamps and candles?

Is your building accessible to the disabled, with wide aisles, reserved seating for wheelchairs, and handicapped parking spaces? Attention to these kinds of details shows concern the way Jesus did (it also shows compliance with disability laws).

And that’s just for starters. There’s plenty more design elements that can help your church communicate your message.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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One Response to “Lessons from Apple & Victoria’s Secret”

  • Anthony D. Coppedge
    March 30, 2005

    Strangely, I find that the implementation of AVL (Audio, Video & Lighting) technology is typically an afterthought to a room’s design, specifically in new auditoriums.

    It’s weird because our culture here in the U.S. is so technologically savvy (or at least aware) that these major portions of a building are not given much thought until budget numbers (what’s left) start getting tossed around. On more than a few occasion’s (read: most), the architect has made a very pretty but acoustically and sight-line oriented dismal church.

    The design of technology – which is a major part of our communications format in churches today – takes a back seat to the color of carpet or the decision to use pews, chairs or theater seating.

    And it extends beyond the sanctuaries, because of the use of digital signage, overflow venues and multi-purpose spaces. Strange how the intent of a church design ignores these important elements. But then again, that’s more or less what the article above pointed out… :)

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