Here there and nowhere: exploring ‘non spaces’

People build relationships with the environments created around the consumer exchange.

Have I been here before?
No, I’m certain I’ve been here before.

It’s likely that you’ve just experienced a ‘non space,’ and they’re everywhere.

What is a ‘non space’?

The term ‘non space’ was first coined by Marc Augé in Non-Lieux, Introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité (published in English in 1995), where he explored the ideas of space, place, modernity and globalisation. Although this subject matter feels overly concept- driven, the basic principles are prevalent in every day life.

Let’s take Starbucks as an example to help explore ‘non spaces’ and their impact on the consumer experience.

Starbucks doesn’t begin and end with the coffee itself. It’s far more than that. It’s the logo, the typography, the staff uniforms. Most importantly, it’s the physical coffee shops themselves. The space has been meticulously curated, from the colour of the walls, the type of flooring, style of lighting, to the fabric of the chairs. These decisions are no fluke, they’re based upon archives of consumer data, all coming together for one desired outcome: to control how people feel in the space.

It’s important to remember that people build relationships with the environments created around the consumer exchange, as well as the products themselves. Starbucks regulars are not only paying for their favourite-tasting coffee, they’re paying for the holistic experience.

The repetition of the experience and consistency of sensory exchange creates an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand. As long as Starbucks can replicate the environment across all of their stores, the consumer will walk further, pay more and remain loyal. Starbucks isn’t just a coffee, it’s emotional security. Nervous before a meeting, where is the nearest Starbucks? In a new city, where is the nearest Starbucks? The Starbucks ‘non space’ provides a sanctuary for people all over the world – home to everyone, unique to nowhere.

So the next time you find yourself in an unknown town, city or country, see if you’re drawn to a multinational ‘non space’ or want to explore the authentic. How do unknown environments make you feel? Do ‘non spaces’ provide an environmental security blanket to consumers in a globalised world?

How can you make the most of your space?

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