The coolest bathroom in Massachusetts

Easily the coolest men’s room in western Massachusetts, if not all of New England, is the subterranean one at MassMoCA. It’s cool, clean, and chic. Even the stairway down, and the hallway to the restrooms are retro-mill cool. The ceilings are low, but the restroom is quite spacious, always a plus.

The only small drawback in what is otherwise a stellar men’s room is that the four urinals are positioned rather unnecessarily closely to each other. Thank goodness there are partitioning walls between them. And, as all good men’s rooms should, one of the urinals is at a lower height for boys. These cell-phone camera photos don’t do the men’s room justice. It looks far better in person.

So what does any of this have to do with branding? I’m glad you asked, because I’ve already been called out on this point. Well, there are at least four core branding principles at play here. Before I reveal my four, what do you think are the branding principles involved?


11 Responses to “The coolest bathroom in Massachusetts”

  1. rshevlin Says:

    I have no idea what four branding principles are involved. I’m still trying to get over the notion that you were in a men’s room taking pictures with your cell phone. Morriss, you’re scaring me. 🙂

  2. Morriss Partee Says:

    Fortunately, I was there on a weekday. So there weren’t too many people looking at me with raised eyebrows… 😉 And since you’ve asked, I will post the four branding principles involved soon.

  3. Melanie Says:

    Ok, I am going to try my hand at this. I have been out of school for a little over 2 years, so it’s time for a homework assignment. From their website, I can tell that MASS MoCA is all about being new, different, and connecting with artist of a younger less conventional/conservative style. Their mission statement says, “MASS MoCA is an open platform—a welcoming place that encourages dynamic interchange between making and presenting art, between the visual and performing arts, and between our extraordinary historic factory campus and the patrons, workers and tenants who again inhabit it.”. It makes since that they would extend this philosophy in all areas of the building, including the restrooms and even the stairwell.
    Branding principle 1. A brand is a total image. A brand must not simply be a slogan, logo, or specific colors. A brand has to be lived and breathed by the organization. Every employee, every wall, every product and service is an opportunity to express a brand.
    Branding principle 2. A brand needs to be creative and powerful. This restroom moved you to the point of photographing what is commonly not photographed. Ignoring societal norms, you pulled out your camera phone in a restroom. I see your action as something they envisioned when writing their mission statement: “…a welcoming place that encourages dynamic interchange between making and presenting art”. Now I am curious about the women’s restroom…you should have taken pictures in there.
    Branding principle 3. Leave your brand open for interpretation. Like the art displayed in the museum, patrons are free to form their own opinion. When you walk into the restroom you have the same freedom. It isn’t as simple as being clean or unclean. Is it unfinished, did they run out of money, was it intentional? You also mention how spacious the area was. How does that relate to their galleries?
    Branding principle 4. Your brand is should be unique, don’t imitate! I would imagine the restrooms in the Smithsonian look nothing like these restrooms.

  4. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hi Melanie!

    Thanks for your contributions! I think that all of your branding principles are great! And I hadn’t even thought of your number 3, and that is an excellent one! And to elaborate on that point, this is one of those times where pictures aren’t doing it justice (especially the cell phone cam.) It’s actually perfectly clean, (and finished) it’s just that the brick and paint have character that only time can give. The spaciousness aspect is a result of the renovated mill that the entire complex is in… there’s lots of space in the complex in general. It just takes work to get the space usable again after it’s factory/manufacturing origins. I will submit my own branding principles in the next comment since this one is getting long already…

  5. Morriss Partee Says:

    Here are my four branding principles at play in thinking about why the MassMoca bathrooms are totally on-brand. For the most part, these are very similar to Melanie’s excellent points, just variations on the theme:
    1.) Pay attention to details. It’s often the little things that make a big difference.
    2.) Own who you are. Don’t try to pretend to be something you are not. Don’t be embarrassed or try to hide things that make you unique. Be proud of who you are, and turn your uniqueness into an asset. In other words, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
    3.) Differentiation. There is no other restroom in the world quite like this one. Score one for the unique and memorable factor. And it’s so cool that it’s appearing in this blog. It’s actually the subject of photo art, which hangs outside the bathrooms themselves. Now THAT’S remarkable and noteworthy….. bathrooms SO cool that you put photos of them right OUTSIDE the bathroom, so that each gender can view what the other is missing out on……
    4.) Give your customers a great experience. Since everyone uses the bathroom, it’s a very important part of your brand. So pay attention to the things that matter to your customers…. like your bathrooms.

  6. steve Says:

    I saw that picture and for a moment I thought I was back in the local pub behind my old rented house, from back when I was at college ! lol

  7. billy Says:

    the coolest bathrooms in massachusetts are the bathrooms at smith college museum of art. they are like installations. so on your way to mass moca check them out in northampton, ma

  8. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hi Billy, I have not had the pleasure of visiting Smith College’s Museum of Art yet, so not their bathrooms either. I can imagine that they are excellent based on the quality evident from the exterior of the building. I look forward to visiting there and checking out the restrooms as well. I must give a hat tip to Tom Peters for making me realize that good bathrooms are an important part of a good brand. And certainly one of the most underrated aspects.

    And for those skeptical readers who do not understand this preoccupation with bathrooms and brands, please know that this entry is consistently the second-most read on this three-year-old blog. What is number one, you may ask? Well that’s easy. It’s the one about Opening Accounts for the Amish. Go figure.

  9. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hi Billy, I have had additional confirmation that indeed, the Smith College Museum of Art’s bathrooms are excellent, and likely the best in Massachusetts. Each has been created by artists, and are works of art in their own right.

  10. Eden Says:

    At 1st I thought it was a kitchen, but I was wrong.
    Glad to see a newly unique bathroom form time to time.
    Good luck.

  11. Barbara Partee Says:

    To Melanie — I’ve been in the women’s room at Mass MOCA (Morriss made sure I didn’t miss it when we went there together with his son a couple of years ago), and it’s just as nice! Basically the same, minus the urinals.
    In general — I agree with Morriss that bathrooms are important and too often overlooked. I don’t think he got this from me, though – I don’t remember ever talking about it. Maybe it’s just in the family genes. I have taken pictures of bathrooms I really like, most recently a couple of weeks ago at a mountain hut/lodge in northern Norway, where it was a really simple composting outdoor bathroom but done in great bold colors. What I don’t like are bathrooms that look like nobody cares and and nobody takes care of them; the first is mainly up to the owners, the second mainly up to the employees. I think if you start with a great bathroom you can be proud of, both employees and clients will be more inclined to keep it nice. And something similar is probably true for most aspects of what goes into a good brand.

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