Your Corporate Brand Matters More than all your Others.
In real estate, we are so used to thinking about brands in terms of property developments that can be sold, leased, or rented – be it multifamily, office, retail, or a mix of those. We think about those brands in terms of their target markets, locations, amenities, finishes, and size – a balance of elements creating a branded whole.
But before any of those property brands happen for you as a property developer or manager, there’s another brand that needs to deeply resonate first and foremost with your investors, lenders, partners, architects, construction companies, brokers, public, legislators, city councils, and all the other entities that make your world run. One they have to buy into before you can move an inch towards your own success. And that is your own brand. What you stand for as a company.
Your brand is ultimately the power of your reputation. And this is a big deal. The more powerful your reputation, the easier, faster, and more cost-effective it is for you to convince all the key stakeholders to buy into who you are and what you’re proposing. Your brand is the wedge that opens up hearts, minds, checkbooks, and support for you and not your competition.
Why invest in your brand?
A corporate brand done right has the power to pre-sell you before you’ve even walked into the room. It is what people say about you when you’re not there. It is what people buy into after you’ve left. And what others say about you tends to matter far more than what you say about yourself. It is more than just the facts of who you are or the deal you’re bringing to the table – it is the rational and emotional association, meaning, and value they attach to you. It’s the difference between their intuitive trust and emotional investment in you. Or not. Having a strong developer or manager brand allows your audiences to mitigate risk from you being an unknown to you being a known quantity to them that they viscerally trust, like, and feel loyalty towards.
Nurturing a strong corporate brand is creating a stronger reputation, a stronger guarantee of future income, stronger certainty, and stronger market trust. Stronger brands command premium pricing and profits. Strong brands are literal financial assets that increase your balance sheet value. Strong brands can be borrowed against and gives your audiences the benefit of the doubt. If all things are equal and contenders are being judged like a commodity based on convenience and cost – a strong brand is the market disruptor that will differentiate you from the pack.
What is a Corporate Brand?
A corporate brand has to be defined, designed, and deployed like any other brand, but you have to look at it somewhat differently than you would your property brands.
First off, a corporate brand is a service brand, not a product brand. Your property portfolio brands are typical product brands. A product brand can be manufactured, is physical, and can literally be experienced with the senses. Think about walking around a multifamily development for example. You can see, touch, smell and experience an actual physical environment. Something that is tangible is a lot easier to sell than something that is not.
Your corporate brand, however, is very, very different. You are not selling something real. You are selling an idea. You are selling your ability to pull that idea together and make it real. You are selling yourself and your ability. You are selling your service. It may result in something tangible in the end, but until then it is just an idea. Until then, you are convincing them as best you can armed with just a PowerPoint deck and Excel spreadsheet.
The same applies to shareholders whether you are privately held or listed. Investors do not visit every single development and know every apartment, office, retail unit, amenity, and location like the back of their hand. They are not buying into that. They are buying into your ability to provide them with a good return on their investment. They do not care about the intricacies of every property in your portfolio. They care about the intricacies of how effectively and profitably you manage your assets. They care about the quality of the service you provide in a sea of other choices and competition available to them as investors.
You, are in fact, the most tangible and important part of your corporate brand. You, as a person, embody your brand. The experience, expertise, behavior, and appearance of you and your employees are the first line of direct interaction with your audiences and your market. What you and your people say and how you say it matters just as much as an iPhone’s design matters to Apple. How you and your people appear and behave matters. Your properties, their performance, and reputation matter as they form a backdrop to you. The office space you occupy and even its location creates a brand impression that matters more than you realize.
But you as a brand need a foundation. A structure and system that holds what you stand for together in a holistic whole to ensure consistent behavior and experiences. And that’s where people like us come in. It’s what we do. We help clients create informed, intelligent brand foundations and help them design and deploy it.
The Parts of a Corporate Brand.
You may be used to thinking about brands as the name of your property assets or perhaps also the associations people have with your properties. A strong brand is far more sophisticated and hardworking than that. A strong brand is not a nice name, a pretty logo, or creative window dressing like websites. A strong brand is a hardworking business tool that exists to help you sell more of your offering, for more money, more of the time.
First, your brand must be based in a solid foundation designed to fundamentally differentiate you from the competition. Not just one that you like, but one that psychologically resonates with your audiences – be they investors, partners, legislators, or even prospective employees. To do that, you need an understanding of the journeys, messaging, and experiences that matter to them and relentlessly focus on those rather than the multitude-of-too-much you could say.
The most important part of your brand foundation is undoubtedly your positioning. Without it, the other foundation elements cannot be decided. Your brand positioning is what you do, who for, how, and why it matters. It remains true to its core, but must have the flexibility to be adapted to each of your audience types as targeted, plain-English, compelling elevator pitches designed to grip them and stick.
The purest, simplest form that illustrates the sentiment of a positioning is perhaps the tagline. Compare Apple’s “Think Differently” to Microsoft’s “Open Up Your Digital Life”. Apple’s is sticky, memorable, and shareable and embodies a powerful idea focused on, and challenging, the target market to be more and be better. Microsoft’s is like weak, watered down coffee. And you experience that positioning viscerally when you hold an iPhone compared to Microsoft’s long-defunct and failed smartphone attempts. So, as you can see, a positioning is about far more than just words. It matters more than you realize in creating an impression that is physically and psychologically experienced. It helps you differentiate and last.
Brand positioning stands not just for what you do, but what you stand for philosophically. Positioning is a shared language and vocabulary that everyone in your company uses consistently in order to create a consistent perception. But it must be based in something authentic, unique, and valuable. It must be true to who you are. If it’s just another empty, corporate-speak platitude, you’re wasting your time.
This blog will become too long if we dive into the other parts of a strong, hardworking brand foundation. But foundation pieces such as your brand personality, brand promise, and brand audiences and the brand journeys and experiences they value are all elements that weave together and complement each other – empowering you to create a clear, compelling brand experience.
WE CAN OPTIMIZE YOUR BRAND.
At Primary, we’ve been helping clients just like you with not just their property brands for over thirty years, but also the overarching parent brand that holds it all together and makes it happen – your developer brand. It is a powerful, valuable asset you should invest the same care, time and efforts in that you do with your property brands. Our clients have seen the return on investment in doing so. It not only pays for itself. It pays for itself many, many times over.