By Jamie Matusek and Christy McFerren, Catalyst
Branding. The term alone evokes a myriad of thoughts, definitions and even feelings.
Many people see branding as a logo, a color palette and maybe a few iconic photos rolled out into marketing materials that should sell their product or service. These are all pieces of the branding puzzle to be certain, but they are more like fruit than roots. True branding starts much deeper and begins well before design elements are created.
Throughout my 15-plus years of marketing experience, I have helped many organizations understand the difference between what they perceive branding to mean versus the realities that drive their brand’s culture and the customer experience. I have seen great brands defined and redefined, seen company cultures come to life, witnessed new launches leading to customer engagement and products launched into the marketplace that evoke national appeal.
What does all of that mean to those of you charged with growing a multifamily housing company? Clarity. Confidence. Stability. Growth.
Let’s start with a simple definition.
Branding is the process involved in creating a unique name, image and message to represent a product or service being provided. From that process, logos, color palettes, imagery, taglines and content emerge. But before these elements come to life, branding begins and ends with a feeling. It’s a feeling the seller has about their product or service, and he or she uses all these brand tools to communicate that vibe and establish a shared feeling with the buyer about what’s being sold.
You want the buyer to connect emotionally with the brand, to believe in its superiority and to demonstrate ideological allegiance to the personality of the brand, allowing it to become part of the buyer’s own personal identity. Once this connection is made, the buyer effectively declares, “this brand is like me, and I’m like this brand,” and it becomes a social signal.
People are drawn to confident identities. A culture and a community develop as more people sign onto the beliefs their friends have about a certain brand.
Let’s look at a few brands that do this well:
- Nike: Just Do It. Everything about Nike pushes us to stretch our limits and work hard for results when it comes to athletic ability.
- Starbucks: Starbucks set out to become the “third place” – the other place you go when you’re not at work or home.
- Apple: Speaks to innovation, intelligence and having the very best at your fingertips. People who carry iphones are smarter — they “think different.”
- Four Seasons: Extraordinary Experiences. You’ll be treated like royalty when you arrive – receiving excellent customer service and surrounded by luxury.
If you are unsure what your corporate brand is, it will be difficult to establish consistency down to the property level. Therefore, it is important to know who you are and who you want to be for your target audience.
Our firm, Catalyst, employs a five-step process to be sure every brand we develop is given the opportunity to communicate its own magnetism, its “x-factor” or its “mystique” — whatever name we want to give to that unspoken authority the brands mentioned above seem to come by naturally.
The branding process we use follows these five steps:
- Designing Identity
- Collateral Development
- Asset Management
This process can be scaled based on the complexity or simplicity based onthe product in focus. The process always remains the same, but the depth of each phase varies based on the nature of the engagement.
For now, we’ll focus on branding propertiesby highlighting three types of multifamily housing projects — new developments, acquisitions and a portfolio refresh. Many of these same branding startegies also can be applied to defining or redefining your corporate brand.
- New Developments: Establishing a strong brand appeal to your market needs to start at the beginning. Establish a relationship with a marketing firm and an interior design firm in tandem. Everything needs to match – interiors, exteriors and any marketing piece that is created to represent the property. Naming, logos, brand boards, imagery, taglines, messaging, furniture, interior designs and signage should all work together to provide a clear signal about who you are and what you offer.
- Acquisitions: Determine the current sentiment of the property. What is the reputation and is there anything you have to overcome? A name change is forced many times due to ownership, but not always. The same process and deliverables apply here as they would to a new development. Speak with your marketing firm early and outline a strategy of creating a brand refresh. New interiors, amenities, marketing materials, website and ongoing digital advertising, can all work together in a powerful way to send a new message to the marketplace about your arrival and what you plan to offer.
- Portfolio Refresh: Maybe you haven’t redesigned your websites or marketing materials in a long time, and it is impacting your online traffic and leasing opportunities. Providing a brand guide refresh with new colors, images and sometimes even a new logo can energize your internal teams and create a new vibe for your portfolio.
Ultimately, your brand is your personality statement. It can evoke action or turn audiences away. Everything should work together to create a strong, concise and clear message. All you have to do is take a step back to create the strategy, define your budget, introduce the right partners and get ready for the ride.
Jamie Matusek brings over 15 years of experience in operations, account leadership, sales, interactive and traditional marketing to her role as vice president of Catalyst. She has years of experience handling marketing for big brands in telecommunications, student housing, multi-family, commercial real estate, consumer packaged goods, hospitality, software and digital marketing, fitness, and many others.
Christy McFerren brings almost 15 years of experience in strategy, brand development and design to her position of creative director. She serves as creative director for Catalyst. Her mission is to establish core processes and design principles that can bring life to brands and evoke action from the customers they serve.