Homebuyers are thinking more like consumer product buyers, focusing on ‘why’ they’re buying in addition to ‘what,’ experts say.
We are a culture of branding, from big name brands to the personal branding sought by everyone from reality stars to everyday job seekers.
It is in this environment that developers of housing, from multifamily projects to planned communities and custom builds, rely on branding to make the proverbial sale. The identity will convey just the right positioning while also being memorable and, eventually, recognizable.
Living in a Branded World
“Increasingly homebuyers are thinking more like consumer product buyers, focusing on ‘why’ they’re buying in addition to ‘what’ they’re buying,” says Mark Jones, director of marketing and public relations for Brighthaus Marketing, who is himself a licensed realtor. “Whether it’s to help them feel more socially responsible, more environmentally friendly, or simply having a more interesting story to tell, buyers want their purchase to make them feel good about themselves and their choices.”
Veteran Atlanta realtor Bill Golden also believes differentiation helps drive sales.
“The most important thing is a brand that will stand out, and not sound like every other development,” he says. “The name should sound inviting and luxurious; still, at least part of the branding should have some connection with the building itself or its area or surroundings.”
As an example, Golden, who is an independent real estate agent with RE/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside, says if a development is in an area called Morningside, it’s optimal if the brand has ”Morningside” in it.
“It gives a potential buyer/renter a sense of belonging to the community,” he says. “Conversely – and ideally – a development should not carry the name of one section of town, yet be located in another.”
Jones concurs, adding that, “With the increasing number of adaptive reuse developments and new urbanist communities, the history of the buildings, space and property have to be interesting and engaging. Buyers or even renters want to be able to connect emotionally to their community and the story behind it.”
Is There an Echo in Here?
“To avoid the pitfalls of duplication or similarity to existing property names (locally, regionally or nationally), it works well for a development’s name to have a connection to its specific location or the history of the land,” says Betsy Sheppard, president and co-owner of Gilbert & Sheppard Group, a marketing and business consulting firm that creates campaigns for clients in the housing industry throughout the Southeast. “More than ever before, the Internet provides tools for us to thoroughly research the selected land’s heritage – even folklore – for inspiration for the naming process.”
A name has to be unique, says Ginny Bryant, vice president of sales for Lennar Atlanta, a division of Lennar, the second-largest homebuilder in the country. “This sometimes leads us to create a whole new word to describe a new brand, a word or phrase that evokes a certain luxury, like ‘Bayard.’”
“We are careful that a development’s name does not mean something altogether different in another language,” Bryant says. “Also, a name cannot be too long, because that may have an impact on the signage.”
Kerrie Gilbert, Gilbert & Sheppard Group’s creative director and co-owner, takes that thought a bit further, and online.
“An essential step that is often missed during the process is domain registration,” she says. “The name of the community and its eventual website address should match without creating an excessively long domain name. However, it is not always as easy as adding ‘dot com’ to the selected property name.”
And, just as the name and online presence should be pursued in tandem, Bryant reminds us that the design of each logo is vital. “An effective logo needs to translate consistently when reproduced digitally, in print or on signs, which means that sometimes, pretty fonts or curlicues just do not work well,” she says.
“Developers have to differentiate their product from everything else on the market – housing and otherwise – by selling the experience of living in the community,” says Jones, whose company recently expanded from Palm Springs, California, to Atlanta. “It’s no longer enough to sell the features. Buyers want to be able to envision and embrace the lifestyle. That’s what they’re purchasing.”