Branding in the Multi-Family Sector by Mike Marrara
By capstone Posted May 3, 2021
The concept of branding in commercial real estate is certainly not new. Hospitality properties have been branding their properties ever since the first Holiday Inn opened in Memphis in 1952. There are now hundreds of “flags” that brand tens of thousands of hotels throughout the world. Lately, multi-family owners have recognized the importance of branding and the value that it can add to their properties.
Naming apartment buildings is certainly not a new concept. Just about every older, brick walk-up building in Oklahoma has a name plaque in cast concrete with a name above the front door, and naming apartments continued for decades. But the concept of branding properties in a more comprehensive manner is a more current trend and taking it a step further to create a brand for the ownership is beginning to emerge. Similar to how a hotel creates loyalty and expectations within the brand, multi-family owners are beginning to do the same thing with their portfolios by branding them with a similar name or consistent identification. For instance, Mid-American Apartment Communities has embarked upon a five-year plan to rebrand over 300 properties using the MAA brand in the name. An owner based in Oklahoma, Case and Associates, is well-known for their red cubes that sit in front of every community they own.
Repositioning a property through a significant renovation likely required substantial capital. Why not spend a relatively small amount of additional capital needed for new graphics, logo, and signage? The original Holiday Inn sign cost $13,000 in the mid-fifties (about $130,000 in today’s dollars!) and became an instantly recognizable landmark for travelers across the United States. A typical multi-family property can be rebranded for far less than that and still gain significant benefits. A new name and identity can help shake poor reviews and an old reputation of a previously mismanaged property. Nothing says “new management” or “new ownership” like a complete overhaul of the property’s branding and signage. That is more effective than the often seen and overused banners announcing new management as it truly demonstrates a change in the property. In addition to driving traffic, an effective brand will communicate to previous residents and prospective residents an expectation of the level of service to be expected when leasing.
There are opportunities all over a property for branding beyond just the monument sign. Besides the prominent examples of signage throughout the property like directional signs, unit numbers, etc., there are opportunities in printed materials and communications with prospects. There are also opportunities all over the leasing office and common areas, such as wall and sidewalk graphics. Just imagine touring a prospect through your property and having graphics reinforcing the advantages of your property. It is effective advertising at a one-time cost.