04.10.2018

Wanted: real estate with a (hi)story

"We need a catchy name and a logo for our real estate project. What can you come up with?" Advertising agencies and marketing managers in companies hear such sentences or similar ones time and time again. zoOM spoke with various agency representatives. Despite different approaches, they have one thing in common: a name and logo is not sufficient. Impressive positioning is based on a coherent overall concept.

Brand development has gained a foothold in the real estate sector. While 15 years ago neighborhood development projects as well as existing and new buildings were almost exclusively determined by their location, the industry has now undergone an enormous transformation. Hardly any project is launched without a fine-sounding name today. Snappy logos decorate the associated print and online documents, which also tend to be of high quality and extremely attractive.

It is important to stand out from the competition in real estate marketing too.
It is important to stand out from the competition in real estate marketing too.

Brand creates trust

But is that already a brand? Sometimes very little of this is remembered once the building has changed hands. And sometimes improvements are made as early on as the marketing stage, because the first creative idea does not harmonize with the project or location.

It is therefore worthwhile to approach brand development more comprehensively. After all, offers with a strong brand provide guidance and security in the decision-making process, which makes them more successful. This applies not only in the consumer goods sector, but also to business-to-business products.

If you are ready for it, the complex brand development process begins, usually with external partners. Many questions about the project and the environment usually have to be answered first.

Source: based on h2m
Source: based on h2m

How does the project stand out from others

Martin Menkhaus from the agency h2m in Oberhausen and his colleagues use the so-called brand steering wheel. This means nothing less than analyzing in a workshop with the project participants how the company works and how the individual real estate project stands out from others. What are the defining and identity-creating characteristics? The characteristics that can be identified from this are linked to what moves customers in connection with comparable projects. What is important to them, what do they struggle with and what opportunities do landlords or sellers offer them in the respective property. Based on this, a positioning is developed and summarized in guiding principles. Only later does this result in the name, logo and corporate design.

A story based on values

What does that ultimately mean for a given property? It means telling the story that fits the project, the company and the customer. This results in attractive and touching mental images that differentiate a project from many other comparable projects. Menkhaus describes it as follows: "Products are created in factories or with 3D printers and real estate projects are created on the construction site – in contrast, brands are created in the minds and gut-feelings of the target group."

We do not decide to have confidence

Christoph Kohl from the Wiesbaden-based agency Vanderlicht focuses on the immediate personal experience when it comes to brand development: "Location, transportation connections, furnishing and price are qualitatively comparable for many properties. The goal must be to stand out from the competition via other aspects, and this is where the marketing concept comes into play." Kohl and colleagues specialize in staging and setting up empty spaces, and giving them a new identity. This is referred to as "homestaging" – including for commercial real estate. They tell a new story for each project and create an individual style that is also reflected in the marketing materials.

They often focus on the location's history. It is particularly important to the Wiesbaden company that the prospect has the feeling they are making the right decision as early as during the inspection. “We cannot decide to feel safe. We either feel safe or not. It has nothing to do with reason. Sometimes we feel it against any factual objectivity. Reason judges, but your feelings decide. That's the most important rule of thumb for understanding branding and marketing," says Kohl.

"Find your horse to ride": Equipping and furnishing of the marketing lounge for the marketing of office space at ROSSMARKT, Frankfurt. Photo: Vanderlicht
"Find your horse to ride": Equipping and furnishing of the marketing lounge for the marketing of office space at ROSSMARKT, Frankfurt. Photo: Vanderlicht

Immersion in a story

A good marketing story for a property needs one thing above all: time. Time to deal with the environment, the past (for existing properties) and the property itself. "Only when the customer says, man, he must really like this property, otherwise he would not have made such an effort and put so much time into it – only then have we done our job right," says Kohl. Nicola Knüwer from the agency Niehaus Knüwer and friends agrees: "Brands create identification. They can create moods, open up worlds, develop a sense of pride. What is important are the images created in your mind: what do you remember well and do you want to tell others? A sober description backed by numbers or a story in which you immerse yourself and with which you identify to some extent?"

Every image can be turned around

It becomes challenging when a negative image for a property or entire neighborhood has manifested itself in the minds of the population. Or if you fail to find a distinctive story to work with. No problem for the professional, says Christoph Kohl: "Every image can be turned around. Rather than trying to communicatively conceal obvious defects or disadvantages, this means you address such things openly." After all, brands ultimately also provide a value proposition. And this is a promise that must be kept.