Building a Rental Brand: The Why, the How, and the Nine-Point Audit
Whether we like it or not, we all have personal brands: the clothes we wear, the work we do, our leisure activities, and the mannerisms we display to the world are all components of our personal brands. Your brand is an entity that you can either foster and develop (i.e., take control of), or ignore and let outside influences develop on your behalf. Risky business.
Very similar elements tell the world about the buildings you own, manage or otherwise control. Is your building sophisticated, worldly, or run down? Does it command (and deserve) a premium rate? Do clients feel like they are in a desirable building? Does the building have enough infamy to cause a waiting list, and enough value to decrease churn?
And most important: Are you getting the best return based on what the market thinks of your project?
Adding Value to Your Rental Brand
There are many elements you can’t control: the neighbourhood, the market, even the weather. But you absolutely can and should control the world’s perception of your rental opportunity. By ensuring your project’s brand doesn’t become an afterthought relegated to a commodity, you can pull more value out of the asset.
How do you accomplish that? By becoming a beacon for your target market’s lifestyle and aspirations.
According to Interbrand/JP Morgan, brands on average account for a full one-third of a company’s shareholder value. Apple and Google are number one and two, with valuations of $173B and $133B respectively. The ranking system is based on a combination of financial performance, how effectively a brand influences customer choice, and how much of a premium price a brand can charge.
Putting a dollar value on the branding of a rental project is tough. Proactively building a brand strategy and supporting it with consistent messaging, signage, digital, and initial presentation centre space will certainly add value and help stabilize the asset. At Verv Projects, our experience with over five million square feet of office and retail space has shown that strong branding and concerted brand activation generates better qualified renters with stronger “pride of ownership,” who are willing and able to not only make faster, less competitive decisions, but also to pay market premium.
These are compelling reasons to consider a branding and marketing program that is more reminiscent of condo presale programs. We don’t see this approach as often in commercial real estate – which is ironic, given the asset is held into perpetuity.
What’s really interesting is how a brand strategy can add value over the medium and long term. For institutional developers like Bentall Kennedy, that is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If your brand strategy is strong and clearly defined, and you commit to fostering it long term, you will build rich relationships with the right renters. You will decrease churn. Your renters will treat your buildings better. You will create a sense of community pride that engages not just your renters, but their friends and family. Even if these factors increase your KPIs and building metrics only incrementally, the business effect across an entire portfolio is significant.
If you do nothing more than leave a lasting impression, you will have created brand loyalty that will translate to renewals, referrals, and familiarity. Suddenly, your product is seen as more than just a basic commodity, thanks to your defined brand.
Your Nine-Point Rental Brand Audit
We are not property managers or apartment leasing agents, but we have developed brand strategies and creative for enough rental properties to have formed an in-depth understanding of how to better distinguish and promote rental properties. Use this “rental brand audit” to get you thinking about how you can improve your project.
- Your Market: Who is your market? Is your building’s brand consistent with their emotional drivers?
- Their Journey: What is the journey they take to make a leasing decision?
- Emotional Drivers: What are the emotions you want your target markets to feel about your project? How can you turn those feelings into an emotion-based story that resonates with your prospects?
- Alignment: How are your brand/corporate strategies aligned with the physical product you own and rent? Does the promise you make to your clients match the actual product?
- Assets: Are your assets and creative good enough? Just putting up a nice website is no longer an option. Every single prospect you have consumes copious amount of highly produced media. And they all equate good branding with good choices.
- Social Media: Are you using social platforms to assist in your prospects’ decision-making processes, and to actively engage and inform current renters to continually reinforce value?
- Team: Does your leasing team understand your brand strategy and your prospects, and their responsibility to both? A good brand strategy, properly implemented, aligns and streamlines your team and the way it represent you.
- Neighbourhood: How well aligned is your project with the area? The neighbourhood itself is the most valuable amenity many rental projects have. How can your team create relationships with local pubs, restaurants, rec centres and boutiques?
- Experience: This one’s a biggie. Steve Jobs always said, “Start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” How can you make your prospects’ experience better? Consider your processes for marketing, inquiry, viewing, applications, credit and reference checks, and move-in. For the existing renter, consider payments, feedback, support, communication, 24/7 touch points, and loyalty programs.
As always, we are here to help. Give us a call when you need a bit of guidance on the successful creation and execution of your strategic brand.