I spend a lot time thinking about our brand in my role here at Building Engines. – But that thinking is admittedly often more tactical in nature than perhaps it should be; focused on things like consistent messaging, use and application of our logo, colors and graphics, and delivery of awareness programs, etc.
These are important activities and I’m passionate about doing them well. We’ve worked hard at them and I have solid data showing how the effort has contributed to the good fortune and growth we have experienced. But in the course of several recent strategic planning discussions, I was reminded that our brand work needs to be bigger. It needs to not only provide the foundation for the daily activities we undertake in the course of running our business, but it needs to do something else far more important… it needs to mean something tangible to our clients and the markets we serve.
There are plenty of brand definitions you can find with a little Google work, but one that really stuck with me recently came from our terrific creative director, Dan Lynch. He said “a brand is a promise; it’s recognizable, understood and valued by your clients and the market.” I love that. I get it. And it’s what I’m using to guide my thinking in planning the next phase of our branding efforts in support of our strategic plan.
I’ve also thought about what this means for some of our clients and their businesses. Commercial real estate property management is often considered a commodity service, but there are local, regional and national/international companies competing with each other every day for management assignments, employees and to meet their own growth goals. How do they overcome that perception and truly set themselves apart? As we have learned at Building Engines, in addition to the tactical items I mentioned previously, the way we sell, market and support our clients can have a tremendous impact on that and is good step toward creating separation and is part of our Brand. But again, it needs to be “bigger.”
The challenge for any property management firms is differentiating a service where the market’s perception is that it is only the building, location and price that matter – and that part of the brand is often managed by and in control of brokerage. There is also the challenge of bidding for management assignments where owners have top tier service expectations, but only want to pay discounted fees. But I do see some progress. With property managers taking on more asset management responsibilities in recent years, there is greater recognition of property management’s role in keeping tenants happy and more willing to renew leases as well as in attracting prospective tenants based on the way the building is managed. What’s also interesting to see with our clients is the recent recognition of the impact that the use of technology can have on their brand perception. In addition to use of web and mobile property management platforms like ours, they are increasingly adopting social strategies in advanced marketing techniques for their properties and beginning to look at using data to help them tell a better, more meaningful story.
This is all from an industry that has admittedly been notoriously slow to embrace and utilize technology or recognize the value or marketing and positioning. While this is terrific progress, I think the next challenge for property management firms will be to connect standards of operation to their technology choices. Too often we see that within the same organization, every property operates differently and has different standards. This makes creating a recognizable management brand very difficult. Shouldn’t a goal be that the tenant experience, data collected and reporting from Building A be the same in Building B (assuming same type/class) if managed by the same company? Doesn’t that contribute to a promise and a recognizable Brand?
There is a reason Coca Cola, Apple, McDonalds, IBM, FedEx, etc. are some of the world’s most recognizable brands. …The burger is made the same way in every location, the design and packaging is instantly recognizable, and the data shared throughout the organization is consistent and from the same systems. These are their calling cards and part of the brand’s, culture and the promise they’ve made to their customers, right? Can a service organization achieve the same thing? Sure they can. I’ve previously written about my experience working for Four Season’s Hotel’s and how they achieve it. Is it hard? Absolutely. But most worthwhile things are and one of the big things that makes good organizations, great. It’s also a challenge I look forward to taking on and I’d love to hear your brand-building thoughts.