Branding a multifamily property – new or refurbished – requires more than paint and new logo. A brand is the overall message that owners and managers want to convey to potential residents to differentiate their properties from others in the marketplace.
"Historically, our industry is commodity driven – four walls and a place to stay," said Tim Hermeling, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Cortland. However, that trend is changing, he said. "Now, there is a focus on creating an association or an emotional connection with residents that shows how the property meets their individual needs."
The first step is to answer the question: What do we deliver that is different from other properties in terms of benefits to residents? Answers to this question don’t focus on features such as pools or gyms, instead his team focuses on benefits such as convenience, comfort or location. "We use this information to build a unified brand playbook that defines the promise we make across all of our communities," Hermeling said. "This provides a common messaging platform for our overarching message but allows room to customize messages for different locations."
Although Cortland’s corporate office manages the websites for all properties, each property has its own Facebook and Instagram site, which are managed by management teams at each property. "Local control of social media is essential because we want those sites to reflect local activities, events and businesses that are important to that property’s residents," said Hermeling. To ensure that the brand’s message is consistently conveyed, Cortland conducts a "brand bootcamp" for property managers and key community leaders to train them on key messages and offer ideas on how to translate the message to residents. "We also have information on our company intranet with information about the brand, such as how to use the logo, colors and messages that team members can reference when they have questions," he added.
Establishing and maintaining a consistent brand message across more than 150 properties is not a one-and-done process, pointed out Hermeling. "It is an ongoing process of reviewing who makes us our audience, what our customers want, how we can meet their needs and what channels are best to reach them with our message," he said. "The challenge is to find the right channels and use the right words. Based on research and review of the results of different marketing channels, we might tweak our messages, but our brand stays the same."