Arlington, Va.–based AvalonBay introduced two brand-extension concepts at the end of December. Expanding its list of nearly 200 properties, AvalonBay hopes to attract younger consumers to its metropolitan “AVA” buildings, as well as suburban consumers looking for value with its new “eaves” communities.
Kurt Conway, head of brand strategy for AvalonBay, says the company’s new brands are a natural extension of a time-tested strategy. “We looked at three components for our new brands: opening in the best-performing markets, focusing on supply-constrained markets, and looking at the best submarkets for growth,” he says. “Our new brands help us meet the needs in those submarkets.”
The AVA communities, for example, are designed to be more youthful than other high-end AvalonBay buildings because they're targeted to Gen Y residents, many of whom live with roommates in smaller, urban-style apartments. AVA communities are already open in San Francisco and Seattle. Construction began recently in New York and Washington, D.C., as well. The company is targeting emerging neighborhoods, such as the H Street corridor in Washington.
In Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, Conway says the AVA community is designed to be very active, with an open entryway and “chill rooms” where residents can get out of their apartments and socialize. They also take advantage of the surrounding neighborhood: This week, the building is hosting a potluck dinner sponsored by local restaurants, for example.
No eaves properties exist yet, but Conway expects 40 by mid-2013, by both redeveloping existing Avalon properties and acquiring new spaces through acquisitions. He says they'll serve the cost-conscious consumer and those who might not care about high-end finishes and amenities but want a good-quality apartment living experience.
“Not all residents want the same thing,” Conway says. “Listening to what our consumers want and wrapping them in a brand is going to help us grow.”
Lynette R. Hegeman, vice president of marketing for Atlanta-based Gables Residential, says AvalonBay has the potential to be successful with its new extensions, but only if consumers continue to recognize them as part of the Avalon brand. “Avalon has done a good job branding in the past,” she says. “And any extension of that, if done correctly, has good, strong branding to begin with. But the key is going to be tying it to the flagship name."
Hegeman compares Avalon’s new brand extensions to the InterContinental Hotel Group’s boutique Indigo hotels, also marketed toward a younger demographic and, more specifically, loyal InterContinental customers. Hegeman says the Indigo concept has been successful because customers know they are staying in a reputable hotel, tied to a larger brand. “Branding lends itself to credit,” she says. “It should reinforce who you are.”
David Woodward, president of Denver-based CompassRock Real Estate, says without that reinforcement, branding can confuse residents. “It’s one thing to brand names like Coca-Cola or Nike, because they're so ubiquitous. But is there enough recognition that it’s effective for AvalonBay? I’m in favor of branding, but it has to be right for the company and have the right portfolio; otherwise, you can spend a lot of time and not get a huge impact.”
Conway hopes to see a big impact for AvalonBay in upcoming months. “The new brands [will] help us reach new customers we haven’t served and better serve existing customers,” he says.