When you think "mid"-America, cities such as Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta aren’t usually the first places that come to mind. Instead, it’s places like Lawrence, Kan.

Yet those cities are three of the five biggest markets for Memphis-based Mid-America Apartment Communities. That’s a big reason why this Friday, the REIT is announcing that, as part of a new branding project initiative, it will be conducting business as its ticker symbol—MAA.

“What happens is that Mid-America Apartment Communities gets truncated to Mid-America, which reinforced the notion that we’re in the middle of Kansas somewhere,” says Eric Bolton, MAA chairman and CEO. “The move to use MAA as our name is really just an update to who we’ve become and a commitment to retain the qualities and disciplines that have guided us for 17 years.”

Bolton cautions that the rebranding will not change MAA’s culture and investment strategy. “We’ve had a very defined disciplne for how we allocate capital, how we buy properties, how we manage the company, and how we nurture a service culture at the company,” Bolton says. “Our goal is really just to update the look and the image to better reflect where we are positioned in various markets in the Sun Belt region of the country. We’re not changing who we are and what we do.”

The company will still keep the Mid-America Apartment Communities name for Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings. “The cost of a formal name change is pretty high,” Bolton says. “We didn’t feel like we wanted to take on that burden.”

More Than a Name
MAA is making a lot of changes outside of conducting business under a new name. It’s changing its colors to orange to highlight the Sun Belt area of the country. Its revamped logo has a star that consists of a community of individual apartment homes. The sunburst coming from it represents MAA’s value, strategy, and strengths in its operating platform and employees. “The message we’re trying to convey is that while our business is very competitive,” Bolton says, “over time, it’s these attributes and qualities that enable us to outperform the competition.”

MAA is also launching a new website, www.maac.com, which features enhanced apartment search functions. The site will also include information on MAA’s Brighter Living and Greener Living initiatives, which are designed to highlight the company’s lifestyle options available to its residents and its commitment to the environment.

“A brighter view is a message to our existing and prospective shareholders, employees, and residents that we feel MAA offers an alternative,” Bolton says.

Bolton says the company worked for a number of years on the rebranding, but when the recession hit in 2008, it had to focus on more timely operating matters. “As we’re clearly emerging in a recovery cycle, we think we’re poised to do well, and it just seemed like a logical time to bring this issue back up,” Bolton says. “So that’s what we did.”

A Thorough Process
A year ago, MAA started with what Bolton described as a “blank piece of paper.” It hired Memphis marketing firm archer>malmo to interview residents, employees, stock analysts, and the board of directors and help guide the rebranding.

“It was a very extensive process that was geared toward trying to find out what people think about our company and what their feelings are when they hear our name,” Bolton says.

MAA unveiled the new brand for its 1,300 employees on February 16 at its annual leadership conference.

“It was very well received,” Bolton says. “I think our folks were ready for an update and to see a new look. I think there’s awareness that we have evolved a lot over the past 17 years. I think its time for this change.”