Whether apartment brands are ultimately super-meaningful to renters or not, branding offers a frontline opportunity to define your company and properties to consumers and employees. Still, creating and sustaining a brand identity takes a big chunk out of the marketing budget. Is it worth it? MFE asked industry experts to share their opinions.
“Our company visits the branding topic at least every year. We have not really pushed our brand: We are typically a five-to seven-year holder, and it is hard to gain brand momentum in that time period versus a Post or an AvalonBay or another REIT that holds the asset a lot longer. I absolutely think branding can add value when it is executed effectively, and I’d love to see us brand more in the larger cities and markets that we’re in.” —Durant Bell, executive vice president, asset services, Greensboro, N.C.-based Bell Partners
"There is real value, for purposes of resident acquisition and retention, in building and preserving a strong, positive brand. However, we don't see much brand awareness among apartment searchers—less than 10 percent of our traffic is brand-driven. Our internal metrics show that 80 percent of traffic is generated by search engines using generic search terms. Of that 80 percent, 67 percent is coming in via Google and a full 90 percent of searchers will only click through the top 10 returns from their search. That data underscores the need for heavy investments in search engine optimization and the cost-effective purchase of keywords." —Peggy Abkemeier, president, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Rent.com
"At Irvine Co. Apartment Communities, we believe that branding is important because it allows us to differentiate our communities from other apartment owners in our region. In today's market, it takes more than just features and amenities to meet the expectations and needs of our customer, and our branding strategy helps communicate the service and special living experience that our residents enjoy, regardless of which IAC community they choose. Additionally, branding helps our associates understand the high level of expectations of our customers and ultimately deliver a consistent level of service that IAC represents." —Max Gardner, president, Irvine, Calif.-based Irvine Co. Apartment Communities
“I’m one of the believers that brand does matter. There are two conversations relative to brand: company brand and property brand. Company branding is extremely important when you look at things like recruiting, your internet platform and online experience, and the corporate awareness that you want to create. It is primarily about service. Property branding, including potential naming schemes, can typically have a larger brand impact at the market level. From a property standpoint, branding is more about the experience: quality of life; eco-friendliness; no worries living here; young, hip, and cool.” —Dan Haefner, executive director of multifamily management, Newport News, Va.-based Drucker and Falk
"Location and value are the most obvious factors influencing a housing decision, but surprisingly our data also suggests that brand loyalty is important. Brand primarily becomes an influential factor during the renewal process. Satisfied residents are more likely to renew an existing lease, or start a new lease at a different community within the portfolio when their living experience meets or exceeds expectations." —Joseph Batdorf, president, Houston-based J Turner Research