Developers and property owners today understand the importance of their brand in attracting and retaining residents but may not know when their brand is more of a liability than an asset.

While rebranding an asset requires “extra” effort in the short term, it can prove valuable by saving time, money, your reputation, and grief down the road. Rebranding can also often lead to better prospect targeting, higher occupancy, and increased resident satisfaction and, thus, retention.

Rebranding involves a new name, logo, and colors and also often includes planned capital improvements.

However, beyond those tactics, rebranding is about reshaping the sentiment of residents and the perceptions in the market regarding a property. The property’s image combined with residents’ experience of your asset work together to shape the “meaning” of your current brand. When rebranding, these components signal a new customer experience that can create a new-found trust with you as the owner or manager.

So, how do you know when the time is right for a rebrand? Here are three top triggers for considering a rebrand and how to successfully pull one off.

1. Planned Capital Improvements
Capital improvements often coincide with an acquisition or new management. This is a perfect time to consider a rebrand, as it provides a way to completely shift existing sentiment toward the current asset, attract potential new residents, and strengthen resident retention by communicating the vision for the new, improved resident experience.

According to a study published by Lippincott titled “The Happiness Halo,” the first step in creating a positive memorable experience is the “anticipation” stage. The fact that you've just stepped into the picture as a new owner or manager creates a natural anticipation for greater things to come.

Don’t squander this crucial time frame by overlooking the power of rebranding and signaling planned changes ahead. We've seen clients find success through launching a reveal announcement with an event so that existing and potential residents understand what they can expect from new ownership. In these cases, rebranding (and the reveal party) generates excitement around impending improvements.

Research also shows that individuals today crave community and a sense of belonging and want to be included in conversations regarding improvements or updates. As part of both the capital improvement and rebranding strategy development, consider a survey to residents and prospects to gain deeper insight regarding what's important to them.

An example of a reputation-management campaign used to promote a request for property reviews. Various properties paired the campaign with actual events and food offered at those events.
An example of a reputation-management campaign used to promote a request for property reviews. Various properties paired the campaign with actual events and food offered at those events.

2. Property Reputation and the Competitive Landscape
You’ve just acquired an asset with a poor resident rating. Complaints from residents and prospects might range from poor customer service to dirty amenity spaces to lackluster maintenance responses to a lack of a sense of community. Worse, these comments dominate the review sites. Luckily, with a great brand strategy, along with resident communication and consistent marketing campaigns, reputation standings can quickly be improved upon.

Reputation can truly make or break leasing results. A rebrand would serve well in this scenario to make a clear statement to the market that “we're not what we used to be.”

As part of the rebranding effort, updated messaging can be used to clearly inform current residents of the changes they can expect to see under new ownership and management. It's important to communicate what will be different and to hold to those statements.

Start by getting a view into how your property is ranking against your top four competitors. J Turner Research provides a great view into not only the rankings but also commentary behind the reviews.

Capture what people are saying and begin to shape your messaging around how your new team is poised to tackle and solve for what you are hearing. Understanding how you rank against your top competitors and how you are viewed in the market allows you to establish the focus of your updated key messaging and can often shape the approach for a new property name, look, and feel.

With a new brand in place, a proactive marketing campaign can then be shaped to address—not hide from—historical reviews.

3. Broadening the Audience Base
From time to time, owners and managers must consider changing or broadening the current resident base to overcome reputation issues or increase occupancy to meet goals. When such a need arises, the first step is to identify the key characteristics of your updated potential resident base.

Given your asset’s location, unit types, finishes, amenities, and planned capital improvements, you should next consider the demographic and psychographic of your current and potential residents.

Take the time to define the attributes of the individuals you're targeting. How do they search for housing, and through which communications channels are you most likely to reach them (i.e., social media, search, mobile, etc.)? Where do they shop, eat, live, and work? Are there anchor businesses or resources in your vicinity that are likely to attract your potential residents?

Discovering the answers to these questions allows you to look further and identify key marketing opportunities. Once your refined renter targets have been clearly established, a rebrand can help attract interest from demographic groups that may not have previously been drawn to the property.