What “Branding” Means for Twenty-First Century Real Estate
Names and logos don’t cut it anymore. How can walls, streets, and cities tell an authentic brand story that cuts through the noise?
Thesis Driven dives deep into emerging themes and real estate operating models by featuring a handful of operators executing on each theme. This week’s letter is a guest post from Karen Zabarsky Blashek. Karen is the founder of Ground Up, a creative studio for the built environment, and the former Head of Design and Branding for Kushner Companies. It digs into the evolving role of brand in the real estate industry.
Throughout my travels, my favorite places to come back to give me the feeling of seeing an old friend. The Ace Hotel lobby in Nomad that I used as a living room for many years; the streets of Wynwood whose psychedelic world of ever-changing artistic expression assure me I can unapologetically be myself there; the Danish-inspired coworking lounge on South Congress that spurred a design idea for a new project. These places have an intangible charisma, a heart and soul, that pulls you in and keeps you coming back.
That kind of atmosphere isn’t manifested by accident. The most successful developments—single towers, broader districts, even entire cities—tell an intentional, comprehensive story at every touchpoint of design, operations, and presentation. It’s a story that envelopes residents, tenants, and visitors and invites them to meaningfully identify with it.
In a post-COVID world, where so many of us have our choice of where to live, where to work, and where to visit, this magnetism isn’t just a nice-to-have but critical to create a competitive real estate asset. A great brand framework helps developers not just market their properties to end users but make coherent and consistent product decisions throughout the design and development process.
How can real estate developers bring this magic to life? As new developments continue to raise the bar on storytelling and creative visioning of all types of properties, place branding is becoming a requirement earlier in the process.
In this article we’ll explore how developments across the country are setting a new standard on this evolved understanding of brand on three different scales:
Sky, a luxury rental tower in Manhattan built by the Moinian Group;
The Seaport, a cultural and commercial district operated by the Howard Hughes Corporation;
High Point, a city in North Carolina that underwent a complete rebrand in collaboration with local city leaders, real estate developers, and institutions.
For each we’ll discuss the challenge they faced, the early role brand development played in the project, and the impact branding had on the project’s success and the role of each project’s identity in the day-to-day lives of those living and working in it.