How to brand your commercial property

Ryan Swehla
Ryan Swehla

Branding is important because it gives a first and lasting impression of what your property has to offer. The goal is to establish a differentiated and significant presence in your market so you can attract and retain loyal tenants and customers.

Ultimately, investment in branding your property can create value that exceeds physical value.
Here are steps to successfully branding your property:

Creating a unique brand

How do you create a property brand that stands out from competitors?

Some may say location can make the property unique, but take the extra step and link it to a lifestyle benefit for the market your property serves. Develop a vision of the property’s potential and get specific about how it impacts the day-to-day lifestyle of the customers, tenants and prospects.

A great example is the former Larkspur Landing shopping plaza, now named Marin Country Mart in Larkspur, California. This property is only about two-and-a-half miles from the San Quentin State Prison, yet this shopping center has become a destination center for local Marinites and Bay Area city dwellers.

In 2007, developer Jim Rosenfield revitalized the decaying location with a vision to create the best outdoor shopping experience. The goal was to turn it into something more than a shopping center. He wanted to develop a unique brand would make the center a destination.

Rosenfield curated the center to create an environment that feels like the neighborhood retail venues from the past.  With barn-like shops, public gardens, a fish pond, a children’s playground and picnic furniture in the center courtyard, patrons can appreciate just being present in the shopping center’s environment without having to shop.

Build a brand personality

Your property should use mood and tone to create a brand personality for your property that speaks to the aspirations of your niche market — just like Coca-Cola presents a lifestyle image beyond the soft drink in the can and buying an Apple product is a statement about creativity.

Ask yourself: What are the lifestyle aspirations of your niche market?  How does the property at hand fulfill these?

Your property should make a connection to your intended market.  This can encourage tenants and customers to feel invested in the property and may even help boost its value.

Again, the Marin Country Mart is a prime example.  For many city-dwellers looking or a refreshing change of pace from their busy lives in the city, they can simply take a 30-minute ferry commute from San Francisco.  It is conveniently steps away from the Larkspur Ferry.  Locals and visitors can walk or bike to the Country Mart.

It’s a retail hub where luxury chains intermingle with local shops and boutiques.  Providing a little something for a range of budgets, the shopping center has become popular with locals and tourists.

Patrons are also welcome to enjoy family picnics in the open central area of the Country Mart. There are vibrant, live jazz performances on Friday nights, the farmers market on Saturdays and the popular Off­ the ­Grid Food Trucks gathering on Sundays.

The Marin Country Mart is becoming a socially valuable public space more that is more than just a shopping destination.

Create an emotional connection

Emotional connection is a powerful way to link your target market to the soul of your brand.   It can lead to loyal customers and proactive tenants.

Marin Country Mart did that when it created an attractive getaway and social hub destination, but there are other ways to create an emotional connection with your brand.

For example, College Square Shopping Center in Stockton took a grassroots approach that engaged the community in the rebranding process.  The shopping center is near two large shopping malls. To create an emotional connection to its local target market, the shopping center conveys an image of a community marketplace.

Its new logo was created through collaboration with Delta College.  In addition, a merchant association was re-­established to increase active participation with tenants.

The shopping center promotes local culture with the Food Truck Frenzy and there are plans for a farmers market to increase interest.

The property has shown significant signs of capital improvement and increased customer traffic of 10­-15 percent.

Indeed, the best brands understand their niche markets.  They make a connection beyond the rational assessment of the object they are presenting.  Through advertising campaigns or the retail experience of being able to touch and see the product, successful companies offer an aspirational brand experience that is consistently expressed to every consumer and prospect.

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