Melanie Flaherty of Carmel Partners presents on building a Brand Book at AIM 2014.

Melanie Flaherty of Carmel Partners presents on building a Brand Book at AIM 2014.

The logo doesn’t make a brand. The design of marketing collateral doesn’t make a brand. Even the style of the apartment community doesn’t make a brand.

Brands are always bigger than most people first think when they hear the word. They’re a combination of all of the above and much more, including the personalities of the associates, the style of customer service and even the appearance of the uniforms. Brands are an experience.

So, it only makes sense that the experience be created in a collaborative environment, involving on-site operators who have to execute the brand, the development team and a little outside help from an agency. That’s exactly what Melanie Flaherty, vice president of marketing, led at Carmel Partners to launch 14 individual brands for communities across the country, which she presented at the Apartment Internet Marketing Conference. But it wasn’t easy to sell in.

“We have such small amount of time with senior execs to discuss branding,” Flaherty says. “If we can frame up how we approach strategy, the process that we’re using and show them that strategy with results and how it plays out in creative execution, it can be an effective way to sell in the creative strategy.”

The collaborative process in which on-site operators were intimately involved in the branding helped frame the branding concepts win the executives over.

To begin the process, Carmel categorized the communities into five different themes: boutique, location, destination, suburban and Gen Y. Boutique communities are smaller, unique communities with an opportunity to be defined by an intriguing style. One example of a boutique community was 325 Lexington in New York City, which reflected an appreciation of culture, art and travel.

The location communities offered excellent location amenities that could be easily incorporated into their branding. The RockVue Apartments, a location community in Broomfield, Colo., was branded for active men and focused on the many outdoor activities available near the community.

Destination communities incorporated the fact that they were in destination places like Iroquois Point in West Oahu, Kapilina. The branding for the Kapilina apartment community creating a sanctuary experienced focused on the backdrop of the beach, family-friendly amenities and open spaces for indoor-outdoor living.

Suburban communities are locked in unremarkable neighborhoods, but offer an opportunity to bring urban style to soccer moms in the burbs. Alder, a community in a California suburb, creates a distinct sense of style with modern patterns and the use of stylish lifestyle photography of interiors that look more like an urban home than the traditional suburban experience.

Gen Y communities were designed with Gen Y expectations in mind, including being technology-friendly, having a unique personality and offering a walkable location. One example was BLVD63 in <insert location>, which features a beach lifestyle throughout all marketing collateral featuring surfboards, skateboards, beach cruisers VW buses and other beach-related iconography.

Within each category, Carmel worked with 11 different marketing agencies to develop individualized brands for each of the 14 communities. The brands that were developed delivered a first-class experience similar to high-end consumer product and service brands from brochure design to community amenity space design.

The cohesive brand strategy was achieved by also working closely with development on new projects that were in the works.

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