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How & Why Apartment Brands Have Changed In The Last 5 Years

How & Why Apartment Brands Have Changed In The Last 5 Years
September 14, 2021

Apartment branding isn’t what it used to be. In just the last five years alone, the landscape of apartment branding across North America has adapted to dramatic fluctuations in the housing market which have led to new innovations in naming, logo development, and brand identity.

As an apartment marketing agency with expertise in naming and branding projects, we’ve had a front row seat to the shifting needs of renters, owners, developers, and asset managers during this time and enjoyed a position at the cutting edge of the branding innovations that these shifts have inspired.

This experience has not only fascinated us, but also empowered above-market results for our clients, and we hope it will do the same for you. So without further ado, here are the key shifts we’ve seen in apartment branding trends across multifamily, student, and senior living markets within the last five years.

Branding Is No Longer an Afterthought

We couldn’t write about the changes in apartment branding trends without first acknowledging that the attention paid to branding has increased. That is to say, not only have the types of branding choices apartment marketers make shifted over time, but real estate creators and managers are also making these choices earlier and with more care than ever before.

Before the pandemic hit, many rental industries were experiencing a boom of new developments, causing increased competition that required developers, owners, and asset managers to focus their efforts on how they would differentiate their new developments from the competition. This also prompted existing communities to up their game to compete with newcomers, which made rebrands more common than before.

Now, even after the effects of the pandemic, the trend of thoughtful branding has continued because it has become the expectation among consumers and apartment marketers alike.

These days, crafting a brand for a new development typically occurs in tandem with the development and tends to inform and be informed by architectural and interior design processes.

More often than ever before, branding involves a careful research and discovery process, professional assistance from an apartment marketing agency, and the creation of in-depth brand guidelines documents to keep the branding consistent and effective over time and across multiple platforms.

apartment brand guidelines

Apartment Names are Bolder & More Memorable

Five years ago, you would find many new developments adopting names incorporating the street number of the complex (e.g. AMLI 5350) or a classic two-word formula featuring words like “Estates,” “Pointe,” and “Vista.” Nowadays, you still see plenty of those formulas being used, but more often, apartment brands are breaking the mold in favor of unique and memorable names that might have felt too bold just a few years ago.

For example, apartment marketers often eschew the familiar in favor of the unique so that brands feel “iconic” instead of “traditional.” Instead of “900 West,” or “Clinton Gardens,” new developments are more likely to be dubbed “NTX,” “Lumen,” or “Mosaic.” Also increasingly common are anthropomorphic names that instantly inject a sense of personality into a community, like “Emara,” or “The Guthrie.”

This trend is particularly true in student housing, where it’s generally understood that Gen Z prospects will overlook the boring and traditional. However, student housing does not have a monopoly on this trend. Even senior living brands are becoming more bold and adventurous, especially as we see a surge in Active Adult communities that emphasize an active lifestyle and resist the narrative of “slowing down” in their retirement-aged residents.

Sustainability & Social Responsibility Have Taken Center Stage

Climate change, racial justice, and public health have all taken center stage in the public zeitgeist, causing renters to pay increased attention to how their housing choices play a role in these factors. Especially among Gen Z and Millennial renters, green living, inclusive marketing, and public responsibility have become important factors in determining whether a brand resonates with them enough to make it into the consideration phase of their renter journey.

solar panels being installed

Apartment communities new and old have responded to these priorities by incorporating names, taglines, colors, textures and patterns, and brand voices that underscore themes of responsibility, cleanliness, sustainability, and inclusion. For example, brands looking to resonate with eco-conscious renters are adopting greens and blues in the brand colors or incorporating organic elements like plants and animals into their logos.

Student Housing Brands are Ruled By Gen Z Sensibilities

With the oldest Gen Zers now twenty-four years old, student housing has spent the last five years adjusting to the priorities of this generation of renters. That means student housing brands are emphasizing technology, social media presence, sustainability, and affordability more than they were when Millennials were their target audience.

How Gen Z’s Housing Priorities Could Change Your Apartment Marketing Plan

For example, today’s student housing brands are incorporating messaging that emphasizes “an option for everyone” rather than “exclusive amenities” or “upscale living.” Of course, luxury student apartments are still being built, but even these communities are often leveraging themes of inclusion and attainability in their brand messaging and imagery in order to avoid the impression that they are catering to the wealthy few rather than to the millions of Gen Z renters who came of age during an economic recession and enjoy less public funding for their tuition than any generation before them.

Multifamily Housing Brands are Ruled By Millennial Sensibilities

While the oldest Zoomers are becoming renters in multifamily communities, the largest group of multifamily renters is still the Millennials. Many of these 20 and 30-somethings are experiencing fledgling careers (often changing jobs every two years or so), new parenthood, and mountains of student loan debt, which is making affordable housing, spacious apartments, family-friendly amenities, and work-from-home opportunities more attractive than ever.

Multifamily communities are responding to these needs by emphasizing how their apartments support residents’ careers, families, and physical health while providing an excellent overall value. As with student housing, luxury multifamily housing is still being developed, but the sense of luxury is often communicated through the highlighting of work-from-home conveniences, more spacious interiors, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, and convenient lifestyle perks like housekeeping services, pet grooming, and other factors that make adult life a little bit easier.

Senior Living Brands are Adjusting To The Active Adult Housing Boom

Senior living was once considered only in terms of Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care facilities, but that’s no longer true. These days, new senior living developments are more likely to be Active Adult communities than the “retirement homes” of yesteryear. This new trend appeals to Boomers and older Gen Xers who are ready to downsize after becoming empty nesters or reaching retirement age, but who are not interested in “slowing down.”

How Senior Living Is Changing

These generations of seniors are redefining what it means to be “old,” and showing apartment marketers how much seniors have been subject to limiting stereotypes and lackluster housing options in the past. It’s no wonder that the Active Adult sector has seen such a boom within the last decade, prompting the senior living industry as a whole to incorporate themes of adventure, discovery, activity, and connectedness in their branding.

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