Written by Heather Ford, Senior Designer & Web Developer
People love a good story. It’s been scientifically proven that when humans hear a story that they like, it can increase their levels of oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone that boosts feelings of happiness, empathy and trust. Savvy marketers have been capitalizing on this for ages, creating engaging stories for brands that resonate with people and, ultimately, persuade them to open their wallets. (Super Bowl ads, anyone?) Storytelling works in marketing because, beyond the brain hormones, it gives people a way to relate to your brand on a human level. And in the digital world we live in, this has never been more important.
While print and especially video media seem the obvious choice for this sort of humanized communication, there is another, maybe counterintuitive, area that property developers and managers can take advantage of storytelling’s powerful ability to sway the hearts of their potential tenants: their real estate website.
All good design uses color, shape, flow, imagery and copy to craft a story. Beyond these things, you can consider the common ‘three-act’ structure that many stories use when laying out the structure of a webpage:
Act 1: The Set Up. This is where your audience is introduced to the main idea of the web page they are looking at. It’s the hook that makes them keep reading, so an apartment webpage hero should be visually interesting and clear in its messaging. Act 1 in a story is also when an inciting incident happens, or a thing that drives further action. In the case of web design, this can be a strong, punchy call to action.
Act 2: The Action. This is where the bulk of the plot, or in the case of property websites the detailed information, occurs. Any text or content-heavy sections of your web page, like exhaustive lists of features and finishes, should go in the middle. Once the viewer has been introduced to the main idea of the page they are on, they can decide they want the information that is below the hero section.
Act 3: The Resolution. If you’re feeling super fancy, you can also call this the ‘denouement’. At the end of your webpage, don’t just let your content fizzle out. People have made it all the way to the bottom; they deserve a satisfying conclusion to the story. Use this as an opportunity to outline how your property solves a common pain-point for renters, or create a sense of urgency and provide a clear next-step for your users, like “Apply Now!”
A single page on your property website can encompass an entire story, or a piece (a chapter, let’s call it) in an overall story you are trying to tell about your brand. Given the way people interact with web pages, scrolling is just like page flipping. Rather than jumping randomly from page-to-page, users progress through information as a linear sequence. Because of this, a story on a website has to unfold vertically, and not in small chunks that have no visual connection between them. Unlike books, there are many ways websites can enhance this to their advantage, such as:
- Using animation. Animation on a website can be used to enhance people’s attention toward important plot points (useful information, promotions, or CTAs) and shift their attention from one place to the next, allowing you to control the flow of the story.
- Stories within stories. Embedded, interactive elements and social feeds can be used to strengthen user engagement. These are natural storytelling mediums that have been proven to improve SEO because Google knows they enhance the user experience.
- Parallax scrolling. This technique allows for interesting transitions from one section on a webpage to the next and can be combined with well-crafted illustrations and diagrams to create strong storytelling.
- Video content. Good stories use what is called “indirect characterization,” which means showing rather than explicitly telling the audience something about a character. Video content is a powerful way this can be used in apartment marketing websites. You can say that you are a family-friendly property, or you can display a video hero that shows children playing and family-friendly amenities which says the same thing—if not more—to your viewers.
Storytelling in web design is much more than words and brand voice. While these are definitely important elements, it is the unique opportunities that the digital platform offers that can really enhance a real estate brand’s story and turn a really mundane experience into a compelling one that will keep your viewers at the edge of their seat.
1 – Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication
2 – 5 Storytelling Techniques Applied to Web Design
3 – How To Start Your Story: Story Structures
Written by Mike Krankota, Art Director
There are a lot of elements that go into creating a real estate brand. Everything from voice and tone to visuals like color palettes, shapes, and patterns must be considered in order to develop a coherent brand identity…but in the process of developing a visually striking brand, design efficacy sometimes becomes an afterthought. When this occurs, marketing results suffer, because if your brand doesn’t stand out from the pack, then it doesn’t really matter how pretty it is. In order to stand out, a brand has to not only be eye-catching, but also interesting and memorable against the backdrop of other competitors. As we discuss how to create effective real estate branding, we’ll focus on logo design specifically, but these principles can and should apply to everything from naming to advertising.
Consider brand logos that you’ve encountered and remember. Chances are very likely that it’s not something that looks ‘trendy’ or similar to other brands in its space. The reason it sticks with you? Boldness. For example, consider the candle aisle at your local Target or similar. Can you think of one single brand that has a memorable logo? Not really. They all kind of look the same. It’s either filigree and florals, or stark and modern. “But,” you may be saying, “who cares about the logo, it’s the scent, right?” But when you do see something that stands out for being different, you’re compelled to at least pick that candle up and give it a sniff.
The same applies to your property. Ultimately, a flashy logo design isn’t going to compel potential tenants to live on that property. It’s going to be the interiors, the amenities, the space, the location. So why even care about a big bold brand?
Easy! Because we want to be bold and eye-catching to make that potential renter stop and take a look. We want something that will pique interest and make that person think, “I could see myself living here.” This is doubly true for new construction. When what you have is a construction site and fence wraps, creating an entire vibe with bold branding is extremely important for pre-leasing and lead generation.
Be smart with your logo design as well. The days of just being able to slap some trees flanking “The Oaks at Washington Heights” or whatnot are over. Consumers have become more sophisticated, and demand brands that are tailored to their lifestyle. More to the point: brands that are tailored to their perceived idealized vision of self. It’s always aspirational. This especially plays into the importance of a decision like where a person is going to live. You’re not just selling a place to store your stuff. You’re selling a community. An area. A lifestyle. And overwhelmingly, people want to feel cool and interesting—and to have their home reflect how unique and interesting they feel.
So how do we do that? By embracing the unexpected. Take elements from the location. Consider the design of the property. Analyze the area. Establish the target demographic. And then the key is to execute based on an idealized aspirational vision of that target demographic. For example, a bold brand that targets millennial creatives who want a live/work/play kind of community is very different from a bold brand catering to active adult senior living. But both can be achieved! It all starts by asking the question, “If I were the target resident for this property, what would be a logo that would inspire me to stop and learn more about this cool looking place?”
As you’re considering the answer to this question, don’t fall into the trap of believing everything has to pretty and perfect. Embrace dissonance. Perfectly perfect design is often boring. It’s blandly pretty, with no unique features that create a WOW factor. Imperfections, asymmetricality, bold typographic choices, and even unexpected bursts of color can create a pleasantly dissonant effect that will get your brand described with those words all marketers love to hear: Edgy! Bold! Brash! Unique! Interesting!
Ultimately, the goal is not to blend into the neighborhood. If it was, you could simply put a for rent sign out and not even bother naming the building. Your real goal to stand out. Yes, you want to create something that resonates with the community and the target demographic, but you also want to be a linchpin of that community and not simply a cog. In order to accomplish that goal, it’s important to prioritize bold and impactful design choices over elements that are pretty, but innocuous.
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 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.
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 To Get More Leads & Leases from Gen Z Renters
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.