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Multifamily Realtors See Benefits of Branding in Driving Internet Sales

February 2007 Communication

Smart national and regional multifamily Realtors are increasingly seeing the value of branding to create an image for properties that are translatable to other properties they own. A by-product of the branding strategy is to drive prospective tenants to the Web where the Internet performs many tasks that individual rental agents previously had to perform.

In the case of Atlanta-based Place Properties LT, which specializes in on- and off-campus student apartments, an proprietary Internet program not only allows students to apply and select apartments on-line, Place through its WebRoomz program enables students to select roommates.

In the tax credit affordable multifamily housing market, two major players — Baltimore-based The Shelter Group and Washington, D.C.-based KSI Management — both have created highly effective branding strategies.

In the upscale multifamily area, Chicago-based AMLI Realty, branding has become the foundation of its Internet-based marketing strategy.

The common denominator to all these multi-family housing marketing strategies from student housing to tax-credit affordable to upscale is the recognition that target markets — at every socio economic stratus — have become more Web savvy and increasingly rely on the Web to make buying decisions.

In the student housing area, Tom Ratchford, president of WebRoomz LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Place Properties LT, explains: “In 1999, we decided we would make technology the differentiator, something that would set us apart from other companies in this business. We have taken all the paperwork that the management staff is responsible for and transferred it to the student via the Web. We were the first company to recognize this system is something that would truly benefit the tenant and something they would want to do.” WebRoomz is its fourth version and soon be marketed to the student apartment housing market as a whole.

The Internet philosophy extends to Place’s branding strategy. “The basis of our branding strategy is that we are the ‘place to live.’ Our landing site is www.placetolive.com,” says Jessica Nix, Place’s director of marketing and public relations. “Our properties are popping up everywhere so it’s important that people who have experienced our brand be able to recognize us when other children, siblings or children of friends go to colleges on other campuses.”

In the upscale area, AMLI tenants are high-income executives who often are transferred or take new positions in different cities. They, too, make extensive use of Web to handle the shopping and application processes. “Branding is particularly valuable when addressing tenants who know of AMLI, either as present of former tenants in other AMLI properties in other states or who are familiar with our reputation.” Says Greg Mutz, founder, chairman and CEO of AMLI. “Knowledge of the AMLI brand translates into confidence to make the rental decision.”

AMLI Executive Vice President Peggy Butterworth adds, “Branding works so well for us because we have the benefit of a consistent product and consistent look across the nation. While every brochure and piece of literature focuses on the individual property, each piece has a consistent look and style.”

In the tax-credit low- and moderate-income markets, Marilyn Duker, president of the Shelter Group says, “It’s particularly important when clergy people and doctors visit parishioners and patients and see the quality of our tax-credit independent housing units. This is particularly effective when we have a number of Park View (the Shelter brand) properties within a tight geographic area.”

KSI has adopted the “Fields” brand for its tax-credit units. In its brand rationale statement, KSI maintains “The name is very welcoming, its nature-themed inclusiveness connotes space and comfort by referencing both the physical expanse of a field and the positive psychological connection to the concept of a field.”

KSI Chief Marketing Officer Jamie Gorski adds, “The brand becomes particularly valuable when people are able to mentally transfer the positive image of one property to another carrying the same brand.”



About the author

James T. Berger, Managing Editor of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit www.jamesberger.net or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.

James T. Berger
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