Chaos or Clarity: Real Estate Developers Need To Tell Their Own Story

, Posted on May 30

When I began my career as a marketing professional nearly 30 years ago, the commercial real estate marketing world was narrow and a mile deep.

Today, it is a mile wide and if it were water, you could skip across it and not even get your ankles wet.

To say that the playing field has leveled for companies big and small is the understatement of all time.

And, guess what?  For the first time in my lifetime, it’s not just about how much money you have to spend!

Brains Over Braun

There was a time when a company could simply outspend its competitors and win on every front.  If you wanted to sell more beer all you had to do was create compelling commercials with horses, frogs, puppies, and other memorable visuals and messages and spend until your goals were achieved.

In contrast, today’s microbreweries spend very little and have fans buying memberships, putting stickers on their cars and laptops, inviting their friends to become fans and literally living in their brands.

The example for mixed-use developers may include activating places or spaces with a farmer’s markets, pet parks or concerts.  It’s creating stories and memories. It’s more about the spaces between the buildings than the buildings themselves.

Connecting with customers in a personal and experiential way is the new “outspend.”

Storytelling vs. Spending

Whether a developer or property manager is communicating with its existing or future tenants, or serving as a magnet to attract visitors and their disposable income, storytelling is a critical component to success.

Retailers, restaurants and entertainment uses are opening fewer and fewer locations each year and have plenty of choices.  They are seeking environments that not only have a great story but have storytelling and activation deeply rooted in their DNA.

Today’s consumers are paying for experiences over things.  They can order from Vineyard Vines, Lululemon, ZARA and hundreds of other retailers from the comfort of their own home. But when environments integrate restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries, entertainment, great public spaces and experiential “surprises,” the game changes.  Consumers of goods and services will get off their butts.

Don’t Be the Best Kept Secret

In order to tell a great story, you need to have a great story.  Thoughtful developers and property managers who understand today’s demographic and psychographic trends and have activated their environments need to scream it from the hilltop.  If this is you, congratulations, you have differentiated yourself from 95% of all retail and mixed-use environments and your peer centers are scared.

But if you stopped there, you are missing out on the “icing” on the cake.

We have helped dozens of center owners like Columbus-based Steiner + Associates define and amplify their stories locally, regionally and nationally.  Those efforts have led to greater awareness, heightened credibility, thought leadership opportunities, leasing momentum, Wall Street attention, significant media coverage and accelerated sales.

I will leave you with one final thought:  We are defined by the stories we tell or that are told about us.

Control is critical in writing both your history and your future.  Are you writing and telling your own story or is someone else doing it for you?