Over the past few weeks, as part of our sixteenth birthday celebrations, we gave our clients and partners the opportunity to ask us a question about our sixteen years together, our take on all things design and our aspirations for the next sixteen years. By remarkable coincidence, we ended up with a very fitting sixteen questions which we have grouped together into common themes.

We’re kicking things off with the first four questions in the field of property and international work. Here goes…

How do you avoid property marketing becoming samey?
Jonathan Turner, owner of Complete Project Development

The first part of answering this question is to address the role of marketing – it’s possible that the samey-ness could, in many cases, be as a result of a short-term approach – the idea, perhaps, that once the properties are sold, the marketing is no longer needed – or a perception that in the grand scheme of things, marketing is not a big priority.

For us, the creation of an identity and marketing materials for your development is about far more than providing the nuts and bolts of floor plans and vital statistics. It’s about ensuring your development stands out from the competition and, in doing so, creates a vital emotional connection with the right target audience. When a buyer spends a day viewing potential homes, we want your brochure to be the one they reach for that evening – or your website the one they keep coming back to. To achieve this, you need to bring it to life for them: What will it be like to live here? What will I do on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon? That’s the role you need marketing to fulfil – not just a quick reminder of the layout.

Our process for creating this connection is not specific to the property sector – no matter the industry, it is vital to find the unique idea or – as Tony calls it – ‘the golden nugget’ of individuality around which you create everything else.

When it comes to property, it doesn’t have to be the building itself – it could be the site on which it’s built, the wider local area, the target audience, or even how the property will be used. But whatever it is, pinpointing this golden nugget will form the lynchpin for the whole identity and communication platform. It is the thing that will make a development memorable so it’s vital to dedicate time (and budget) to finding it – it will make all the difference in creating an identity that will endure long after the last property has been sold.

How has the role of branding and design for property changed/evolved over the last 16 years?
Ben Hobart, Director at Savills

The huge growth in digital hasn’t evaded the bricks and mortar of the property market – apparently more than a fifth of consumers have at least one property app installed on their phone and use them around 5 times per week on average*. So one of the biggest evolutions has to be the role digital channels now play for house hunters.

First and foremost, there are practical requirements to cater to this way of searching for a home – online brochures that work on any device, high-quality flythroughs, a marketing plan that harnesses the power of social media. They need to effortlessly communicate everything a potential buyer could want to know about the property and the location – they play a vital role in securing viewings.

With a wealth of online resources at their fingertips (Google street view and Zoopla price checker for starters), buyers are savvier than ever about how they house hunt. The days when you could tempt people into a viewing with an artful camera angle or euphemistic descriptions like ‘bijou’ or ‘up and coming’ are well and truly over.

Instead, buyers want to know that their home will cater to a range of needs and many new developments reflect this shift in expectations. With thought given to how people will relax, work and socialise in and around their home, good developments often function almost as standalone eco-systems.

Branding and design have had to reflect and adapt to all these changes and most developers now recognise the important role they play.

With no scope for smoke and mirrors, creating a strong identity for a new development is a far better way to create the kind of desire or emotional ‘pull’ that will help a buyer see beyond any limitations the property might have.

The best examples of this are built around a strong concept that shows a real understanding of the location and target demographic, bringing to life the lifestyle the homes can offer. Done well, property branding has always been a powerful tool for building awareness and differentiation – it seems as though more developers are embracing this than ever before.

*According to the Buy Association

Given your range of property experience, is there a type of development that particularly interests you at the moment?
Nick Vaughan, Director at Savills

We’ve worked on residential, commercial, retail and mixed use developments in the UK and beyond – one area we’re yet to work on in the UK but would love to is in the Build-to-Rent sector. Being London-based, we know how difficult it is to get onto the property ladder, particularly in big cities, so it’s great to see how the sector is evolving to provide high-calibre, well-located homes, with the kinds of amenities that really enhance quality of life.

From a design and branding perspective, it has a lot of appeal. It provides the opportunity to develop a multi-faceted brand, underpinned by clear purpose, vision and values. This is the kind of strategic exercise we go through with most of our clients outside of property and with commercial developments such as Potsdamer Platz, but it is often more than is required for many Build-to-Sell residential developments.

For a Build-to-Rent, on the other hand – where the needs range from attracting the right kind of support staff who maintain the facilities to continually attracting new tenants, right through to building long-term loyalty – investing in a well-defined brand platform is a no-brainer.

Many of the developments we have seen have fabulous facilities – gyms, dining areas, roof terraces, cinema rooms and we can see huge potential for strong brands to emerge that encapsulate everything these mini communities have to offer. We’d love to work with a developer to create real differentiation in a market that’s set to become fiercely competitive.*

It’s an area we’ve touched on in the US – our 251 Dekalb project (https://251dekalb.com/) in Philadelphia involved creating a brand and identity for a fully refurbished and regenerated development. It would be great to work on something similar in the UK.

*More than £1.2bn was invested in the UK Build-to-Rent market in Q1 2021 and the number of homes is set to reach 188,500 based on the future pipeline – source Savills’ UK Build to Rent Market Update Q1 2021.

You’ve clearly done a lot of work internationally over the last 16 years. Was this always part of the plan? What do you think it brings to your offer as an agency?
Giorgios Vlamis, Partner at Senlac Ridge Partners

We’ve always embraced international projects but in all honesty it wasn’t part of any masterplan – it’s happened pretty organically over the years.

Many of the Rare Breed team have spent time living and working abroad so our outlook has never been confined to just the UK. And we can’t lie – we definitely like the glamour of an international project, especially when it involves a spot of travel!

That said, we may not have planned for it but we do think it brings something to our offer, although what that ‘something’ is, is not easy to pin down. It’s probably a combination of things – an openness to exploring new things, an empathy with what it feels like to be ‘foreign’, a sensitivity to cultural differences, the thrill of familiar things being done in unfamiliar ways – the list goes on!

Over the years, our international work has taken us from branding Potsdamer Platz, one of the biggest retail destinations in Europe to creating a brand for New Zealand apples and from ending busy days in LA and New York with the perfect negroni to finding ourselves on the fringes of a military coup in Istanbul. There’s never a dull moment!