ULI Poland: City and Building Branding is More than a Logo

More and more real estate developers know that real estate marketing is no longer only about creating a logo and printing a building brochure. Similarly, Polish city councils are becoming increasingly sophisticated about the way they treat the promotion of their investment offer. Effective ways to make a location stand out, attract new employers, and fill newly-built office and residential buildings with people were debated at the second PLACES + SPACES meeting on 17 April 2018 in Warsaw.

PLACES + SPACES is a series of events initiated by Urban Land Institute Poland and dedicated to real estate, urban planning, and architecture experts as well as local government representatives. The second event was moderated by Pia de Malherbe, an experienced marketing consultant, who has carried out projects for clients such as Harrods Hotels and Pocket London.

“The era of ‘Mad Men’ is gone. Now we are dealing with ‘Math Men’. When creating an image, we should rely as much on emotions as on measurable data,” said Malherbe, referring to the popular television series about the 1960s advertising industry.

Malherbe’s view was supported by Lex Brans, Director Task Force Housing & Real Estate Marketing, Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. In his remarks, he presented tools and methods that brought the perception of Amsterdam back to normal after a recent crisis in 2012, when the number of investors active in the city went down from nearly thirty to only four. Brans described the qualities that investors look for in cities: “Investors make decisions, analysing the general economic situation, staff availability, proper transport infrastructure, and possibility of applying for an attractive tax relief. On the other hand, they want to operate in cities with soul that can offer a high quality of everyday life.”

According to Brans, the distinctiveness of a city is a factor that must not go unnoticed. “Amsterdam’s comeback to the investment market was 50% effective branding based on emotions, 25% hard business data, and the remaining 25% long-term investor confidence.”

Adam Pustelnik, Director of Investor Service and International Cooperation Bureau, City of Łódź, also shared his views on the subject. During the discussion, he advocated for seeking real opportunities for city promotion and looking for inspiration in locations with similar potential. At the same time, he cautioned against mechanically copying solutions from other places: “It is good to aim high, but you also need to cut your coat according to your cloth and look for your own way. Many Polish mayors also make the mistake of communicating an international investment offer to the local audience, which is largely a result of local politics. If Łódź had not abandoned this ineffective model, the city would not have attracted so many international investors.”

Phil Redding, CEO of Wordsearch, a creative agency for the real estate and architecture sector, addressed PLACES + SPACES participants, sharing his expertise on how to make a building stand out. It was his company that created a narrative and marketing materials for famous landmarks such as The Shard and Battersea Power Station in London and One World Trade Centre in New York City. According to Redding, the key to effective branding, regardless of the scale and function of a development project, is to think about it as a place for people rather than merely more square metres to fill. In this context, he discussed the devaluation of certain adjectives that real estate developers tend to overuse. “Words such as ‘iconic’, ‘unique’, ‘luxurious’, ‘tailored’ or ‘centrally located’ lose their meaning when overused,” he said. “Also, the fact that we take advantage of the latest technologies will not automatically make our building a hit. You must always ask yourself the following questions: Who am I building for? What kind of experience do I want for future users? And create marketing campaigns based on that.”

Sebastian Bedekier, Partner and Regional Director at Colliers International in Poznań assured that more and more successful cases of building branding can also be found in Poland. “Polish projects are becoming more and more interesting, in terms of not only the quality of architecture and delivery but also the solutions and tools used for their promotion,” he said.

An example of such a project was presented by Karolina Kaim, CEO, Tacit Investment, who was involved in planning the sales campaign for Cosmopolitan, a high-rise apartment building in Warsaw. “We knew from the beginning that our building is great, but it would not have been so successful if we had not meticulously created a brand based on specific values and emotions,” said Kaim. “Creating a desired, consistent image requires effort, time, and money but is definitely worth it.”

The second PLACES + SPACES meeting was summed up by John Banka, Chairman of ULI Poland: “Our debate proved that combined experience of specialists in investment, real estate, and marketing has excellent results. An attractive, professionally created image of a city attracts investors, making it an economic driver for the entire country. Recognisable buildings not only create a modern environment for work and rest but also inspire the imagination of tourists and are a cause for pride for locals. City and building branding is an interlocking system. I am happy that the Urban Land Institute could contribute to the promotion of this subject in Poland.”

We would like to thank our sponsors and partners for support of the Places + Spaces and helping us to make it happen: Landmark sponsors – Griffin Real Estate, Globalworth, Echo Investment and EPP; Silver sponsor – Cushman & Wakefield; and Bronze sponsors – ECE Projektmanagement Polska and Skanska Property Poland.

The PLACES + SPACES series is held under the auspices of Mayor of Warsaw.

Upcoming PLACES + SPACES meetings in 2018:

  • 19 June: “High streets, public spaces and placemaking”
  • 18 September: “Tomorrow’s urbanhoods”
  • 23 October: “Dreaming the new downtown”