Real Estate Marketing: The Allure of a Lifestyle Brand
Beth Novitsky in Brand

28 Liberty marketing materials. Image © Gensler

Consumer brands have long been able to attract customers by creating an entire lifestyle around their brand: images, messages and experiences that suggest a common point of view, a shared set of beliefs, membership in a tribe. The same holds true with hospitality brands. Just think of the letter W and not only does an aesthetic spring to mind, but you can also guess what kind of music will be playing in the lobby, what items will be in the mini bar, even how the other guests will be dressed. That’s the power of branding. Brands are about more than just a product or an ad; the logo is really just a shorthand symbol for a whole series of attributes and experiences—physical, verbal, and emotional.

The idea of creating a brand to articulate a lifestyle is a natural part of the sales strategy for high-end residential properties, but the tactic is also useful when marketing commercial office properties. A building is more than available square feet, infrastructure upgrades, and elevator banks. It’s a unique destination capable of attracting a select group of tenants. That’s why we encourage developers to really think about what type of tenants they want to attract, and to create a narrative that will resonate with that sort of tenant. To be able to distinguish between otherwise similar properties, you need to lead with a unique and memorable “hook.” What would it feel like to actually work there?

The story could focus on the creative energy of the neighborhood, or the potential mix of tenant types that create a dynamic environment and the chance for unexpected encounters. Design and architecture are important, too, but you need to explain why. Crafting a distinctive point of view that distinguishes the property, and presenting it in a memorable visual style, will create differentiation.

Of course, for new construction, the challenge is to get people to understand what isn’t there yet. The brand we developed for 55 Hudson Yards, a building designed with professional services firms in mind, needed to feel substantial enough to stand in for something that isn’t built. The story here is about the balance provided by the adjacent retail & cultural destinations at Hudson Yards and the urban-outdoors experience of the High Line, combined with a workplace that’s tailored to a specific tenant type. The crisp, streamlined style—the visual equivalent of a pinstripe suit—is inspired by the building architecture, suggestive of Art Deco style and details from early Soho buildings. The choice of a legal, rather than typical letter-size format for the brochure is a subtle nod to the potential law firm client.

55 Hudson Yards branded collateral. Image © Eddie Berman

Older buildings pose a different challenge. Even if they have been brought up to current infrastructure standards and refurbished inside and out, they can still suffer from a perception problem. Such was the case with One Chase Manhattan Plaza, a landmarked icon of mid-century architecture in the Financial District that was designed by SOM’s Gordon Bunshaft and built for a single tenant (Chase Manhattan Bank, now JPMorgan Chase & Co.). The building was recently purchased by Fosun, a Chinese development company with global reach who is embarking on a significant redevelopment of the entire property. Fosun hired Gensler to re-brand the property and re-introduce it to a new generation and an international audience.

While the building hasn’t changed since its completion in 1961, the area around it has transformed completely: what used to be the exclusive domain of big banks and white-shoe law firms is now home to companies ranging from tech start-ups to media giants, and the vibrant live/work neighborhood offers much more than just places to smoke cigars after the closing bell. So the property is re-imagined as an arts plaza: playing up the famous installations by world-renowned artists Isamu Noguchi and Jean Dubuffet, and transforming former banking halls and street-level architectural voids into restaurants and shops that will enrich the entire neighborhood.

To mark the transformation, we introduced a new name: 28 Liberty. This is not just a street address but also a statement about its location in Lower Manhattan. And by evoking the Statue of Liberty that’s visible in the distance, the name creates an aspirational connection to the ultimate New York City icon. (Even the number 28 was chosen carefully: it symbolizes “double prosperity” in Chinese.) The identity functions as a “monogram” that refers to the visual language of the art installations—which are also used as graphic patterns. The green color, inspired by that famous statue in the harbor, feels retro and appropriate to the era of the building, but fresh at the same time.

When it comes to brand development, no detail is too small—color, pattern, font, imagery, use of technology, even the visitor experience at reception—as long as it’s done thoughtfully and in support of a larger idea. These days, brands that articulate a lifestyle are all around us. Why shouldn’t the building you work in reflect a lifestyle choice, too?

Read my previous entries about brand engagement here.

Beth Novitsky is a design director and senior associate in Gensler's New York office, and a leader of the firm's global Brand Design practice. She believes that a strong brand story can be a powerful asset, whether in the context of a retail store or a corporate environment. She works with companies around the world to develop programs involving brand strategy and identity, print communications, signage and environmental graphics and packaging. Contact her at
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