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5 ways to balance brand consistency with local autonomy
If you want your global branding to be consistent yet locally relevant, you’ve got to get all levels of your marketing teams talking—and not just to customers.
Let’s take a look at how home builders and residential developers can work together to achieve both.
1. Share Marketing Strategy
It’s easy to develop a myopic focus on customers. After all, they are the ones builders and developers need to influence to buy. Internal messaging, it turns out, is just as important.
That’s because internal communication is necessary to achieve consistency, so every marketer can plan and execute with confidence and precision. The absence of cohesiveness between local and regional/global marketing strategies causes confusion to existing and potential new clients when messages clash, ultimately diluting your brand.
On the other hand, you don't want to be so standardized that local marketers cannot appeal to their audiences based on the culture and tonality of the communities they serve.
An article published by the Harvard Business Review noted that over-performing companies agree, by a wide margin, with both of these statements: “Local marketing understands the global strategy” and “Global marketing understands the local marketing reality.”
The same study showed that performing companies used key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure brand success, holding local marketers accountable for meeting goals for metrics including growing revenue and profit.
What made the difference between simply winning and over-the-top results was that one group focused solely on communicating brand messaging with customers. When top-level marketers shared brand strategy at all levels, the improvement in results was dramatic.
Whether you offer training webinars, local or regional councils, or provide access to a single portal with brand messaging, strategy, creative artwork and such, the key is to make sure marketing messages at every level of marketing are aligned with a single, overarching strategy. Then calibrate each location for core messaging, use the same core metrics to measure success and maintain image quality.
This not only keeps your employees in the loop but reduces the chance of confusing customers. When what you promise nationally isn’t exactly what is delivered, you lose trust. At a minimum, each community must provide a consistent experience. It helps when your primary message translates across cultures based on a universal motivation.
2. Have a Flexible Master Plan
That said, brand standards need to include room for local adaptations.
Consider simplifying standards at the local level. From logos to wayfinding, the brand has to fit and feel right for the price point and culture of the area. Remember, a strategy can look and feel different, yet still fit under the global or regional brand umbrella.
In residential developments, for example, each community has a color palette reflective of the audience the home builder wants to attract. It should be evident when you look at the collection of logos representing builders available within a master planned development, which communities are aimed at families, active retirees or those who prefer a little more seclusion.
These varying typefaces, colors, and imagery are each designed slightly differently to connect with one version of the ideal resident.
One logo could feature a butterfly, and another a local plant. A more sophisticated, old English serif font with dark, bold colors might work for those seeking prestige, while a sans serif font combined with contemporary designs and colors might appeal more to growing families.
Even community names should speak to the desired type of home buyer. Starter homes might be given some variation of the naming convention in which they are commonly referred to as the villages, with pockets of semi-custom homes bearing slightly elevated aspirational monikers until one gets to the pinnacle of offerings with the most sophisticated prices—and names.
You need to know where your brand fits in, so you know how to talk to local buyers.
Yet, there still needs to be a unifying element which makes it clear each grouping of homes belongs to the same family. This visual tie could be a color, a font, a symbol or an image which both transcends and preserves intended differences.
Because communities grow over time as each new builder signs on, principal residential developers should have a destination in mind or a loose unifying philosophy going in. Refer back to it as needed. Otherwise, by the fourth or fifth community, it can become difficult to pull together a fresh strategy which still fits.
Also, bear in mind that within the family of brands, the siblings don’t have to get along. But every builder’s brand has to get along with the parent development company brand.
As an example, a master-planned development has a color palette all its own. Each builder within the community brings in the uniqueness of its master brand strategy—and those will not always match those of their neighbors.
However, because each brand’s palette offers options, best practice suggests making local selections that will best complement the overarching brand.
So, don’t worry as much whether each builder in a development has a matching look or feel. In fact, it is desirable to have differences to set each apart from the rest.
That’s where local autonomy comes in, meaning requiring too strict of adherence to national branding might make your community stand out, and not in a good way.
If you represent a global brand moving into a new area, consider partnering with a local agency. Choose one familiar with what does and does not translate well in the market.
Avoiding future brand reputation cleanups by dodging cultural faux pas up front can be a real lifesaver.
3. Enter Builders, Stage Left
While much of new home marketing is done at the development level, it’s time to build and maintain trust when individual builders get involved.
Buyers might come to visit your community because they already feel loyal to a builder within a development. They will be looking for brand consistency. So, make sure their local experience lives up to national brand expectations for materials, the way things are decorated and the method of wayfinding.
How it all plays out should make guests feel right at home. And that can make all the difference.
4. Every Community Has a Story
Sure, each master plan comes with a story. And it should be told well.
The local community story, however, always trumps that of the master plan.
Case in point: imagine driving up to a new home builder’s information distribution spot and being greeted at the main gate by a representative of a specific builder within the master-planned community.
From that point on, you are the guest of that builder. You never hear the development name again.
The way the representative is dressed, the language he or she uses, and the look and feel of the sales handouts are carefully crafted to create an elevated experience. You have entered one of the more aspirational sections of a development, and everything about it should convey that emotion.
But that’s their story. If you don’t already have one, take the time to uncover yours.
5. Sometimes You Need a Hand
While we’d all love to start with big-name brand recognition, it doesn’t come without effort and is built over time.
Newer builders will likely benefit from being included in the master-planned community’s website directory, even if it means being buried a few pages deep. After all, if buyers don’t know about you, they can’t find you. So lean somewhat on the main story, with a few plot twists of your own.
Already established? It’s worth asking whether you are big enough for your story to stand on its own. If the answer is yes, consider developing an independent website where your story is the main attraction, rather than the one taking place down the hall and to the right.
Sure, acknowledge being part of the overall development. But focus on what you, and only you, have to offer. You’ll have more freedom to tell your story—with your full palette of brand colors and standards brightly blazing.
We know. It’s a lot to take in. Not sure where to start? You’re not alone. LAVIDGE can help. To learn more give us a call at 480.998.2600 or send email to [email protected].
2018 Southwest Residential Development Marketing Report
This article is a brief abstract of our exclusive study about home buyers and their preferences for advertising and marketing tactics used by new home builders.