Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Real Value for Real Estate

(Interview with Jean-Claude Saade for Capital Magazine – Turkey)

1 – You are brand strategist and you live in Dubai. Could you tell about your self and your workings?

I have been in the brand and communication business for more than 22 years. I have lived in several countries in the Middle East and worked with a large number of international and local clients. Most recently, I have witnessed the phenomenal boom of both the branding and real estate businesses in Dubai from 2004 till 2009. Currently I am based in Lebanon and work as an adviser to a number of companies and organizations across the Middle East region.

2 – Until today, how many companies did you work as a brand strategist? Were they real estate companies?

I have worked on a large number of projects for various companies and brands; several of them were in real estate business.

3 – Why is it important creating brand in real estate?

The role of brand creation in real estate is as important as in any other business sector. However, Branding in the real estate business has its own challenges and has developed special tools and approaches to better benefit from branding in an industry that has its own dynamics and challenges.

A real estate brand will help the creation of a better connection with customers from the initial stages of awareness and consideration to the more developed stages of brand loyalty and referral.
More important, a strong brand is the best “insurance policy” facing a general economic crisis like the one we are facing right now or even specific challenges that the real estate business is facing in certain markets.

In certain markets where the real estate business is now developing in an unprecedented way due to a number of economic and conjuncture reasons, having the right advice about real estate branding might be priceless to real estate developers and will definitely give then a clear advantage over their competitors.

4 – How do economic crises influence branded real estate and the others?

The economic crisis has affected literally everything including the real estate business. However, strong brands that are built on solid business model and supported by a strong connection with customers will be less affected by the crisis. Even they can be “saved” by the love of their customers that will be manifested at different levels.

5 – What the reasons are for create brand in real estate? What do you think about the relation between branding and real estate?

The reason of creating brands in real estate is to create value. A good real estate project will have a “higher value” for different target groups being investors, residents, the city, the community, the government and many others. The brand is the face and materialization of this extra financial, commercial, social and emotional value.

The branding basics applicable to the real estate business are no different from branding in any other sector. The principles and the overall benefits are the same, but the applications are more specific to the real estate business.

Moreover, Branding in the real estate is a sign of the market development, sophistication and high competitiveness. After the basic stage of build-sell-build cycle of less developed markets, comes the brand driven real estate business where a well known and respected brand can build trust and drive the business from one project to another.

6 – What are the critical subjects for creating brand in real estate? what are your suggestions?

My advice is to know where to brand and where not to brand, as not all real estate projects will benefit from a branding effort. Bearing in mind the substantial budget needed for branding.

Over-branding and badly managed branding projects will have negative effects on real estate projects and the real estate market in a city or a country in general.

I brief, know when branding is needed and do it with specialized professionals.

7 – In this subject, which companies you find successful? Why?

Real estate products are “durables” and a long term investments; therefore the time factor is very important in judging the success or failure of real estate companies.

A certain company might appear innovative and successful based on few projects that were in demand but this is not the final verdict for its sustainable success as a brand. This will depend on continuous and flawless delivery of its “Promise” to customers and to other involved groups and bodies.
If we take the example of real estate companies in Dubai, several big names could not stand the test of the first economic downturn neither managed to behave as big brands should.

8 – For creating brand in real estate which are more indispensable? What are the rules?

I would like to share with your readers some rules that we have developed based on our experience with real estate brands.

Rule # 1: Branding is definitely needed if your project is one of the following three types of developments:

1. Iconic projects (i.e. the Palm in Dubai)

2. Destinations

3. Communities

Rule # 2: Transparency – always deliver what you promise to your customers.

Rule # 3: Consistency – make sure that all your projects are successful; one failure will tarnish a long history of delivery and hard work.

9 – How do you see the future of real estate? If we compare branded real estate with the others, they get more value. How much branding could increase value of real estate projects?

Real estate is still a growing segment with a huge potential despite slowdown caused by the current crisis. Population is growing; lifestyle is evolving; and the need for more new and better real estate projects will continue to increase.

Branding will definitely increase the value of real estate projects especially if the brand is known for its exceptional delivery, quality, finishing, lifestyle standards and facilities inside its projects. The brand will be then the sign of all the added values that customers should expect from a certain company but never an excuse to hike prices without any viable reason.

10 – How do you find İstanbul and real estate market in this city? İstanbul, will it be like Dubai?

Every city has its own potential and limitations.

For example, Dubai has experienced a phenomenal growth in the real estate segment that has changed for ever the face of the small emirate. Some companies managed to create big brands out of their names and projects; at the same time many other companies have failed miserably. Above all, the collective branding effort has definitely managed to put the “Brand Dubai” on the world map as a prime real estate market.

I am sure that Istanbul and other Turkish cities and areas can benefit from real estate branding to build and grow their image and attractiveness at a world level.

Jean-Claude Saade – Brand Consultant

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