In John Hegarty’s book on Advertising he refers to one of my favourite quotes “A brand is the most valuable real estate in the world - a corner of the consumer’s mind.” As a leader in the real estate business, I believe we no longer build buildings, we build brands.
The rise & rise of the mobile, the continued growth of the internet and the proliferation of new channels such as Click and Collect have driven huge shifts in consumer behaviour and present a potential threat to traditional retail. Land Securities believe that putting brand at its heart and exhibiting brand behaviour allows us to embrace new opportunities, to stay relevant in this new omni-channel world and differentiate ourselves from traditional competing retail centres.
Brand behaviour doesn’t mean simply building the bricks & mortar, then calling marketing in for a logo and a launch campaign, Marketing can, and should contribute significantly more to the property sector. I often talk about viability, vision, leasing and launch as the key roles when supporting a development. For existing centres, being able to understand the customer intimately, identifying shifts in behaviour and guiding response to that change allow the centre to create a lasting, emotional engagement with the customer that drives loyalty and share of wallet in an increasingly competitive environment.
Our seminal moment was appointing Fitch to work on Trinity Leeds. We undertook an unprecedented level of insight to develop a brand vision for the scheme that we articulated as Everyday Wonder. The brand process included workshops for leasing, design, digital, customer service and marketing to ensure every area of the business worked towards one brand vision. We explored how this brand would look, think and speak in every area of the scheme: what would Everyday Wonder mean for the customer service team? What retailers and restaurants would create the perfect mix? How could we use our digital capability to deliver it?
Everyday Wonder is a big brand promise and one that we have to work hard to ensure our behaviour lives up to. The centre team recently organised a flashmob to help someone propose, our roof cleaning team dressed up as Batman and Spiderman after people told the team they were superheroes for working in all weathers and when people discovered that our secret pop-up restaurant in a metal shipping container was hosting the hottest chefs and coolest cocktail mixologists, they shared it via social media – over 1.1 million times.
The award-winning Trinity Kitchen was born of the brand – we host 7 retail pods and every 8 weeks we bring in 6 street food vans. We have to take them into the basement, empty fuel, load them on a special flatbed lorry, drive them around the building and the lift them into the first floor location – a lot of work but the result is an ever-evolving mix of the best street food operators in the UK set in the most innovative food court in the country.
Six years ago the industry was asking itself why would people want to be friends with a shopping centre on social media? Today almost 120,000 people choose to be friends with Trinity Leeds on Facebook and our levels of engagement rank highly, not against other shopping centres, but against the consumer brands we now consider our peers.
We are delighted that Trinity Leeds has been awarded Coolbrands status. Chosen by an independent Expert Council and thousands of members of the public, Coolbrands is the barometer of Britain’s coolest brands, people and places.
In order to keep our status we need to continue to try to understand the role the brand can play in the property world; continue to evolve our behaviour and continue to embrace new channels to deliver the great experiences that keep us relevant to our consumers. In exchange our consumers will stay engaged with our brand and keep coming back to our centres and our clients.