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FEATURES Mall Branding for Success

The Importance of Branding for Retail Destinations ALAN ROBERTSON*

Abstract: Brand is a key asset for property owners and managers. This article examines the importance of developing and implementing a brand story as a major contributor to the success of a retail destination.

Introduction Retail property destinations should be branded.

Branding is a crucial building block for property marketing that conveys a promise to the tenant and to the customer. The way to create that branding is to design a property’s style and story.

The Brand Story Before developing a marketing plan to create that style

and story around a shopping-center property or even a specific retail property, it is important to understand what the plan does, what it provides, and to whom and why it matters. The rationale to do it is simple: Brand styles and stories drive critical interactions between customers and tenants. The more compelling the story, “the more it will power the success of your enterprise,” according to brand consultant Mark Thomson.1 Moreover, that brand message should be the foundation and focus for all company decisions. For existing malls, a branding change should only be undertaken when the brand story is shifting or distinctly different. That may come about when an owner's long-term strategy is altered, when the property is sold to a new owner or when the property is expanded, renovated or enhanced in some manner. Elements of this branding story are formed by property

designs, flows, colors, shapes, attractions and engagement. Consider how color has been thought to create an element of that story. Early designers embraced a "comfort and style" continuum, for example. Bright and vibrant colors connoted fun and comfort, while monochrome colors were thought to connote sophistication and a more futurist image. No matter what that message is, there are common steps to develop that brand story.

The Branding Process The Foundation Thorough research is an essential preliminary step to

developing a successful brand. This phase is where the brand story is unearthed, understood and finalized. Branding consultants should immerse themselves in

the mall and its surroundings in order to learn as much about it as possible. As part of this process, all existing information should be collated. Documents such as architectural plans, corporate strategies and presentations are especially invaluable in understanding the current positioning of the mall. The mall location will be studied as a means of

providing context, with competitors analyzed to ensure the developed brand story is unique to the region and its audience. The local and national culture of the mall is also key. For example, Chinese malls often position themselves slightly more upscale than the local market, as there is frequently a tradition of aspiration within the community. For new mall developments, understanding the target

market through market research is fundamental, as owners and developers must know they have a substantial audience in their desired segments— otherwise, the brand story is irrelevant and void. Interviews with stakeholders and other colleagues will

help discover their perceptions and aspirations for the brand, as well as further in-depth information regarding the company and its operations. From the research and interviews, a comprehensive

strategy can be developed that outlines the brand story and how it should be expressed, as seen in Figure 7-1. This phase of the plan will state the brand values, customer aspirations and mission statement, all of which should be referred to throughout the subsequent stages.

* CEO, Air Design Ltd. 1 Mark Thomson, “The Power of a Good Brand Story,” BrandChannel, October 25, 2004, retrieved May 20, 2013.


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