Build Place Brands, Not concepts, Says Bill Bathurst Property Marketing Expert


Brand and concept are two notions that are becoming increasingly popular in area
developments. They are sometimes used interchangeably and that often leads to
confusion, disagreement and disappointment. Professionals such as urban
planners and architects often dislike 'brand' while they have little trouble
accepting 'concept'. This is mainly because they, wrongly, associate brands with
advertising and commerce. It is high time that both notions are clarified.

A concept is a good, distinctive and sometimes unique idea for the development
of a product, service, building or area. In real estate, concepts are already
applied to the development of, for example, office and residential buildings,
shopping, entertainment and conference centres, and leisure centres. Concepts
function well for such developments because they take a certain characteristic of
the development and apply it to for example, the architecture, the retail offer, the
decor and service. A concept often serves a specific target group, such as
shoppers or partygoers, conference or business users. A concept is often has a
sell-by date. A workable concept often becomes outdated in a number of years.
The development and implementation of a concept is usually the responsibility of
separate parties such as the architect and developer. Concept management is

A brand is a promise of value that must be kept for different audiences
simultaneously, such as residents, visitors, businesses, investors and institutions.
This means that the way the promise is fulfilled will differ (somewhat) for each of
the groups while still retaining a clear connection between these activities. A
brand for an area development is therefore often not a single promise, but is
formed by several related themes. Often, (valuable) themes added over time.
This enrichment of an area brand does not happen by chance, but is created
through (carefully) brand management. A brand is not only a leading principle for
the development of an area (e.g. urban planning, architecture, landscape,
materials) but also for its management (e.g. attraction programs, area
management, events, communications). Furthermore, the development,
implementation and management of the brand of an area are the shared
responsibility of its stakeholders: government, developer, investor, key tenants,
residents and the like. A brand is ideally suited for developments with a fairly
high level of complexity and an extended period of development, such as (innercity)
mixed-use developments.

In area development processes, brand and concept are often complementary and
can be used in conjunction. Within an area development, there may e various
concepts that help realise the brand, such as a designer hotel, a slow food
restaurant, an organic market, shared facilities for creative start-ups, an
ecological district, a culture institution or a factory outlet centre. In this context,
concepts such as area incubators are sometimes used. These are physical
(permanent or temporary) functions that are employed to speed-up an area
development process.

In summary, we can say that:

1. A concept is a form of reduction (a good idea), while in a brand enriches the
image of an area
2. The value of a concept decreases with the time, while the value of a brand
increases (at least with carefully brand management)
3. A concept is especially applicable to single-use developments and a brand to
mixed-use developments
4. Concepts within and area can complement and help realise its brand
5. A brand functions simultaneously as an organising principle and a decision making
tool for a partnership of stakeholders.


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