Branding for an off-campus community, especially in a saturated market, is essential. You must establish a recognizable pattern so students and parents in your market know who you are. This helps word of mouth spread and ensures that you won’t be forgotten. By making your community easy to recognize through branding, you make yourself well-known – and this brings tours and leases!
But, often, properties are sucked into the idea that you have to brand your community hand-in-hand with university branding. For example, t-shirts in the university’s colors, cups with the university mascot on them, etc. You do not have to do this and, more to the point, you should not do this. You do not want your community t-shirts lost in a sea of university t-shirts at a basketball game, you don’t want to be mistaken for campus housing, and you don’t want to be overlooked because you didn’t stand out. You have to establish an identity for your community that stands alone within your university’s community.
In order to successfully do this, you should recognize that there is a difference between piggybacking on university branding and showing support for the university. For instance, you can include “Our community loves the Gators!” or “Go Gators!” on a flyer you’ve made for a homecoming special. Just be careful to not completely forgo your own unique branding and accidentally match the university on a regular basis.
There are a few simple ways to employ unique branding at your community:
- You might first need to establish the theme (or general feel) of your community.
- Find out if you have a niche. Maybe you already have a built-in theme via the way your community was furnished or decorated or named…run with it! Create tag lines and language choices for advertising that convey the feel of your community.
- Maybe your community is fun and fresh and attracts a younger population – so go with bright colors and topical references in your marketing.
- Maybe your community is more laid back and caters to graduate students – so go with a more mature color scheme and use an academic or mature focus in your marketing.
- Don’t try to make your community something it’s not. Embrace what you have to physically work with!
- Establish a color scheme.
- This might seem simple or even silly, but, it makes a difference. Choose colors that complement the feel or theme of your community and that are different from any other community in your market.
- Make sure your logo is clear and effective if it were to stand alone.
- There are instances when a partner will ask for just your logo to put somewhere – you want to make sure that your logo will speak for your community by itself. You want it to be easily recognized and associated with your community at first glance. Think Starbucks, Nike, Apple.
- Stay consistent with your branding.
- Use the same theme, same colors, same logos, same tag lines, same descriptions everywhere.
- This means online, in flyers, on social media, in your brochures, pricing guides, etc.
- Never forget to include your logo on your materials – this is the only way to ensure it will become associated with your brand.
You might already have some parts of the equation in place or maybe you have all the parts in place but they just need a little refresher. Take some time in your next staff meeting or organize a brainstorming session to see how you can give your branding a facelift and how you can achieve effective branding that stays separate from the university in your market. You’ll be surprised how much easier marketing will become and how much faster word of mouth regarding your community will spread once you plant deep branding roots.
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