Building Brand Identity

As architects, we create well-executed designs. As entrepreneurs, we sell a product. We can create demand for our product by positioning ourselves at the top of our market. Whatever our architectural forte or market niche might be, it behooves us to focus some time, effort and dollars on creating brand identity.

We can learn from the big marketers in every industry. Take fashion for example — Versace, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein — each of these names promises consistency of quality and design. Their consumers are willing to pay a premium, not necessarily because one elite designer’s product is better than another, but because buyers want to identify themselves with the brand name. It’s a point of ego as well as a vote for quality.

Branding yourself will create identity, and suddenly you will become a word-of-mouth entity. The brand identity process can begin simply by developing a logo block, which should include your name; a logo to project an image; and always your website address.

Use the logo consistently wherever your company name appears, whether on the website, e-mail, print ads, signage of all kinds, and of course stationery and business cards. Eventually your audience will respond to it and your brand will gain credibility.

Each of us can project a certain allure and create demand, even if only within our local playing field. The first step is to know your market and have a well-identified focus for your design niche. What is your product and area of expertise? Does your client mix consist of developers or builders? Do you target a commercial or multifamily audience? Or is it the end user, from the green housing advocate to the luxury build client?

The most basic, effective tool you can implement to reach your target market is e-mail (but be aware of privacy laws in your area). Your message should be succinct and can be as basic as proffering your website address. Make sure your site is substantive and updated, both with visuals and good information. With consistency over several months, by recontacting prospects every 18 to 21 days for example, these efforts will produce long-term effects for your company’s image.

Do you have more dollars to spend? Consider print publications that your prospective clients peruse, be it slick social/fashion magazines, trade publications or your local community newspaper. Strive for no fewer than two consecutive issues, or even better, three or four ads over five to seven months in the same publication.

Image advertising is what you’re seeking, as opposed to product sales. Look for added value with start-up publications offering flexible rates; multi-city publications that expand your ad’s reach; and quarterly publications that extend shelf-life.

Establishing yourself as the go-to expert in your industry and with the public is a great way to strengthen your brand identity. It will gain you visibility in a short time frame, and can be accomplished a few ways. Write a column (or even better, a book), speak at forums, and/or exhibit at trade shows. This will build your image as an expert in your niche. Partnering with your builder, lender or other peers will also extend your credibility by association.

Ultimately, it is your reputation that will keep the clients at the design table. Acumen and integrity cannot be overstated, but once you’re on the map, branding your identity can bring greater opportunity, both in quantity and quality of projects. That in itself is well worth our investment as architects.