Small change, big effect. At the 80-unit Art Deco co-op at 350 E. 77th St., the board asked shareholders to come up with a name for the building – a first step in establishing a brand for the co-op. The top choice was simple: “The 350.”
“They took their address number and made it special,” says Marilyn Sygrove, the president of the Sygrove Associates Design Group, which has been modernizing common areas in co-ops and condos since 1982. Now Sygrove is expanding into the largely untapped world of branding older buildings – helping them come up with a name, then designing a website touting the building’s neighborhood, architectural details, common areas, history and amenities.
Marketing moves. “New-construction condominiums come up with these sexy, elaborate websites,” Sygrove says. “Meanwhile, the co-op next door may have just done an amazing makeover of its common areas, but they don’t have a website that explains to a potential buyer what it’s like to live in this building. The boards in older buildings are realizing they need to be competitive.”
Working in conjunction with the website copywriter Betsy Kent of Be Visible and the designer Sunny Ryoo of Pixelove, which designs and builds websites, Sygrove is on a crusade to create building brands by first identifying the ideal apartment buyer, then tailoring the website and promotional materials to attract that buyer. This toolkit ranges from naming the building to designing a logo and color scheme, promotional materials, possibly an awning and, of course, a website.
Say cheese! “The building’s website will have professional images,” Kent says. “It could include floor plans and images of apartments that are for sale. Buildings spend big time and money to improve their common areas, and yet nobody sees them unless they visit the building. By creating a brand, boards can create a window into their building that they control.”
A potent name. Arguably the most potent facet of any brand is its name. It’s possible for consultants like Sygrove and Kent to come up with suggestions for building names, or for boards to solicit ideas from shareholders. It’s also possible to use a combination of both methods. For her part, Kent favors getting residents involved in choosing a name for their building. “That way,” she says, “the people who have a stake in the building feel they have a voice.”