Rebranding Must Serve a Larger Mission


Corporate rebranding is a trend that is all the rage today. New logos and reworked corporate names are springing up nationally as marketers and decision-makers attempt to dress their companies or organizations in a new and more modern style. As a recent article in Forbes put it, the new emphasis on the corporate brand is a nod to “the increasingly transparent and accessible world driven by social media.”

But that is not to say that corporate rebranding is a new trend. It has been taking place for generations. Ever take a sip of Brad’s Drink? You probably have. You just know it better as Pepsi Cola.

In all cases of rebranding, there is a menu of three elements that go into the process, and organizations choosing to update their image can go for any or all of the choices. Let’s look at them one by one.

Name changes, such as Brad’s Drink, are the most obvious. Nearly 30 years ago, vehicle-maker Datsun changed its small-car brand to Nissan to unify its identity. Even Google began life as BackRub (as in: “Let’s BackRub this”). In the years since, Kentucky Fried Chicken famously became simply KFC, presumably to downplay the “Fried” (and for that matter, the processed “Chicken”). Most recently, Coach—the handbag maker—announced its new name: Tapestry, a nod to its diversifying acquisitions.

Even companies within our own commercial real estate space are asking: What’s in a name? See investment management firm TIAA-CREF, as well as services provider Jones Lang LaSalle, both of which have shortened their prime identifiers.

As JLL chief marketing officer Charles Doyle told NREI at the time, “The rise in mobile devices, apps and social media sites as dominant marketing channels highlighted the inefficiencies of a longer company name.”

A second element of rebranding is an upgraded logo to reflect a new and forward-facing mindset. In recent years, both new and old-line companies have made that statement, including Apple Music, Converse, YouTube, Google and Audi. The thinking, generally speaking, is that a new logo creates excitement, freshness and, in the case of the above, increased sales.

But the logo is also an important statement of relevance. So it is not surprising that rebranding is a game any organization can play. Associations in all industries are getting into the act as well, with modernized logos if not all-out name changes to reflect a focus on a new—and, yes, younger—audience. For instance, the Consumer Electronics Association, a name that calls to mind palm pilots and desktop computers as big as suitcases, has now become the jazzier Consumer Technology Association, a subtle but important differentiation.

Closer to home, SIOR in 2016 unveiled a new logo and, as it said at the time, a commitment to the future. A new website, research offerings and greater digital support for its members were all part of that commitment. This year, the Institute of Real Estate Management is joining that chorus. More on that in a bit.

Note the commitment to the future. Therein lies the most important element of a rebranding initiative. The effort is nothing more than window dressing if there is no mission to propel it forward, no commitment to realign corporate strategies and methods of operation that put into action a new organizational mindset.

Cases in point are evident in the multifamily, office and retail properties we serve. These properties are being rebranded, in large part to remain competitive in a rapidly shifting marketplace populated increasingly by a clientele with a new suite of needs.

It is one thing to say we as managers or owners support a new generation of expectation. It is quite another to support those criteria, to go beyond the marketing platform (the window dressing) to implement real change. You will see those results in multifamily assets that offer ample room for socializing, full-access to wi-fi or 24/7 package pick-up.

It exists as well in office settings where concierge services relieve employees of mundane and distracting personal chores that can range from dry cleaning to car maintenance. Such spaces also provide work environments that accommodate with equal ease socialization, collaboration and heads-down activities.

Our retail environments too are rebranding to remain relevant and keep abreast of competition in the form of e-commerce as they focus increasingly on customer experience. This includes everything from highly customizable special promotions to in-store services such as magic mirrors and remote check-out.

Much like SIOR, IREM is living this new direction. This year marks the introduction of a new suite of services and a new focus on attracting the best and brightest among the new entrants to the industry. And while our name remains the same, reflecting the groundwork laid over the past 85 years, we have fashioned a new logo that heralds the importance of what lies ahead.


For IREM, the logo was the culmination of a nearly year-long intentional process that began with in-depth conversations with key stakeholders. We listened when they shared their excitement for unconventional and edgy ways to increase appeal of a career in property management with IREM there to guide them. The new logo is a contemporary visual depiction of IREM as a champion of the property management professional—from college students to industry veterans across both commercial and residential portfolios. When combined with the other elements of IREM’s rebranding, it demonstrates a bold, revitalized commitment to and passion for good management.

Rebranding, properly executed, is much more than a flashy design or a catchy name. It is a serious reflection and response to changing market dynamics. There is no company or organization within the commercial real estate space that is not faced with the challenges of those shifting dynamics. The key to their ongoing vitality, the key to their success, lies in their response.

Don Wilkerson, CPM, is the 2018/2019 president of the Institute of Real Estate Management. In addition, he serves as president and CEO of Gaston and Wilkerson Management in Reno, Nev.

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