Why the name of your property matters

By Chris Arnold
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What’s in a property name?

The topic of naming has come in recent months more consistently than usual, so this week, I want to dive into the topic of property naming.

What are the essential elements of a name?

Should it be short?

Long?

Tied to a location?

Purposefully agnostic?

Meaningful to the developer? The renter?

None of the above?

My team at Authentic has developed hundreds of names for our partners’ properties over the years, and thankfully, we’ve also landed on a robust approach to this often misunderstood topic.

When you finish this read, you’ll better understand best practices, issues to avoid, non-starters, and a high-level look at our process.

And, hopefully, you’ll be able to take these nuggets of information and experience back to your own property projects.

The nice thing about this is that it doesn’t have to be a multifamily project. You might focus on industrial real estate, office, mixed-use, etc.

A name is a name, no matter the vertical.

But there are a few key pillars to keep in mind.

Naming Best Practices

Generally speaking, there are a few best practices (or a mindset) you and your team must have entering a naming process. I like to think of this process as a free-flowing, “no idea is a bad idea” frame of mind.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you will not be able to anticipate what names resonate with one person or another right out of the gate. There is something to be said about the concept of the beginner’s mind when naming.

Naming is and should be delicate, intimate, and thoughtful.

And naming a property must come with empathy for others’ opinions, likes, and dislikes.

Just as much as holding empathy plays a role in naming, so does logic. It’s one thing to like a name for the sake of aesthetics and another entirely for a logical reason.

One of the most notable pieces to name discovery is aligning aesthetic preferences with a logical understanding of a project's facts.

A few areas to pull logic would be:

  • Location and neighborhood spirit
  • Local history or topics native to the area
  • Unique stories or ties to specific names, families, or eras
  • Other cultural or natural relationships
  • And so on…

Keeping your team locked in with a spirit that welcomes ideas but also encourages grounding those ideas is vital for success.

Issues to Avoid (At All Costs)

As you begin to pull together a list of names for a property, we’ve discovered that issues can arise quickly amidst the excitement about progress.

The central issues that come up often are:

Existing properties with the same name

Foundational naming conflicts in the local/regional market

The first should be obvious, but I’ll be the first to admit that in the early years of brand development, we missed this issue more than once.

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The fix, of course, is due diligence by Googling other local and regional properties with the same (or similar) name to the list you’re proposing: searching for Property Name City Name.

More often than not, you can count on at least a couple of names immediately being removed from a working list.

A note on “same name” situations: in rare instances, you will leave a name on the list for consideration for a strong reason - even though a property by the same name exists. I would caution against this and clarify early that there is another property with the same name, albeit far away.

The second item on the list is a little more fuzzy in that it comes down to local awareness and name recognition.

Would it matter that your property shares a similar name to a small-scale deli in the same city? Maybe. Maybe not. This, again, is one to heed with caution and clarify very early in the process.

Generally speaking, we try to avoid either scenario as much as possible. Ultimately, I don’t want a property to be competing with another entity, whether or not it’s local, regional, or national.

Non-Starter Names

I’ll keep this section short and sweet because I could speak on it for some time. I believe a name is much more than scribbling a few ideas down, attaching it to a dart board, and picking the name an arrow lands on.

A trend we’ve all seen in multifamily revolves around the “tree and nature” combination. Oak, Cedar, Aspen, Grove, Creek, River, Vista, etc.

Test this for yourself: type in a name like Oak Creek and see how many similar, bland, uninspired “brands” you discover.

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I assume your property project means much more than a set of random tree and nature keywords, so I know you can do better!

The first step in creating a meaningful and lasting brand identity is paying attention to the name, what it means, and what it evokes.

If a name is phoned in, it sets the stage negatively for a thoughtful brand experience onsite for decades to come.

The Authentic Naming Process

Our approach to naming comes from years of trial and error, big wins, and a few mistakes along the way. Naming is both an art and a science. Our process could be looked at like this:

  1. Research, Due Diligence, Ideation
  2. Storytelling and Pitching
  3. Refinement and Selection

The first stage requires the same deep thinking and due diligence I mentioned above.

We whittle our list from dozens of options to a final panel of nine. Why nine?

That gets into how we approach storytelling and pitching.

My favorite part of the naming process is in the pitch, where we pull together a 3x3 set of names and directions. In other words, three names (each) within three unique directions. Thus, nine.

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We lead up to the story behind each direction and illustrate how each name aligns with that storytelling, always including the deeper meaning and a link back to the property for one reason or another.

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As you can see by now, we never present names alone. Never a list.

Over the years, we’ve found that a list of names leads us down an endless rabbit hole, and the best decision-making method comes when we combine the name with a style. A completed thought, a finished phrase.

Depending on the unique direction and point of view, each option is intentionally meant to look and feel very different (within the confines of that direction).

We intend to push and pull and get to what feels “right” immediately.

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Naming refinement and selection come after finalists are chosen and we’re all on the same page with the name or names under final review - typically one or two.

At that point, we continue refining the presentation's visual side by adjusting our proposed solution(s) based on our partners’ feedback.

For us, it’s not one or the other. It’s not the name or the brand identity. They’re created in unison with a common purpose.

Brand’s Early Ingredient

There are a lot of steps that go into brand building, and undoubtedly naming is a crucial early component.

But by being thoughtful and creating a framework around name development, you and your team will be light years ahead of so many groups across the industry.

Remember: a name is only truly great with a purpose. And that purpose can be found through both form and function.

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