During MIPIM PropTech Europe last month, the theme of “Unexpected Value” was highlighted through the benefits that lie at the intersection of corporate and urban branding which many PropTech companies have utilised. In thinking of the upcoming MIPIM PropTech New York conference theme, “Beyond Value,” it seems that while corporations continue to dominate the branding game by creating unique offerings to set themselves apart as key industry players, cities, places and neighborhoods lag in an imitation game – and that perhaps PropTech could change this.
Lots of cities have microbreweries and coffee shops, few implement offerings that highlight the individuality of their own place in attracting the world’s attention. There’s potential to be unlocked in the consumer-facing PropTech space for those companies that both manage to create a robust, integrated brand for themselves, but also find a way to incorporate and amplify the true uniqueness of various markets and neighborhoods. To start, where does identity come from? A maturity cycle seems to be in place when it comes to cities finding their authenticity of place; like high school students, the cycle begins with conformity to follow trends before discovering identity.
Seizing Opportunities to Stand Out
Midwestern cities, which traditionally hosted farming and manufacturing, tried to convince the country they were more advanced and positioned themselves as hubs for biotechnology and forward-looking endeavors, ignoring what they perceived as their antiquated roots. Meanwhile, Brooklyn adapted the industrial past Midwestern cities shirked, translating that identity into modern usage with the style and flare of the historic elements. Midwesterners missed an opportunity. Another success story is Nashville, a city building a brand with individuality by utilising its historic ties with the country music industry. Similarly, Paris’s appeal was shaped by the prevalence of major fashion houses and the clothing industry.
It is at this intersection that corporate identity melds with the identity of place and a symbiotic relationship is formed. Paris lent itself to fashion, Nashville to country music – these inclinations were successfully recognised and utilised by businesses, infiltrating the community and setting the pitch for the culture of place.
The Power of the PropTech Brand
This is where PropTech powerfully influences the way unique settings are adapted for the modern age. The PropTech world clearly understands how to create incredible brand value. Think of WeWork for example, which as of March was worth $20 billion – eight times as much as IWG/Regus though the latter manages five times as much real estate. WeWork has created such brand power that it is perceived as enhancing the brand of the city, and other metropolises are clamoring to attract them. In closing, global cities need to find a way to do for themselves in the city marketplace what WeWork did in the office management marketplace.
Aaron M. Renn is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and a Contributing Editor at its quarterly magazine City Journal. On a mission to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more competitive, globalizing 21st century, Renn is also the publisher of the Urbanophile web site on cities. He recently spoke at MIPIM PropTech Europe in Paris, commenting on the central theme, “Unexpected Value” through the lens of urban branding.