What’s in a (Property) Name?

From Cobblestone Crossing to the Platinum Tower, naming land development projects has transformed into an art tailored to savvy, media-driven home buyers seeking to live in structures that are in sync with their lifestyle aspirations. With record numbers of property developments popping up , both marketers and real estate professionals are pushing the importance of having a property with a persona. The ability to name new projects has evolved into a highly competitive, conceptual, audience-sensitive, and brand-minded exercise. Often the entire marketing campaign starts with the property’s name.

The driving factor behind real estate naming is the story behind the property itself. When Torque is faced with conceiving of property names, we consider many factors: when was the property built, and does it have any historical significance or a particular purpose? What are the main characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood? What geographical features are nearby, and how would they affect residents here? We then take the most appealing of these aspects and incorporate them into the name itself. In the case of Green Exchange, a building being converted into environmentally sustainable office and retail space, the building name was a vehicle for helping residents identify with the property’s “cause.”

Perhaps the most important factor in naming real estate is the audience: whom are you trying to reach, and what appeals to them? Consumers in their twenties and thirties live in a world of cell phones, text messaging, and IP addresses, and are accustomed to the blending of numerals and text. Some developers simply name their properties after their respective addresses: 565 Quincy. Other properties need a more hip, modern image and achieve it by rearranging the address or blurring the distinction between words and numbers: Fifty Three Twelve North Winthrop. We named a progressive urban Chicago property 33Six to capture the imagination of a younger audience on the go.

When we engage in a naming assignment, every word gets careful consideration and thesaurus attention. You have to be careful to say exactly what you mean and nothing more. Consider the name “Communion Point": it has overriding religious connotations, while Harmony Point means the same thing but is unencumbered. Another epidemic is the lack of originality or a story-telling aspect. For example, the tree-and-body-of-water combination has been plaguing subdivisions nationwide and is so played-out that it’s almost laughable. Oak Springs, Cypress Bay, The Homes of Cedar Lakes, The Community of Willow Ridge: names like these evoke little emotion in their audience and say nothing about the property in question (not to mention the blatant lie inherent in many of them: few of these communities actually contain oaks, springs, cypresses, bays, etc. outside of the landscaping surrounding the entryway sign).

Another common mistake is falling prey to the dangers of trendy, short-lived names. Real estate stays around for a long time, and you continue to attract residents well into the future. References to popular culture or current events are a surefire way to date your property. For example, Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games has the people here pretty excited. However, naming your condo “Olympic Village Palace” is walking straight into a trap: in twenty or fifty years, who will really be swayed by the memory of a long-gone event? Even worse, if the Chicago bid were to fall through, who would want to live in a community that served only as a reminder of what could have been but never was?

So now that you understand the importance of property naming, you’re probably ready to get out the pen and notebook and start brainstorming…or are you? As I’ve tried to impress here, property naming is a multi-faceted, highly specialized process. You may think, Well, it can’t be that hard to come up with a snappy name, but consider this: anyone can take a photograph; your Great-Aunt Sally can hold a camera and push the right button. But when you’re planning your wedding, will you trust Great-Aunt Sally, or would you rather look to a professional? Some real estate developers have been known to spend ten or twenty thousand dollars just to name a property. Before you raise your eyebrows, think: how much value does this name hold? The name of your property is the key to your customer’s mind: it creates curiosity, recognition, emotional attachment, and memory retention. It's the foundation of your brand. Isn’t that worth an investment?