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Theme-Based Real Estate Branding

By Naseem Javed

With some one thousand theme-based-cities being developed at a phenomenal rate here in the Middle East, the branding and name identities of such projects become nightmares. As in size, except a very few, they range between a few acres to even a single large dwelling. Now this requires a new definition of the term 'city' so not to confuse the customers with other traditional metropolises. For example, the introduction of Dubai Media City has become great success story, which extends the souk concept to its infinite extremes. But with the emerging jigsaw of cities, it will make it difficult to distinguish among similar overlapping-city themes. Innovation, manufacturing, industrial, transportation, technology, logistics or metals somehow overlap too much. Soon, there could also be Furniture City, Food City, Book City parked within People city. Like The Babushka dolls, cities into cities. A serious battle of image, name-identity and brand positioning rages.  

Concept versus word

The city as an idea is great. It demands though huge acreage with structural development with all the other support infrastructure to create the likes of a miniature city. The naming concept has serious pre-requisites. It has to be large enough to create a critical mass about a particular theme, and rich enough for the customer to have serious reasons for repetitive visits. But the word 'city' in itself communicates something along the lines of New York, Toronto, Paris or Kolkata. Those are different than tens of thousands of little shopping marts all over the world, named after whatever they seem to specialize in: Sport City, Pizza City, Computer City, Carpet City , Toy City, Silk City or Gold City. Normally this term may also be perceived as a large specialty store with good variety, under fluorescent lights and sold at cheaper prices. So, does this explain why there are so many close-outs and mega branding failures? Beware. Customers won't be fooled by fake branding names.

Any generic theme like 'Toy' attached to the word 'city' will ensure that its identity is lost among the thousands of equally-watered-down projects with equally similar identities. Does this mean that now these cities should be called 'Toy Country' 'Toy Continent' or even 'Toy World'? No. But creating a stronger brand is accomplished through building a unique experience for the place.  

Immaculate attractions

For example, customers have never experienced, a Toy City, where they were escorted in long train rides ushered by gnomes while crossing distances over immaculate gardens, lakes and mountains with year-round rainbows, as toys dance around in a scene to the orchestral treat from the Nutcracker Suite. If you have a super 'city' brand, then let the whole world see it. If you have an absolute 100 per cent ownership of a brand, prove it.

Today, 95 per cent of brands in the Middle East do not have full ownership. They may have huge logos, unique designs, colourful executions, banners and billboards, but as long as there are far too many identical and similar name-identities all over the marketplace, the issue of 100 per cent ownership stays behind. Global icons like Sony, Rolex, or PlayStation are 100 per cent owned, and all over the world there is absolutely no confusion about this whatsoever. Therefore without an iron-clad ownership of the name identity, the entire advertising and marketing is nothing but an uphill losing battle. Also why copy western names, when their already famous themes and global icons will eventually make this region nothing but a distorted copy of a loosely-disconnected Disneyland?

Finally, the real-estate branding in the Middle East is at an elementary stage. Now with intense competition it is going to jump out from all kinds of generic and dictionary name-identities to an advanced stage of proper world-class corporate nomenclature.

The best approach is play the image and name identity game under the laws and rules of naming. Branding city, no thanks.   


Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on Corporate Image and Global Cyber-Branding. Author of Naming for Power , he introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80's and also founded ABC Namebank International a consultancy established in Toronto and New York a quarter century ago. Currently, Naseem is on a lecture tour in Asia and can be reached at  




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Status: 01. Juli 2015