The Porsche Design Tower in Miami would probably have garnered plenty of attention even without its ultra-luxury brand association. After all, there aren’t many condo buildings in the world where residents can be whisked directly into their apartment without ever leaving their car. But high-end branding, particularly in the competitive luxury housing market in Miami, attracts extra attention from a global audience of high-net-worth individuals.
“An association with the right brand immediately defines a new product as a great luxury item,” says Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, the exclusive broker for Aston Martin Residences in Miami. “It sets the expectation among consumers for a high level of luxury. Globally known brands get global attention.”
While condos have been often connected with hotel brands known for excellent service, such as The Ritz-Carlton Residences or the Four Seasons Residences, in more recent years brands associated with cars and fashion have begun collaborating with luxury residential developers.
“Hotel brands promise a certain level of service that gives context to buyers,” says Mike Leipart, managing partner of The Agency Development Group. “People know what a Ritz-Carlton Hotel is. But most major hotel brands have already located where they want to be and the markets are saturated.”
In real estate, uniqueness is highly valued and creates a sense of urgency among buyers, says Leipart.
“In a market where there may be too many Four Seasons residences, we’ll see more unusual brands because developers are trying to create scarcity,” Leipart says. “For instance, Aston Martin is a rare car brand known for its aesthetics and quality.”
Branding can be an easy way to get attention, says Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development, developers of the Porsche Design Tower and Residences by Armani/Casa in Miami.
“We decided to make the tower about cars, so we put a car elevator in so people can park their luxury cars right in their living room,” Dezer says, adding that, ironically, while some residents at the Porsche Design Tower do own Porsches, far more own Rolls Royce and Ferrari cars.
Why branding works
Everyone wants to feel like something has been created just for them, says Leipart. Brands make connections with people.
Brands with a cult-like following can attract buyers, but even non-fans of a particular brand can notice a new building because of the name and then look into whether it suits their needs.
“Devotees of a particular brand like Porsche or Aston Martin provide a group of well-heeled people who can afford to buy an expensive condo,” Leipart says.
However, according to Dezer, branding done right needs to avoid being a gimmick.
“Porsche is known for its performance quality, so we worked closely with Porsche to make sure our building performs well,” he says.
Armani, the clothing and furniture design company, is trendier, so the focus at that building is more about high design.
One Porsche lover said he bought a condo at the Porsche Design Tower because he “buys everything Porsche makes,” Dezer says. That’s quite a whim to fulfill, since the condos there are priced from $6.3 million to $32.5 million.
“Some buyers say they came to see the Aston Martin because of the brand, while others are more skeptical about the brand association,” Lamadrid says. “But then they are comforted by the commitment of a timeless luxury brand.”
Even less widely known brands can sometimes successfully entice buyers.
“The One and Only hotel name is not a big massive brand, but it ranks high with travelers looking for rare and luxurious properties,” Leipart says. “The name recognition isn’t as broad as the Ritz-Carlton, but the people who recognize it are the ones we want for the first One and Only-branded residence in Mexico.”
Incorporating the brand for residential use
While luxury brand names signal quality design features and service, developers of branded residences go beyond symbolism to incorporate specific elements into their buildings.
“When done right, people will recognize in a visual, tactile way that this is what a Porsche residence should be like,” Leipart says.
One thing that helps at the Porsche Design Tower: the designers pump the Porsche fragrance through the air conditioning system, so you notice it as soon as you walk into the building.
“The brand connection is made immediately when people walk into our sales office,” Dezer says. “We spent $10.5 million on the sales office to explain what the building will look like and the level of quality they can expect.”
At the Armani/Casa condo, where prices range from $2 million to $15 million, the Armani design team insisted that the furniture in the lobby be changed every seven years, a reflection of their trendsetting style.
“Consumers are smart,” Lamadrid says. “You have to find the right brand and make it relevant. For example, with the Aston Martin building, the aerodynamic shape of the car and the condo tower are instantly apparent.”
In addition, the Aston Martin building includes colors and materials from the cars, such as hand-stitched leather door tabs, artisan door handles and grey-and-black carbon fiber furniture. The common areas and amenity spaces of the Miami condo, developed by G&G Business Developments, are all designed by the Aston Martin design team. The condos are priced from the $700,000s to $8.5 million for most floors and from $14 million to $50 million for the penthouses.
As for the future, Leipart thinks the “niche-ification” of the world will continue.
“We’re already seeing housing developments for Jimmy Buffett fans, so who knows, we might see a condo for people who love Def Leppard someday,” he says.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.