The world’s biggest property companies have come from a similar heritage, rooted in Anglo-Saxon traditions. From their beginnings of selling at auction to selling property and land, it should come as no surprise that having built from a common heritage and pursued similar strategies for growth – primarily through merger and acquisition – they face similar challenges today. The geographic centres of the property market have shifted and multiplied; investors have sought to spread their portfolios across residential and commercial properties to ensure their returns in uncertain times, thus blurring the traditional divisions between the two; their customers are behaving increasingly like consumers; and the competition has been busily consolidating to address this new reality.
Finding the right approach to dealing with these conflicting challenges – albeit in a burgeoning market with double digit growth in many geographies – has resulted in strong returns but it has also created a very different kind of problem: differentiation. The search to find the right answer to the same problems has led to less and less differentiation between the world’s property giants, and their competitive edge has become about size and reach rather than about their approach and their offer.
The only tool these giants haven’t yet flexed are their brands. With strong brands, the property giants could stand for something beyond their size, reach and the measure of their return on investment, creating a property market with real options and differentiation, and enabling them to translate their offer and their promise at a global level and at a local level. Pinpointing their differences and building brands based on uniqueness rather than sameness, will be the only way to develop long-term sustainable growth in an increasingly saturated market.