3 Key Considerations for Branded Residence Strategy

Category: Property & Real Estate
19 Feb 2024
Read time: 6 MIN
Emerging as an integral business model, branded residences are seemingly the next frontier for luxury brands. Hospitality legends like Aman, Ritz Carlton and Accor all have strong, enduring propositions while challenger brands are doubling down on strategy to compete. Exploring examples from both within and outside of category, we outline 3 matters for brands to reflect on before breaking ground.
Written By
MOF Team
MOF Team

Bowie – and his many, zany identities – first stepped onto the island of Manhattan in September 1971, crossing the Atlantic to sign with RCA Records and, more importantly to Bowie and his entourage, to meet Andy Warhol at his factory. He met Iggy Pop that same week. Bowie returned for a longer stint in the city the following year and then spent the next half-decade carving out his place in NYC lore. And like many rockstars, the headquarters of Bowie’s legendary debauchery was a hotel suite. 

The Sherry-Netherland is no stranger to celebrity – despite often being overshadowed in the popular imagination by The Plaza, The St. Regis and the like. Opened in 1927, the Fifth Avenue address operates on more of an ‘if you know you know’ frequency, complete with a rich history, old-school charm and a reputation for discretion. All of which contributed to The Sherry-Netherland being the chosen home of not only Bowie but Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Francis Ford Coppola and a handful of others. Not only the world’s first iteration of a branded residence but a famous favourite too.

Evidently, branded residences aren’t a new concept. But, according to Savills, they didn’t carve out a significant space in the residential market until the 80s. As of mid-2023, there are 690 branded residences across the world, with another 600 schemes in the pipeline. In terms of global spread, all regions will continue to experience high levels of growth between now and 2030, with specific hotspots in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

Why The Rise?

The idea of ‘home’ is in flux as our lifestyles evolve – accentuated by the fluidity hybrid working has afforded many. Home is now synonymous with spa, sanctuary, studio, office, school, cinema, gym, bar and so on. Having spent so much time in our own spaces during the pandemic’s stay-at-home order, we’ve become reacquainted with the idea of property as something that should give us pleasure. Paired with a general belief among wealthy buyers that real estate is a safer investment in times of economic turmoil, it’s hardly surprising the market for luxury second homes has spiked.

According to Pacaso, market transactions increased 25% year-on-year during 2022’s second quarter – a massive 235% rise compared to pre-pandemic. As needs have shifted towards accommodation that can separately house the various lifestyle threads of work, meet, chill and play, affluent individuals are looking for spaces that come with built-in opportunities to connect with the like-minded, alongside every amenity for domestic leisure one can imagine.

Belonging & The Lifestyle Brand

One of humanity’s central tenets, belonging is a sense difficult to foster fully by brands. But if branded residences are to succeed as homes, either as primary dwellings, urban escapes or getaway retreats, belonging is something brands need to master. 

People want to plug into a certain type of lifestyle, perhaps one that is dictated by destination, and be able to dip in and out as they please — fully trusting property managers and concierges to take care of everything, always. Home without any of the admin. 

Acting as lifestyle portals is important for luxury brands across every sector, these choices inform our identity as reassurances of self and a signal to others of who we are, what we value and so on. We want to exist among like-minded individuals, evidenced by the tribal turn brand audiences are taking. 

Branded residences have to create this sense of membership, incorporating exclusivity as well as shared value systems and identity. They need to go beyond status symbols (now only discreetly coveted by the U/HNW) and instead become embodiments of a particular lifestyle, one the brand encapsulates while the residence facilitates.

Surveying The Global Skyline of Branded Residences

Sector pioneers including Fairmont, Four Seasons and Aman are easily among the best branded residences globally. Many are currently investing in teams solely dedicated to this stream of business, but the pioneers have been in on the potential for decades.

Four Seasons Private Residences launched in Boston, Massachusetts in 1985 and has since expanded to a 50+ portfolio in some of the world’s most remarkable destinations where people can ‘Come Home to Four Seasons’

Aman Branded Residences came onto the scene three years later in 1988 with their Phuket location. Now the world hosts 16 Aman residences, the most recent claiming the top eleven floors of Tokyo’s Toranomon-Azabudai Main Tower – the highest in Japan. 

Fairmont’s first branded residence opened in 2001 in Acapulco, Mexico – the first property in the marque’s growing Heritage Place Portfolio. Exquisite in design and craft, the luxury private residences blend Fairmont’s singular service with home comforts and local cultural influence to create a distinctive lifestyle and legacy properties designed to be passed down from generation to generation.

Back in the city where branded residences were born, at 520 West 28th Street, sits an architectural marvel by the late visionary Zaha Hadid. 11 storeys house 39 residences – all high ceilings and fluid interiors of avant-garde design. Along the same street is The Ritz-Carlton Nomad, whose 16 penthouses top the 500ft tower (priced from $4m for a one-bedroom apartment). Designed by ‘star-chitect’ Rafael Vinōly with in-room dining directed by Michelin-starred chef José Andrés, it’s not difficult to see why it’s one of the most coveted residences in Manhattan.

While hospitality would seemingly have the monopoly on branded residences and the lifestyles to boot, companies from a variety of categories are throwing their key cards into the ring. The sector’s diversification comes from automotive marques predominantly with a sprinkling of names in fine jewellery and high fashion. 

One of the first on the scene was Porsche with their Miami Design Tower opening in 2017. Italian fashion house Armani joined the oceanfront too with their 56-story condominium tower Casa Residences.

Aston Martin is also building in Florida’s coastal metropolis; what has been described as a “bonkers” triplex penthouse that – perhaps unsurprisingly – comes with a $3.2m limited-edition Vulcan. The tower’s name, ‘Unique’, is inspired by its distinctive design and, according to Germán Coto, CEO of G&G business developments, is set to be “an object of desire for those who appreciate the unrepeatable".

Elsewhere in automotive, Tonino Lamborghini announced an impressive portfolio of branded properties across multiple continents to further embody “the true essence of Italian style” while legendary British carmakers Bentley are developing a 61-storey apartment complex, all with access to a car elevator (like something from the Bond films), for 2026.

On behalf of the fashion world, Swiss fine jewellery label De Grisogono are architecting a branded residential tower in Dubai for their ultra-luxe clientele. On a similar note, back in London, deluxe skyscraper DAMAC Tower in Nine Elms is complete with interiors designed by Versace. 

As evidenced by the world’s skyscrapers, the idea of branded homes has bloomed since its 1920s and exclusively North American roots, primarily because – though the value brand brings to property hasn’t yet been numerically quantified on a large scale – the potential and perceived value is tangible.

The benefits of branded residences are manifold…

  • For hospitality brands, it’s a fruitful way to expand their portfolio and tap into new revenue streams
  • For developers, funds are easier to secure due to a fairly immediate ROI and the promise of an enduring cash flow
  • For non-hospitality names, it’s an opportunity to diversify their business model, simultaneously igniting a sense of awe and bolstering PR

So with everything to gain, it’s a route worth a second thought for luxury brands wanting to add postcodes to their product offering. 

3 Key Considerations To Build Your Branded Residence Strategy

So much of branding is about defining a brand strategy that creates perceived value above and beyond the product: a value that can stand the test of time, hold meaning and recreate a specific feeling for years to come. 

Methods to get to that point vary depending on brand, vertical and time; but for brands considering entering the space, our strategists narrowed down three considerations when it comes to cultivating value and stepping into the space.

1. Names Can Only Do So Much

In luxury especially, the brand name is undoubtedly vital. But it’s not a cover-all. Among younger generations, where brand loyalty is lower than ever, a name — heritage brand or not — isn’t going to cut it. 

Branding needs to be felt. In the experience, in the service culture, in every touch point. When it comes to branded residences, these properties will immediately take on the perceived value, reputation and impressions associated with the marque. All of which will then be built upon based on resident experience.

Timeless brands don’t rely on their name, they reiterate their experience to reflect client needs to create sustained value. They imbue meaning, foster connection. 

There’s a big difference, though, in the significance of a name when it comes to destination. In cities like London/Paris/New York/Dubai where branded residences are either fully integrated within established hotels or standalone properties overseen by the brand, names — while still significant — matter less.

In less developed parts of the world, where governments, brands and other groups are set on creating a new destination to attract the U/HNW, names matter more.

Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

In places like KSA’s Diriyah region, placemaking and destination design projects are well underway. Wadi Safar — a landmark development designed for the region’s most influential — blends commercial and (invitation-only) residential real estate, with iconic names like Aman and Four Seasons elevating the desert destination’s appeal among ultra-affluent audiences. 

When it comes to ‘new’ locations, placemaking philosophy and processes are the priority, but brands can be a driving force. Branded residences in these kinds of developments, especially from widely-known and well-loved icons, could be the differentiator between die-hard communities and dwindling interest.

2. Capturing The Essence of Place

There’s a baseline point to be made when it comes to branded residences: these properties are nine times out of ten located on prime real estate. Not only, then, are they lucrative — ensuring a more than suitable investment for buyers — they gel with the lifestyle and attitudes of the U/HNW. 

While the U/HNWI is not one person, the power of place carries weight among them. Curiosity, freedom and enlightenment are emerging drivers of luxury purchases, especially within younger cohorts.

To leverage all three, brands must attach themselves to a particular truth — either cultural, historical, regional or all three. Weave it into the fabric of your brand to be felt by residents and visitors. Make it a credible part of your story. 

Opened in 2023, Raffles’ branded residence — in partnership with Westminster Development Services and the agencies they work with — is nestled within the halls of one of British history’s most iconic buildings, The Old War Office (OWO).

The OWO Residences by Raffles, London

“Set in the heart of Whitehall, opposite the Horse Guards building and a stone’s throw away from St James Park, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, every heritage room in The OWO has been preserved as part of a luxurious transformation, which incorporates 85 private apartments and a luxury hotel under one roof.” — Knight Frank Report (MOF Client)

Designed to honour our collective past, its truth lies in the importance of history and a combination of luxury, convenience and old-world charm.

Finding meaning in location is important. Luxury branded residences will compel prospects with intriguing propositions and pre-established loyalty, but what will compel them to stay is place. 

Make your branded residence the gateway: to a destination, a culture or into history. 

3. Don't Put a Square Peg in a Round Hole

If putting your name to property doesn’t add experiential value or rep your core spirit or if it will tip the carefully balanced brand–conversion scales in either direction, it’s not an avenue to go down. 

Doubtful headlines and dubious comments have already come for the non-hospitality brands taking steps in this space. 

Luxury jeweller & timepiece company Jacob & Co announced their branded residence project in 2022, in partnership with Dubai-based developer Binghatti. Architecturally inspired by the brand’s jewellery, the diamond-lit tower will feature suites and penthouse apartments named after Jacob & Co’s flagship timepieces. And unsurprisingly the amenities leave little to be desired. 

Yet, without the service element innate in hospitality’s DNA, fashion and automotive branded residences come in at a disadvantage.

Yes they have the potential to become “a theatre of dreams; a temple to the brand at which the consumer can come and worship,” according to luxury branding expert Piers Schmidt, but if they can’t deliver the service component the loyalty will gradually fizzle out. 

Is the ‘theatre of dreams’ better as the ultimate flagship store or brand fanatic behind-the-scenes exhibition? Questions like these bring new meaning to 'go hard or go home'. 

Branded residences provide solid ground for brand building, adding another beam to the structure of your business. From plot to penthouse, the scope for innovation is sky-high as long as it enhances the overarching brand experience.

When we work with clients, we map their end-to-end CX for a few reasons:

  • To ensure a balance of brand and conversion at every touch point (because it’s boring coming up with ideas that don’t work)
  • To identify opportunities for innovation; spaces within which there can be a genuine value add
  • To imbue lacking touch points with the spirit of the brand, weaving that thread through the entire customer journey

Branded residences are an interesting opportunity to challenge and flex strong positionings – and they offer a pretty rigorous gap analysis for weak ones.

Whatever side of the coin you land on, if you're thinking about foundations get in touch via hello@matterofform.com and chat strategy, spirit and CX with one of our consultants.

MOF Team

Published by MOF Team

We are a London-based Brand & Experience Design Agency delivering second-to-none experiences for forward-thinking luxury brands with something to say.

Strategy & Insights
Tech & Innovation
Property & Real Estate

Annual Luxury Reports, Sector Analysis, Consumer Psychology & more.