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Duncan Hopwood

Property brand marketing and the daring fox

October 2, 2019

Firms who back up their property brand marketing by walking the talk will be more successful than those who peddle empty promises.

Strolling mid-morning near St Paul’s. Suddenly and in broad daylight, a fox darts across my path and into the road. He shimmies to avoid an advancing vehicle and disappears around the corner. Some nearby construction work has disturbed him from his lair.

My mind had been mulling over the property industry breakfast I’d just left. But the sight of Reynard in full flight conjures up images of Leicester City FC, the rags-to-riches football club whose badge is a fox.

Property brand marketing

Leicester’s remarkable feat in soaring from obscurity to world fame by winning the Premier League against all the odds is a lesson in building brand awareness by action. Let’s be clear here. You absolutely must have good marketing communications and PR as well as a professional property brand marketing identity to back up your deeds. But here’s the point. Those things will be so much more powerful when you walk the talk. Or to put it another way, in property brand marketing, nothing succeeds like success. Or to put it another way, in property brand marketing, quality marcoms should be shouting about your success, not making empty promises.

Which leads me back to this morning’s talk.

Ronan Murphy, CEO of Durkan begins by asking the busy room of property pros how many of us have heard of his company. Only a smattering of hands go up. Surprising, perhaps, given that this is a business of 200 people, £165 million turnover and £11 million operating profit. It plies its trade in the audience’s sector and works in and around their home patch, London.

Changing perceptions

Standout projects include a 272-apartment complex at Elephant and Castle (built around a live train line, illustrating the challenges of developing in London) and the first phase of a massive 7,000-unit project for housing association Peabody.

When Ronan meets people who have heard of Durkan, he confides that they think of the company as a contractor. But its strategy now is to position itself as a developer, rather than a construction firm. That’s a common marketing and PR challenge – changing perceptions of a target audience that has you pigeon-holed as one thing when you can do much more.

Strategic direction

With his finance background, he is well placed to explain the reason for the change in strategic direction – potential margins of 15 per cent compared with three per cent for contractors. And Durkan is well placed to deliver. Unlike many cash-strapped property businesses, the family firm has £350 million of its own resources to invest.

He has a warning for developers. Thinking that you can still just hire a contractor at will and screw them down on price to bolster your margins is wrong. The skills shortage will change all that in five years. Such is his distaste for race-to-the-bottom contract tendering, he says Durkan company won’t even countenance taking on a construction-only project nowadays unless there is an element of partnership.

Ambitious goals

There is no shortage of ambition. The goal is to double turnover and triple profitability in five years as Durkan shifts to being more of a developer. Ronan tells us he’d like to think when he returns to the breakfast club after then, he’ll see a lot more hands raised. He’s taken the first step in raising Durkan’s brand profile by speaking to this audience. If the company meets its targets and backs that up with effective property brand marketing communications and PR, his hope should be realised.

Do you have a success story to tell? Get in touch to discuss how we could make more of it.