UCR is one of the largest retail real estate firms in the US, boasting a killer in-, and out-of-market reputation for quality service and creative thinking.
Aria was asked to review their 20-year-old logo and brand system and to provide an opinion on its relevance in today’s digital-centric world, and its consistency in the market, and finally to outline options for improvement across all media—digital, print, outdoor, broadcast, and exhibit.
UCR already has a dominant position in the market, but with the ever-changing real estate market—not to mention the ever-changing technology infrastructure that permeates every waking minute of our lives—including a younger, hipper, more brand savvy—and loyal—group of buyers, sellers, brokers, agents, and marketers at their door, they understood the “right now” need to ensure that their brand was clean, crisp, consistent, and scalable.
Aria looked at every touchpoint of the brand, starting with the logo itself. The logo (a forest green square, with white capital letters spelling out UCR, and a small black square conspicuously placed in the top right of the mark) was everywhere in the market. It was on signage, trade show booths, business cards, PowerPoint decks, websites, sales slicks, tee and polo shirts, mouse pads, sides of buildings… all the places you’d expect to see a logo. But unlike many companies who use the logo as a statement of brand ownership, relying on a loftier message to drive marketing, UCR had been using its logo as the centerpiece in most media. It was everywhere. It was big. It was green. It was unmistakably UCR.
And that was the benefit of the previous strategy. The logo was ubiquitous. It felt like everywhere you looked, you saw UCR. But it was also inconsistent. They had three distinct issues: 1) a lot of the design decisions across the years made consistent application almost impossible, 2) there were no “clean” files or templates to work from, and 3) there were no clear and concrete guidelines for appropriate usage.
The media in which the brand was most prominently staged, signage, which is used heavily—and I do mean HEAVILY—by real estate companies, was just as inconsistent and loosey goosey.
Already a digital client, UCR turned to us first for an evaluation of their current brand in the market. How did it look, feel, and scale? What brand equity existed that we couldn’t afford to abandon? And what changes could we make that would reinforce the value proposition of the company, while bringing it forward to a new, younger, fresher professional audience?
So, the problem was set: how do we update the brand identity system, create a guideline for consistent usage, and provide the client with a host of new, workable files and templates, without losing the equity that 20 years lends to a retail brand?
Our thought process was to start out with a comprehensive review of the current logo, and offer ideas on how we can update and refine the brand, while holding on to the equity that already exists.
The logo options we presented ranged from a slight modification, to a complete overhaul. Weighing the pros and cons, costs and benefits, ultimately UCR accepted an update somewhere in the middle, a goldilocks update that fit perfectly.
Beginning with a 20×20 square grid, Aria’s designers geometrically (architecturally?) designed every detail of the logo to make aesthetic and logical sense. We cheated as few visual cues as possible, and as little as possible, to stay true to an engineered perfection. The logo, while very simple, was a complex symphony of design that resulted in a tight, clean, seamless image that conveys all the gravitas the company desired… and bonus, retained all the equity they had spent decades building.
UCR had a tagline that they’d been applying on and off for years, but nobody had strong ties to it. With that in mind, we set out to define a new tagline that truly captures their thinking. We came up with a number of options, but settled on Retail. Redefined.™. In our rationale, we framed the tagline this way:
“Retail Redefined simultaneously positions UCR squarely at the forefront of the market—where it already operates, and deserves to be enshrined—and focuses the reader’s attention on specific market expertise. The alliteration of the line makes it flow off the tongue. It’s a powerful statement of practicality, but also sets a high level of expectation. Lastly, it’s memorable and ownable. We believe this tagline cements the promise that’s made by the name, leaving an indelible image for the reader to hold on to.”
Upon acceptance of a new refined logo, we applied that same systematic thinking to signage—arguably the largest consumer touchpoint for the brand.
In the world of real estate that UCR has mastered, print collateral is still king. And although it’s slowly shifting toward digital, it hasn’t quite landed. So we were in charge of reimagining every piece of collateral the company uses to market to its myriad audience.
Everything from business cards and letterhead, to sales slicks and property books, if they print it, we redesigned it to fit in the beautiful framework and with the same logic and methodology that began with the logo.
UCR attends a number of trade shows throughout the year, and with its largest set in Las Vegas—called RECON Deal Making Conference—coming up quickly, we had to move at lightning speed to architect, design, and deliver a booth worthy of the new image we were working hard to cement.
Together with the UCR team, Aria created a floor plan—maximizing the 50 foot by 30 foot space UCR reserved—rich with meeting spaces, two conference rooms, a lounge, and a technology bar where you could charge your digital devices. The whole experience was designed to be perfect blend of concierge and business class—a perfect symmetry to UCR itself. The new brand (logo, tagline, look, and messaging) was front and center on every conceivable surface of the booth.
“The new design was really well received. The imagery, the new logo, the new tagline, all made people stop and go, ‘wait a minute, that’s UCR!?’”
— Kendall Shiffler, Marketing Director, UCR
We’ve created many a’brand guide in our day. Thick, bound, kill-lots-of-trees kind of guides intended to give partners, vendors, and employees a set of rules to follow when implementing the branded assets in any public-facing materials. You know the kind.
We decided that was too old school, and with such a tech savvy, forward-friendly client, we pitched the idea of creating an online brand guide and repository for all brand assets, including templates, imagery, fonts, logo files in various formats, etc.
This custom developed, 100% secure website serves as the single, centralized authority on the brand’s implementation. And more than that, because it’s digital, it is intended to be a living organism. We will add content to it, use it as a question and answer forum, and always provide the latest and greatest content to anyone with a login via notification system.
We’ve just begun rolling this out the market, but already we’re hearing great things about the revised brand. Our client has really embraced the change. Not just the aesthetic nuances, but the philosophical ones as well. It’s a whole new era for UCR, and we’re proud to play our part.
And we’re just getting started. Stay tuned for more exciting adventures of Aria and UCR!