Storytelling Crucial to Shopping-Center Brand: Simon's Creative Director

Branding a shopping center is not much different from branding a retailer, Simon’s senior vice president and global creative director Chidi Achara says. “Traditionally malls have relied on retailers to do heavy lifting in engaging consumers,” Achara said. “Now, we need to work alongside our retailers to create our own brand identity.”

Achara and his team relaunched Simon’s brand a year ago, with a new logo, a simpler name and a series of upscale, simple and elegant advertisements placed in fashion magazines, trade journals, outdoor billboards and even on the televisions in New York City taxis. The goal was to create a recognizable identity for Simon that enhances customer engagement, and it has been highly successful, Achara added. “The brand relaunch is 80 percent aimed at consumers and 20 percent aimed at retailers,” Achara said.

A successful rebranding relies on support from the top of the company, Achara said. “You can’t rebrand from the bottom up. To achieve it, you need to have world-class brand team,” he said. “You can build it in-house like Simon has or you can hire an outside firm, but it takes a significant financial investment.”

In order to position Simon as a purveyor of pre-eminent shopping destinations, the firm looked at the language that retailers use in terms of indentity, Achara said. “We thought, ‘if it works for our successful retailers then maybe that’s a language that will work for us.’”

The result, Achara said, is more similar to a consumer-facing, upscale, lifestyle-oriented retail brand like Barneys, Gap or H&M, than a shopping center company.

“Consumers have always been brand-loyal to certain shopping centers, but it was the center, not the company behind it,” he said. “They may have been loyal to Copley Place or Sawgrass Mills but didn’t know there’s a Simon brand behind the experience.” With the new Simon brand, “we have enhanced the loyalty they have to the individual center by adding this layer behind it, which can elevate their sense of expectation of quality of experience at other Simon properties,” he said.

The key to successful branding is telling innovative stories that capture consumers’ imaginations, Achara said. “There’s no value to saying things just for the sake of it,” he said. It all starts with a quality product, then developing a method of storytelling about the product and then defining the best channels to communicate those stories.”

Click to watch the Interview with Chidi Achara

The information contained herein was obtained from sources deemed to be reliable. However, Salzman Real Estate Advisors makes no guarantees, warranties, or representations as to the completeness or accuracy thereof.
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