Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Rapid expansion through acquisition and a quest to become more customer-oriented and progressive has led ASX-listed property group, Dexus, to embark on a brand rejuvenation and repositioning program.
Dexus executive general manager, customer and marketing, Deborah Coakley, told CMO conversations around overhauling the brand started five years ago, following the appointment of CEO, Darren Steinberg. The desire for change was propelled by the acquisition of Commonwealth Property Office Fund (CPA) portfolio in 2014. While giving Dexus the scale in the office and commercial real estate space it was seeking, the deal also raised questions about how to leverage such scale to competitive advantage, she said.
A decision was made to become a customer-centric organisation and expand the relationship with customers. Since then, Dexus has been working to build its customer credentials operationally, through its products and services and through its culture.
“The start was actually calling them ‘customers'; they had been tenants,” Coakley said. “We started to change the language and the way we negotiated deals – it was always that combative, last negotiation point and about documentation, rather than how we could help and their business needs. It was about changing the conversation to better understand how as a landlord, we could help and benefit the customer.”
Another element has been an internal program of work to encourage diversity. “Our CEO has been steadfast that the reason we are undertaking a shift in the composition of our workforce, has been to deliver a diversity of thought in the organisation,” she said.
One way is by encouraging more women into the property market; the second is to encourage hiring of people from outside the property industry. “We need that to encourage progressive and innovative thinking and we won’t do that if we have the usual suspects around the table,” Coakley said, noting that, along with herself, the GM of HR and head of marketing have built their careers outside the property sector.
What became clear was the external branding didn’t reflect the progressing strategy and required an overhaul, Coakley said. One major issue was that the brand was one-dimensional and focused on office property management, while Dexus’ business had extended to healthcare and retail and outside of CBDs into regional areas.
It also used a restricted colour palette and didn’t give any way of reflecting the diversity of the culture or community focus now driving the organisation’s approach.
“We wanted to build a presence and value proposition with the brand that better represented the way we had change internally and the face we wanted to have out in the market,” Coakley said.
“The concept of placemaking in property is a lively subject – you don’t just create the building, it’s a space of multiple dimensions, a liveably city and community. We are not in the residential space, but feel place is important to CBDs and from a retail point of view.
“Many of our shopping centres are in regional locations and they are at the heart of those communities. We wanted to have a brand that articulated that.”
Dexus partnered with branding agency, Hulsbosch, to develop its new brand identity, replacing the old blue-and-white logo and property skyline image with a multi-coloured, adaptable look and feel.
Coakley's favourite thing about the new branding is that when testing out the new visual design, staff had 20 different variations to choose from on their business cards and could actively engage with the brand.
Alongside the visual redesign, Dexus is upping the product ante around community. One example is an initiative, dubbed ‘Workspace Dexus’, aimed at reimagining workspace communities through value-added services. These include car sharing and parking solutions, flexible meeting and training facilities, and childcare offerings, the latter launched in partnership with Guardian Early Learning centres last October.
Another offering launched in the last six months is in-building intranet portals, aimed at providing community-based information designed to the demographic of that building.
Coakley said Dexus is now in the process of overhauling all of its collateral, with the first wave of activity focused on core assets internally, leasing board signage, digital properties and physical sites. From a marketing perspective, Dexus is taking the new branding out via sponsorship of the Sydney Swans, the group’s first foray into B2C-style sponsorship.
“We went with Sydney Swans because of their team-based and high-performance culture goal setting approach, use of mentoring programs, and appeal in terms of corporate membership,” Coakley said, adding that the ‘C’ in ‘B2C’ for Dexus is about community.
Coakley said anecdotal feedback from stakeholders and within the business to the rebranding was overwhelmingly positive.
“We’re feeling more and more confident it’s a brand approach that resonates,” she said. “It gives us a flexibility we’ve never had before to communicate where the business is today and where we’re headed.”