Building a luxury brand | U.S. Green Building Council
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Published on
Written by
Posted in Industry

About 20 years ago, someone tried to describe a brand to me thusly: imagine in your mind a small, long rectangular white box on a store shelf.  By itself, that box means nothing to the average consumer.  But place a small red triangle on that box, along with the letters…C…r…e…s…t…and what you have is something else altogether.  At that point, to millions of Americans that small box immediately means to them fewer cavities, fresher breath and whiter teeth. 

“That,” said this person, “is what a brand is.  A brand is a set of expectations in a consumer’s mind that he or she attaches to a particular person, place, product or company.”

Now, take that concept and apply it to luxury products and companies, like Four Seasons Hotels, Rolex Watches, Cartier Jewelers or Tiffany & Co., to name just a few. 

That’s where we at the USGBC find ourselves at Greenbuild 2013.  And that’s why I continue to hear the word “brand” being bandied about in numerous conversations in and around a number of sessions and on the exhibit floor. 

This organization has spent almost a quarter of a century in the dogged pursuit of creating a luxury product, one full of hopes and dreams – in our case, that product is the Platinum level of our LEED v4 rating system – and we must now treat that luxury product of ours with the same missionary-like zeal that Tiffany for over 100 years has treated everything from its store windows at Christmastime and its high-end clientele to its precious (and now patent-protected) color blue. 

Rather than get into specifics of the branding task that lies ahead of us here, let me just simply say that now that the USGBC has created, arguably, the aspirational product in the building industry, you can rest assured we will be moving forward thinking as much as marketers in the future, as we do scientists, teachers, advocates, preachers, cheerleaders, ninja warriors, bridge-builders and seekers of a better tomorrow.  

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Total 4 commentsLeave a comment

CEO, Zevi Stewart Wolmark
Well, this is not the way I pictured that a brand would be built! - Zevi Wolmark
Architect, Prof. Em., University of Maryland College Park
While I admire your accomplishments, energy and optimism, I'd remind you of the stool's third leg, equity, and the importance of not pricing new recruits out of your market. Everything about USGBC now costs more, is more complex and takes longer. I have college students trying for the GA for whom the student discount takes weeks to approve, they have to pay full freight to take it again if they miss by a couple of points and they hear repeatedly that LEED certification takes money away from the building. And v.4 is even more of the same. A luxury brand may be an aspiration, it runs the risk of driving away some who could be the future for LEED, but may take their motivation elsewhere. A question of sustainability? Ralph Bennett (Prof. Em., LEED AP BD&C)
Chairman & CEO, U.S. Green Building Council
Thank you for your valuable feedback, Ralph. When I meet students and USGBC's Emerging Professionals programs, I see the future of our movement. We want to remove any road blocks that would prevent them from getting involved with green building and LEED. We'll absolutely look into the student pricing issue and take immediate measures to ensure students receive their discount as soon as possible. I'm proud that USGBC's customer service has improved vastly over the past year, but we still have work to do - and this is part of it. Notes like this help us make it better. Though we feel LEED's brand has reached "luxury" status, it doesn't mean that LEED comes with a luxury price tag. With a strong project team, building green and building to LEED does not have to cost more. We know that LEED buildings see serious ROI and paybacks, and LEED's marketing value increases building value and lease-up rates. We need our community to continue to tell that story. Please check out our page on the "Business Case for Green Building," which includes a number of statistics.
The way you have defined the "Brand Equity", it reminds me of the simplicity which exist only at the highest level of understanding and purity. LEED is an aspirational brand and it has retained the simplicity and purity of the Green movement. Wishing USGBC all the best in its crusade....

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