As one of the original pioneers of the placemaking movement, we at Underscore have been excited in recent years to see property companies, landlords and developers of all types embrace the role of brand working harder at the intersection where place meets people.

Here are the trends we think are most relevant for 2018…

Love Local

We are in a time where the impact of globalisation is under increasing scrutiny and a backlash in consumer preference has emerged towards embracing and celebrating the local. This is helping us to foster deeper connections with the spaces around us and the people within it by looking at the histories, the people and the sensitivities of the area that make up the ‘soul’ of an area. Assumptions can be extremely dangerous, and there is a fine line to balance between being realistic enough to resonate with locals, yet inspirational enough to inspire civic pride and increase external investment into an area.

Rediscovering purpose

An audience-first approach will always be key to the successful launch of a new development but the key to longer term success is understanding actually why the place needs to exist and why people should care about it in future. To be supplying a demand is not enough – places need to exude a clear reason for being that explains how and where they are contributing to society. This is why we are seeing developers investing in identities that go beyond the marketing suite and hoarding into holistic strategies based on building a sense of place.

Open doors

Increasing consumer demand for transparency is encouraging the built environment to realise the benefits of being more open about new developments or regeneration plans. This has to go beyond mere words and a clever communication strategy. The proof is in the actions of a developer, for example the implementation of a “meanwhile use” strategy has seen innovative property companies use disused buildings differently and to the benefit of communities until plans are submitted and approved for building to begin. This helps to build community partnerships early on and opens up a dialogue with locals, as well as others.

Past. Present. Future.

There is usually an inherent tension within any regeneration between the old and the new. Placemaking brands have long told stories based on the heritage of an area to inform the placemaking strategy and its brand identity but by using this tactic, you run the risk of losing your relevance for future audiences. Within our work at Alexandra Palace we ensured our main history-based story of “the people’s palace” was made relevant for current audiences and then a secondary call to action was introduced of ‘discover your Ally Pally’ to cater for our future audiences. The adoption of ‘modern history’ stories will be a strong trend we see emerging to connect the historic soul of an area with its future needs.

There is no clear blueprint for developing a placemaking brand. However, it is interesting to note that the thread that runs throughout these four key trends is the need for an in-depth understanding of audiences whilst being totally in-tune with a development’s reason for being. Get in touch at hello@underscore.co.uk to find out how we can help you do so.