Great branding isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of commercial real estate. For decades, the extent of a ‘brand’ would be a company name (typically a last name or multiple last names) and a bit of colour. But building a memorable brand not only helps you stand out from the (slightly outdated) crowd, it also has a tangible impact on your business.
In this episode of The ChangeMakers in CRE, we talk to Aviva Sonenreich, Managing Broker at Warehouse Hotline, based in Denver, Colorado. Aviva has built a massive audience of over 1 million followers on social media platform TikTok, has leveraged branding to land new business for her commercial brokerage, and is pulling back the curtain on the ins and outs of commercial real estate.
Watch the full episode
The problem with branding in commercial real estate
Warehouse Hotline is a warehouse-exclusive commercial brokerage but it started life as a more typical brokerage under the Sonnenreich name. This seemed to be the standard way of operating for almost all commercial real estate businesses and that’s what sparked the idea to rebrand.
"I realized that commercial real estate has little to no branding. And in a sea of companies that are people's last names with color schemes, I realized that a brand might be a really strong differentiator on the business side. Commercial real estate is pretty antiquated. But, I enjoy exploring where I can break boundaries and rebuild something that works better for modern-day times."
Soon after, Warehouse Hotline was born and as Aviva says, “when we put exactly what did in the title of the company, people understood it a lot better.”
That sparked greater online interest from potential clients and partners and it also helped to cement the company’s standing as a specialized commercial broker.
Building an audience of 1M+ on TikTok
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020 the phone stopped ringing for Warehouse Hotline. This was at the same time as a new social media platform was growing in popularity - TikTok. TikTok is a short-form, video-sharing app that allows users to create and share short videos on any topic.
Aviva initially experimented on the platform by posting videos of her cat, but her light bulb moment came when a friend convinced her to start creating videos about commercial real estate tips and tricks.
“I had a friend call me and say, ‘What are you doing? There's so much competition with cat videos but with your profession, you have zero competition.’ And that's when the light bulb went off. I started talking about real estate on TikTok and what I realized really fast was that people want to learn about this on the internet.
“But real estate in general, and commercial real estate specifically, is just such a gate kept industry. There isn't a lot of good information about it on the internet. These multi-trillion dollar industries are very much lacking when it comes to a consumable content.”
So what do people want to know about and what types of information have been particularly popular for Aviva? Her approach is to provide insight on timely real estate news and also to help demystify some of the lesser-known aspects of both commercial and residential real estate.
"People love any form of real estate news, the hottest gossip and the drama. They also like relevant tips about making commercial real estate transactions. A majority of the people consuming the are often more impacted by residential real estate so I give leasing and buying tips that can be useful in residential and commercial settings to help as many people as possible."
Check out Aviva's content on TikTok here
The revival of the warehouse industry
Before the early 2000s, warehouses weren't an in-demand asset class and were relatively small - only around 1000 square feet to 75,000 square feet. However, in recent years we’ve seen the e-commerce boom breathe new life into the warehouse and industrial sector. E-commerce needs warehouses to store products, and this has significantly bumped up the need for 200,000 to 500,000 square foot (and even 1 million square foot) warehouses.
For companies like Warehouse Hotline, they’re poised to capitalize on this increased demand as investors rethink where they want to direct their attention going forward.
"Prior to 2010, where we live in Denver, Colorado, warehouses weren't really a glamourous product type. Warehouses were at the bottom end of real estate. But in 2010, Colorado became the first state to recreationally legalize marijuana, and the dynamic of our warehouse industry changed overnight.
“Then, following the cannabis industry was the e-commerce industry. User habits have changed so significantly from the beginning of 2020 until now that warehouses have become this glamorized product type that people need more. More investors are realizing maybe their A-class office might not actually be as good as an investment as a C-class warehouse."