The American dream is shifting away from home ownership to a more flexible lifestyle, and Next Chapter Neighborhoods was founded to capitalize and deliver on it. This new concept in rental properties provides its tenants with all the benefits of home ownership (freestanding houses and neighborhood-like communities) without the burdens (upkeep, immobility). The start-up tapped Thinkso to bring their concept to life in branding and marketing. We established the brand identity and architecture for the development company and property suite, and designed, wrote, and produced marketing communications for their first property, Sweetwater Commons. The concept was so successful that Next Chapter had to start a waiting list before Sweetwater’s first tenant even moved in.
Following the housing crash and recession of the late 2000s, the U.S. saw a shift away from home ownership toward renting in both cities and suburban areas. At the same time, people were increasingly seeking a sense of community and connection. Next Chapter Holdings saw the market opportunity that these two converging trends provided: a new housing concept that delivered all the comforts of owning a home in a real neighborhood with all the convenience of renting.
The vision for Next Chapter’s developments was single-family freestanding cottages with porches, sidewalks, and community programming to encourage relationships among neighbors. Our client understood their market and were well-positioned to offer value, but needed a brand strategy that communicated their value proposition, along with an identity that would bring it to life and help it stand out in the crowded residential rental market. They also had plans to expand across the country, with each property taking on the flavor of the local geography.
Thinkso saw a real opportunity to use branding to set this new housing concept apart from the many others out there. The notion of “neighborhoodness” had to come through in every consumer touchpoint, so we would use “neighbors” and “the American dream” as central inspirations in our design and editorial development.
Our goal was to develop a parent brand that was distinctive, but not overwhelming, and a branding system that allowed the development properties to be unique but still hold together as a single real estate portfolio. The Next Chapter logotype works as a badge that can be paired with any of the development’s logos, acting as a seal of approval. (“Oh, that’s a Next Chapter Neighborhood property. I know we’ll not just have a place to live there, we’ll have a true home.”) We put a system in place for efficiently naming and creating property brands, and included provisions for capturing the local culture and environment without veering too far from the core brand.
We ensured that everything created for the brand related back to the communal qualities of a neighborhood. We recommended a name change from “Next Chapter Holdings” to “Next Chapter Neighborhoods.” We established a warm, friendly, and honest editorial voice. We specified that property photography should feel authentic, cozy, and welcoming as opposed to the typically cold and spacious style used in most real estate marketing. And we complemented it with stock imagery that showed neighbors engaged in neighborly things.
A real estate concept this unique needed a typeface equally so. Inspired by the folksy and familiar qualities of vintage sign painting, we designed a custom typeface used primarily for the logotype of each Next Chapter development property, but that can also be employed for other emblematic applications such as house numbers and signage.
To help promote the start-up to investors and the first development to prospective tenants, Thinkso created two websites, printed marketing collateral including brochures, an advertising campaign, business cards, t-shirts, and more.