For Tom Bruin, CEO of Chicago-based SilverStone Communities, and three associates of Chicago public relations and brand consultant firm Taylor Johnson, the week of March 13 was a road trip that would put any touring rock star to shame. Fresh on the heels of the company's expansion into three new markets this year, Bruin is now diving headfirst into a corporate initiative to brand his company's five independent urban infill operations.

With stops in Denver, San Francisco, and San Diego, the newly anointed team wasted no time putting the wheels in motion for SilverStone's brand development and implementation initiative. Meeting with division presidents at each of the stops, the group interviewed executives, toured product from SilverStone and its competitors, met with regional agency contacts, and conducted focus groups of buyers and outside brokers.

“For us, the definition of ‘brand' is the position that the builder can own in the marketplace,” says Peter Olesker, Taylor Johnson's executive vice president. “For Nike, it's the superstar athlete in all of us.” But for SilverStone, that position has yet to be determined. “We hope to be in a position to make actionable recommendations within a month,” says Olesker. And Bruin predicts the company will be able to articulate that vision in the next six months.

“It's a competitive environment out there,” says Bruin of his motivation. “Even though we are off to a good, fast start, I have to fight both greenfield builders and these ‘virtual' builder LLCs for consumer attention.”

READY TO BAND: The Taylor Johnson team behind SilverStone Communities new effort, left to right: Deborah Johnson, CEO; Kathryn Kjarsgaard, senior account executive; and Peter Olesker, executive vice president. And if the market does begin to slow down, Bruin sees his branding foresight as just one more advantage. “It will put us ahead of the game if others start to decide it might be an area to pursue, but more importantly, it puts us ahead of the eight-ball now.”

Bruin admits that evaluating the tangible payback of a brand implementation program may be a tough measure to capture. But already he can envision ways that SilverStone will reap rewards. “Ultimately, we have to come up with a way to set the metrics. But if we can establish a brand that enables us to capture more market share or even command an extra $5 more per square foot, that's an incredibly strong set of metrics in itself.”