Appealing to the senses |

Appealing to the senses

Dominic Brunetti

Growing up in a family that owned and operated high-end steakhouses throughout the Southwest, I learned that appealing to the senses is priority No. 1. My father has trained hundreds of product marketers to believe that as soon as the guest walks through the door, they should feel the sense of invitation. The setting should be soothing: dim lights, relaxing, yet entertaining. Music and a smell that puts the appetite in overdrive. Appealing to these senses; sight, sound and smell, is considered product marketing basics applicable to many industries including commercial real estate.

In applying this theory to commercial real estate, let’s focus on two office buildings in downtown Reno: the Museum Tower at 100 W. Liberty St. and the Waterfront Plaza at 300 E. Second St. Museum Tower is the end product of a successful rebranding campaign by Capstone Partners, based in Portland, Ore. As one walks through the front doors off of Liberty Street, the warm decor welcomes you to a vaulted ceiling lobby. In the background, music plays at a level accompanying passerby conversation; not disturbing but pleasantly memorable. Lastly, the Museum Tower’s most recent addition of Paisans Italian delicatessen tops off the mood with the rich smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning and toasted sandwiches in the afternoon.

Although these characteristics are not typical in describing a central business district mid-rise, they have had an imperative impact on its success. Museum Tower currently stands at approximately 10 percent vacancy, demands downtown’s top-of-market rents, and is home to some of Reno’s largest and most prominent law, financial services and accounting firms.

Alternatively, there are other landmark buildings downtown that are undergoing the rebranding process. Waterfront Plaza has begun its transition from what was once referred to as the Harrah’s parking garage to what is evolving into an art centric modernized building.

TRT, LLC, the California-based owner of Waterfront Plaza, has extensive experience in re-branding real estate investments to attract the end user. As they would attest, in real estate, this marketing principle requires capital investment to create return. During TRT’s approximate one year of ownership, they have dedicated nearly $1 million to the common area and covered parking garage makeover. The contemporary new design grabs your attention as you enter. Not only does it make you feel comfortable, but it brings a sense of positive energy to the building. In addition, TRT plans to appeal to the sense of sight by enlisting the expertise of a local art association in designing common areas and dedicating a portion of the lobby to create a gallery-like display for local artists.

Although the sense of sight is being well catered to, sound and smell are not far behind. Being home to Americom and Wilks Broadcast Group, the Waterfront Plaza has plans to enlighten lobbies, hallways and elevators with on-air music broadcast from these current tenants. In this regard, not only will sound sooth the frequent building visitors, but it can produce a sense of comradship amongst tenants as they listen to direct feed from the sound booth to the building. Lastly, newly planted flowers and the fresh aroma of coffee and homemade pastries will enable Waterfront Plaza to turn the corner appealing to the underestimated sense of smell. This will bring to a close this chapter in the rebranding process.

Like Museum Tower, Waterfront Plaza will yield tremendous benefit from applying this marketing technique, resulting in a more favorable place to work, driving vacancy down, attracting new and retaining current tenants. Chris Croisdale, partner in TRT, LLC and owner of Waterfront Plaza, references a book he has utilized in his entrepreneurial past titled “BRAND Sense” by Martin Lindstrom. “It has been a real eye opener to things that I knew worked but did not know the physics of why, and it enlightened me to some new ideas as well,” he says.

Taking this theory one step further, I believe it is pertinent to discuss the effects of the re-branding efforts of commercial real estate to corporate recruiting as a critical component to our local economy.

I relied on Tom Fitzgerald, CEO of NevadaWorks, for his professional opinion on the impact that real estate presentation has on employee recruiting and retention. His thoughts:

Q: Given northern Nevada’s extremely low unemployment rate, what impact does the presentation of real estate i.e. appealing to the senses, location and building amenities, have on the recruiting process?

A: Many individuals relocating to the northern Nevada area have previously worked in offices that have the various amenities you describe. They have adapted to these environments and consider them the norm. When issues such as salary and benefits are acceptable, then the office comfort and appeal become very important to job seekers.

Q: From your experience in assisting executive and entry level employees to relocate, live and work in northern Nevada, what feedback have you been given from prospective hires in terms of the influence work place atmosphere has on the decision making process?

A: The current age 25-44 workforce has a different set of values from their older counterparts and often they expect a workspace that fits their generation’s ideas of comfort, fun and excitement. The more facilities they see meeting their desires, the better their impression of our area. They feel more comfortable and productive when offered a pleasant workspace.

Q: Being a business owner and CEO, does a building’s ability to appeal to the senses create a more favorable recruiting, interviewing and overall hiring climate in your search for talent?

A: As I have interviewed for professional staff, I always took pride in our office environment and was pleased with the response of those being interviewed as they reacted well to the surroundings. All else being equal, a building’s ability to appeal to the senses absolutely helps in the recruitment process.

Museum Tower and Waterfront Plaza both depict a product marketing lifecycle in which entrepreneurs within all vertical markets, from food and beverage to high tech to real estate, can infuse branding to create product awareness. Appealing to the human senses demands attention and creates a memorable experience for the end user. And, as shown by its positive effects on corporate recruiting, it can be beneficial to the economy in general.

To continue to attract the tenants and employees that create economic impact, northern Nevadan property owners must appeal to the senses to compete.

Dominic Brunetti is a vice president for the office properties group of Alliance Commercial Real Estate. Contact him at