A brief history of GBR AssociatesBy Jerry Rosenblum, Owner/founder
Founded in the summer of 1990, GBR Associates is now in our 24th year of business. To get a feel for where we are and where we’re going, sometimes it’s good for you to know a little bit about where we’ve been.
The beginning. Why start an ad agency?
Having worked throughout my twenties for a couple of ad agencies and then forming an in-house agency for a real estate developer, I had done just about every job in the ad agency business (creative, production, account service, research) and had a clear view of what works and how I wanted to do things. I’ve always enjoyed the process of discovering what makes a business or development successful and how to create and implement programs to make that business more successful.
It wasn’t called branding back then, but I understood how perceptions affected behavior and I knew how to influence perceptions. Which, in my view, is what marketing is all about.
On top of that, I’ve always appreciated the power of good design which was often a missing piece of the marketing puzzle, particularly in real estate marketing. Good clean design became a hallmark of GBR Associates’ work which continues to this day.
Why real estate?
In my case, I happened to get involved in real estate marketing. Probably because I was in South Florida and the economy was driven by real estate and tourism. I had more of an interest in real estate as a business than in tourism at the time. Plus I had opportunities early in my career to launch some major real estate developments that required large-scale campaigns.
Having worked as an agency and also some as a client, I was able to see the marketing/advertising process from both perspectives.
Opportunity presents itself.
I knew there was an opportunity to create an agency that not only had great creative product, but offered sound strategy based on an understanding of business. Clients were telling me that shops that offered good design didn’t understand the real estate business. Shops that were marketing-focused couldn’t design worth a lick. So, like any good marketer does, GBR Associates was formed to give the customer what they wanted: Well-thought-out campaigns designed to generate traffic and leads coupled with high-quality design product.
Some smart people took notice.
The story of GBR Associates would not be complete without recognizing some of the key people who had faith in us and came aboard as clients when we were first starting out.
Al Coffin hired GBR very early on to promote Mykonos Court at Boca Country Club and then the remaining lots at Bocaire Country Club. Thanks, Al. You were our first client.
Leonard Greenberg hired GBR to help market Indian Spring Country Club in Boynton Beach, Florida. Thank you, Leonard for giving us the opportunity to market Indian Spring, Boca Grove and the many other projects we did together. Your support and loyalty allowed us to keep growing as a company and attract other top clients.
A very special debt of gratitude goes to Alec Engelstein, Chairman of Engle Homes who valued our work and hired us in our first year in business. This began an 18-year client/agency relationship where we were fortunate to be part of the growth of Engle Homes from a family-run local builder in South Florida to a regional builder throughout the state of Florida to going public on the NASDAQ and expanding north to key markets on the Atlantic Coast, Colorado, Texas and the West. We look back fondly on the literally hundreds of communities we marketed under the Engle brand locally and nationally.
Our history and track record with Engle Homes led to GBR Associates being hired as TOUSA’s marketing agency in 2000. TOUSA acquired Engle Homes, Newmark Homes and a number of regional builders which led them to become one of the top 12 builders in the US traded on the NY Stock Exchange.
This gave us even more experience with a publicly-traded, national-scale, multi-division home builder. Our approach didn’t change and we became very adept at assessing markets, understanding a community’s unique positioning, and executing programs to drive traffic while maintaining consistent brand standards at the division and corporate level.
Our first decade. 1990–1999. A consistent, effective approach.
Throughout the 1990s, GBR grew as new clients came into the fold. Staff grew and so did office space. Our work was being noticed in the South Florida market and our programs were working, achieving success for our clients. Since this was a time when we could drive traffic using a media mix with heavy print advertising, GBR ads were starting to dominate the South Florida Real Estate sections as an increased number of builders used our marketing services.
We worked for clients like Engle Homes, Oriole Homes, Centex Homes, Coscan, Paramount Residential just to name a few. We became masters of new home marketing for everything from single-product communities to multi-product communities, country clubs, master-planned communities and custom home builders.
Our second decade. 2000–2009. Rooted in Florida, GBR goes national.
South Florida, SW Florida, Orlando, Jacksonville, Virginia, Delaware, Colorado, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Nashville, Las Vegas. Lots of travel, fun challenges and even more success stories. Our work is consistently recognized at “The Nationals”, not that we’re into awards. We were pioneering the branded web presence as a lead capture, follow-up and traffic generation tool. We spent our time refining proven processes to achieve more sales velocity on a large scale. Transforming what was a print-driven industry in to a web-centered one while empowering builders’ sales teams to harness the power of digital.
The housing crash. OK, now what?
Sometimes you don’t know how good things really are until it all goes away. For the first 18 years, until the housing crash, specializing in marketing new communities for real estate developers and homebuilders was a really good idea. The TOUSA bankruptcy, the Oriole Homes bankruptcy along with the failure of many home builders were very sad events. A lot of good hard-working people lost their jobs. Many great home building brands disappeared completely. Home building as a business ceased to exist for some time while demand for new homes practically disappeared.
From the rubble, the strong emerge and thrive.
Like every other business affected by homebuilding, GBR Associates retrenched and refocused. There was still work to do and we concentrated on helping builders move inventory that remained unsold. We even helped move inventory for new owners of projects we had previously marketed. One example was a community called Equus in Boynton Beach, FL. A place where Engle Homes once had a parcel, we were now tasked with marketing 28 unsold inventory homes for Landmark and Ecclestone in what was then the worst housing market in our lifetime. As painful as it was, the effort was successful. Good marketing works in good markets and bad.
The communications revolution and the recovery.
We live in interesting times. The changes in communication in the last few years are more dramatic than the changes in the last 50 years. In a connected world where information flows constantly, instantly in real time, the business of influencing behavior has a whole new set of tactics. And things continue to change daily at a rapid pace. There are no rules because rules are constantly re-written.
However, several truths remain. People have to know about you to buy from you. People care about what other people think. And people are influenced by design whether they know it or not.
What we’re up to today.
Today, we’re like a whole new company. But one with a vast well of experience from which to draw. We love using cutting edge technology, but only as a means to achieve our clients’ specific objectives. While the real estate market is coming back and new home communities are starting to emerge, we’ve had the privilege to rebrand and re-launch one of South Florida’s finest golf communities, Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens. As the first major private club community to go to market AFTER the communications revolution and AFTER the housing meltdown, GBR was able to once again pioneer the creation and execution of the fully integrated digital/social/print branding and marketing program. Old Palm has recently achieved a sales pace greater than at any time in its history.
Branding, marketing, digital, social. Talk to us.
Now that you know a little bit about where we’ve been. Perhaps you’re even familiar with our work over the years. If you’re a developer or home builder thinking of launching a new community and you want to connect with your target audience in ways that truly engage and motivate, give us a call. If you have an existing community that’s not performing as it should, we can breath new life into it.
Even if you’re not in the home building or development business and you would like your brand presented in a way that separates you from the pack, come talk to us. We love to talk marketing, branding and design.
Let’s do great work together.