Is U+I really a USP ?

18 November, 2015


Some of you will remember when dull FTSE-listed Development Securities bought über cool at least in property terms Cathedral Group for £27.4m last May.

Since then a lot of people have wondered how this would work and clearly for a few people it hasn’t. Cathedral’s popular Design Director Martyn Evans is due to leave the new company in December and it’ll be interesting to see if that role survives.

But there’s no doubt when it came to branding, Cathedral knew rather more about it than DevSec, which even in its diminutive form, drowned in property’s sea of sameness.

So it was no great surprise when Cathedral announced that its new office was to be designed by one of Cathedral’s golden boys, Phil Coffey, with Ab Rogers thrown in for extra wow factor.

But a new brand is something else entirely.

Shareholders might never step inside its Victoria HQ but they’ll see immediately that something very weird has happened which is that dependable old DevSec has transmogrified into U+I.

According to the new chief executive Matthew Weiner, the name comes from the motto of a demolished pub – “be united be industrious”- on the site they jointly own in Greenwich. The Seawitch pub was destroyed in 1944 but top marks for whoever unearthed its motto and re-purposed it for a listed property company.

And then there’s the web.

If you put U+I into Google the first four pages are links to various departments of Indiana University.

For the moment at least, the company is lost in the web’s dark echo chamber – I can’t even find a link for this post- but will it ever find its way out? Hard to say but one of the first rules of choosing a new name is that it must work for Google and for email.

My hunch is that the brand is the brainchild of Cathedral’s charismatic chief executive Richard Upton, who may also be responsible for the decision to describe U+I as a “regeneration” company.

If you compare this with how DevSec used to describe itself (“a property development and investment company” whose  “principal objective is to create value and growth through real estate” )  you’ll see the extent of the change that’s underway.

However, a great name needs also to stick in the brain and have personality.

Urban Splash and British Land are names that tell you instantly who you’re dealing with but U+I,  despite its jazzy deconstructed letters and interesting back story, leaves you wondering what goes on in the board room and who is really in charge.

You can read the response by Martyn Evans, U+i’s Creative Director on LinkedIn