Competitive Landscape - TH Real Estate, Blackstone, and CBRE
Both TH Real Estate and CBRE have clearly identifiable positions as thought leaders in their industries, but it is not clear that these positions translate to high levels of consumer trust. Blackstone Group, on the other hand, though it has no significant thought leadership position, outpaces CBRE in consumer loyalty, and by extension, 'trust.' Below you'll find our research methodology and relevant findings.
We interpreted 'thought leadership' as the areas in which each company is demonstrating leadership, innovation or initiatives in a way that either connects the company to a larger sphere outside its immediate industry, or that provides disruptive leadership within its industry. For TH Real Estate and CBRE, a search for awards generated long-standing awards in sustainability and ethics, respectively, which indicates their areas of strength in thought leadership. However, research for Blackstone Group awards generated only 'financial sector performance' awards; its Corporate Social Responsibility page primarily highlights the ways in which it makes financial contributions towards laudable goals; and manual search of its press release archives did not generate any relevant sources. Third-party search for interviews with Blackstone's CEO also did not generate any relevant information. For this reason, while Blackstone is a leader in the financial industry, we have determined that this is more likely due to its financial success rather than any attributable thought leadership.
Doing it well
We determined this data point by the level of recognition each company has received for its thought leadership stance or initiatives. In the case of Blackstone, this data point was moot.
Are they trusted
Ideally, this data point would be answered from information in client surveys; however, our research generated no such surveys in the public domain. For this reason, we have used the company's Net Promoter Score (NPS) as the next-best metric for assessing consumers' level of trust in the company. The NPS measures consumer loyalty, which we assumed to reasonably correlate with trust. This metric was not available for TH Real Estate, nor was there one available for parent company Nuveen.
Which company is leading
We attempted to determined this data point by the Net Promoter Score, as it was the only measurable data point used in our research. As noted above, our research found no NPS for TH Real Estate, which may be because the metric isn't widely used in the real estate industry. For this reason, we were unable to confidently assess which of the three companies is definitively leading, although we were able to determine that Blackstone Group has a significant advantage over CBRE, relative to consumer loyalty. Because this category is comparative, we have not included it in the individual assessments below.
How the company instills trust
We were unable to determine a reasonable metric for this data point, since it would require knowing the connection between a company's attempt to instill trust and its ultimate success. Since we have already assessed consumer level of trust as a separate data point, we instead focused on how a company attempts to instill trust via its brand positioning. We determined this by the tone, content and stance at the forefront of their presentation of the company, especially where it aligned with their thought leadership positions - or, in the case of Blackstone, its predictive perspective on industry performance.
TH REAL ESTATE
Thought Leadership: TH Real Estate demonstrates thought leadership most strongly on the topic of sustainability, specifically via energy efficiency in its real estate holdings. The strength of its leadership in this area is demonstrated by the early achievement of its target energy efficiency goal.
Doing it well: The company has won numerous sustainability and green energy awards over the past decade, including:
- Sustained Excellence Award Winner, EPA ENERGY STAR PARTNER
- 11 Green Stars from The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB)
Based on this long-running recognition of its achievements in the area of its thought leadership strength, we assume that it is doing well as a thought leader in this category.
Trust: As noted above, there is no available metric to confidently assert, or even speculate, the level of confidence and trust that consumers have in TH Real Estate.
How the company instill trust: TH Real Estate positions itself as a environmentally sustainable corporation which balances "being stewards of the environment [and simultaneously] producing attractive long-term returns, while also contributing to positive outcomes for the economy and the well-being of individuals and communities." This position is likely to appeal to the trust of consumers who prioritize environmental stewardship, a value which is particularly notable in the Millennial generation.
Thought leadership: CBRE demonstrates thought leadership on the topic of ethics and integrity, for which it has one numerous awards. One of these awards examines leadership, innovation and reputation as criteria for the award. Its 2017/2018 awards for most admired company (Fortune publications) and World's Most Ethical Company have been won consecutively for several years. Its 2018 World's Most Ethical Company award is the company's 5th consecutive award for that distinction. In addition, the World's Most Ethical Company award takes into account leadership, innovation and reputation. In support of its stance on ethical business practices, its ethics and compliance documents are publicly disclosed, as is its ethics reporting hot line.
Doing it well: CBRE's 2017/2018 awards for most admired company (Fortune publications) and World's Most Ethical Company have been won consecutively for several years. Its 2018 World's Most Ethical Company award is the company's 5th consecutive award for that distinction. Based on this recognition, we can reasonably assume that it is doing well as a thought leader in this category.
Trust: Despite its apparent strength as a thought leader in ethical business practices, the company's net promoter score is -4, which indicates a low level of consumer trust relative to the Blackstone Group.
How the company instills trust: CBRE positions itself as the ethical real estate service company, which is indicated by the prominence of its corporate (integrity-based) values in its website 'about' section. While its is reasonable to assume that this set of values would appeal to the trust of any consumer who values fair business practices in addition to industrial competency, the company's NPS seems to indicate that it has not been highly successful - though our research was unable to determine if this is due to the lack of importance of these values to the consumer, or to the consumer's perception that the company doesn't uphold these values.
As noted above, neither Blackstone's corporate online presence nor third-party analyses give any indication that Blackstone is either endeavoring to be a thought leader in a given category, or that it is perceived as one. Its corporate responsibility initiatives are largely financed: for instance, carbon neutrality can be purchased, and the company specifically states that it 'financially contributes' to worthy charitable causes.
Despite its lack of highly visible thought leadership, Blackstone customers give the company a Net Promoter Score of 10. This could be the result of Blackstone's perspective on the industry forecast, which is optimistically bullish on the direction of the real estate industry. Its "vision focused on value creation in [its] investments and then choosing the right moment to exit" seems to be viewed with confidence by investors, which is a reasonable corollary to trust.
To wrap it up: while there are no consistent metrics to assess who is leading in thought leadership and consumer trust among Blackstone, TH Real Estate and CBRE, it is clear that Blackstone is performing well in the trust aspect, despite its apparent lack of thought leadership in any significant category. While CBRE and TH Real Estate each position themselves as trustworthy based on sustainability and ethical values, it is not clear that this positioning has created identifiable trust in their consumers.