Are Architects Allowed to Market and Advertise Their Services?

Are Architects Allowed to Market and Advertise Their Services?

Are Architects Allowed to Market and Advertise Their Services? The short answer is yes, both for marketing and advertisement. But this question is raised based on a long history. There were times when architects and architecture practices were not allowed to either market or advertise their work.

Marketing and advertising were forbidden for architects, but not anymore

From 1909 to 1972, The American Institute of Architects banned marketing and advertisement. Some of the „principles” that based the interdiction were the following:

  • Non-combat in prices. That is, all architects were supposed to charge the same percentage of construction costs.
  • Advertising was forbidden, as it could lower the profession’s standards.
  • No free work.
  • Supplanting or replacing another architect on a project was prohibited.
  • Contracting to do construction was also banned.

During the ’60s and the ’70s, these provisions had a collision with anti-trust laws. As a result, all those measures were dropped-off:

There is no ethical restriction on providing free services whether or not part of marketing; providing services at no charge is, of course, simply charging a fee of zero. Similarly, there are no ethical restrictions specifi cally pertaining to design competitions, which amount to providing services for no fee or a very small fee.

The AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

Nevertheless, up to these prohibited regulations, architects promoted themselves efficiently. One of my favorite examples is that of Henry Gibsons’s books:

100 years old content marketing example for architects and architecture firms

Why professional bodies imposed fixed charges and/or limit the marketing and advertising for architects

All professional associations tend to promote a lack of competition between their members. They also naturally tend to impose fixed or minimal prices, claiming public safety. But they can have perverse economic implications:

  • Fixed or minimal prices lower competition within the profession.
  • Non-combat prices do not provide better quality. As a matter of fact, quality is a result of competition, not vice-versa.
  • Fixed and minimal prices don’t encourage innovation and productivity. The introduction of productivity tools such as CAD during the past decades or BIM is a direct result of market competition.

I insist on architectural services’ charges as the price is one of the 4 pillars of the marketing mix.

Similar to the USA, European Union also imposes a free competitive market, architecture included. Some EU member states are subject to infringement procedures in such cases. In my country, our professional organization was sued by the Competition Authority to drop the „list of minimal fees”. Germany is also facing similar actions.

But, like in any other profession, marketing is an essential aspect of running a successful architecture practice. However, the way architects market themselves may be subject to certain regulations and guidelines depending on the jurisdiction and professional standards in place.

Ethical and professional conduct in marketing and advertisement for architects and architecture firms

Architects’ marketing activities typically fall within the boundaries of ethical and professional conduct. They are expected to adhere to principles of honesty, transparency, and integrity while promoting their services. Some considerations to keep in mind when marketing as an architect include:

These guidelines regarding marketing and advertisement for architects and architectural firms are not compulsory. They are not pieces of legislation. But architecture is a gentlemen’s profession nevertheless. Most of those pieces of advice apply to all marketing and advertisement activities, not only in our niche.

Truthful Representation in Marketing and Advertising of Architects’ skills, qualifications, and experience

Architects should accurately represent their skills, qualifications, and experience in marketing materials. Avoid making false claims or exaggerations.

Architects’ Professional Codes and Guidelines

Architects are subject to codes of ethics and conduct set forth by professional organizations, such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in the United States or the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in the UK. These codes provide guidance on ethical marketing practices.

Although these codes don’t interdict marketing and advertising, they still provide advice for our profession. Those deontological prescriptions apply to all of our activities.

Respect for Architects’ Clients and Peers

Marketing efforts should respect the privacy of clients and collaborators. Also, avoid any disparaging or unethical comparisons with other architects or firms.

Although Pepsi and Apple successfully campaigned against Coca-Cola, respectively Microsoft, these are not examples of good practices.

Architects’ Clients. Market for Lemmons

Both construction and architecture markets are what are called asymmetrical information markets. That is, the information is held disproportionately by architects, engineers, and other professionals.

George Akerlof
George Akerlof is a Nobel Prize in Economics Winner

Asymmetrical information markets tend to push prices low because regular clients can’t verify the quality of products and services. This effect is known as the Market for Lemmons. A Nobel Prize for Economy certifies its importance.

But good marketing should aim to inform and educate potential clients. This way, they can make better-informed decisions. Better-informed decisions lead to better services, collaboration, and better architecture. They set the standards in our profession.

A secondary effect is that a better-educated market can oppose the Market-for-Lemmons effect.

Intellectual Property

Architects’ marketing materials, including images, designs, and written content, should not violate the copyright or intellectual property rights of others.

Local Regulations

Some jurisdictions might have specific regulations regarding advertising and marketing for professional services, including architecture. Architects should familiarize themselves with these regulations to ensure compliance.

Transparency of Architects’ Fees and Services

Architects should clearly communicate their scope of services, fees, and terms to potential clients. Transparency helps build trust and establishes a strong foundation for client relationships.

Collaborations and Partnerships

Collaborating with other professionals and experts in related fields and highlighting these partnerships in marketing materials can demonstrate a well-rounded approach to design and project execution.

Balanced Representation

Architects should aim to balance their marketing with professional responsibility for clients, public, and individuals.

Project Portfolios

Showcase a diverse range of projects. Reflect different building types, sizes, styles, and locations. Highlight projects from various sectors such as residential, commercial, educational, healthcare, and cultural spaces. Demonstrate your architecture firm’s versatility.

Community and Environment Impact

Showcase your involvement in the quality of public spaces, community integration, and environmental consciousness.

Client Stories, Feedback and Collaboration

Share client testimonials and stories that showcase the positive impact of your architectural work on a diverse range of clients. Seek feedback from diverse stakeholders, including clients, community members, and team members, to ensure that your marketing efforts are well-balanced.

Educational Content

Create content that educates the public about architecture, design principles, and the value of well-designed spaces.

Accessible Language

Ensure that your marketing materials use clear and accessible language that is easily understood by a wide audience.

Thought Leadership

Set standards within the architectural industry. Conduct research and debate ideas. Create better services and customers’ experience.

Conclusion. Architects are allowed to market and advertise their services with responsability and integrity

It’s important for architects to balance effective marketing and ethical conduct. Architects and architecture firms can align their promotional efforts with their professional responsibilities and obligations. Consulting with legal and industry experts can provide architects with a clear understanding of the specific marketing guidelines applicable to their jurisdiction and professional associations.

Conducting responsibly effective marketing and advertising campaigns leads for a constant client flux and new projects for architects an architecture firms. For results, marketing and advertising have to be associate with a branding strategy. This way, the values stressed by marketing stick to the architecture pracitses brands. Clients learn to trust your firm.

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