Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, is one of the most famous and visited mansions in the world.
In the unlikely scenario of a property agent being tasked with selling the world famous tourist attraction, can you imagine the agent’s pitch to a prospective buyer? You can be sure they wouldn’t be focusing on the colonial revival style, side-facing gabled roof and central two-storey projecting pedimented portico.
They would of course talk about the house’s previous owner, a one Elvis Aaron Presley.
In the 21st century, we’re seeing developers take this approach to new levels to increase demand from investors and prospective buyers. In a competitive market, telling buyers a compelling story about what they are buying into – over and above the bricks and mortar – is what really helps sell the dream. This, and developing a consistent and strategic approach to your branding to identify and target your ideal customers.
I recently heard about an agent who didn’t take buyers to see the property but instead took them on a drive around the surrounding area and pointed out which famous people the homes belonged to. The property, he said, used to “sell itself”.
So it’s not just the home you are selling, it’s the neighbourhood – or as the cliché goes – location, location, location. However, most developers can’t rely upon every property they’re marketing having a conveniently located A-list celebrity or two in the vicinity to help attract buyers – so they have to be more creative in how they tell the story of their offer.
This idea that things as insubstantial as dreams and ideas have the power to sell solid buildings can be witnessed across the UK property market. But these understandings must be combined with a completely integrated and comprehensive marketing strategy that now includes multiple touchpoints and opportunities to engage customers. The key to doing this successfully is ensuring consistency at every turn.
That means not relying on simple brochures and listings. Video is now an important tool in selling your vision with features like promo videos and walk-throughs that can be shared with a customer digitally or played in the showroom – and now of course drones are adding dramatic new visual impact to presentations and websites. But it is still vital to keep branding and messaging tone of voice consistent across each and every platform.
One of the most memorable recent projects in the UK comes from the creative agency Made Thought who collaborated with Ballymore to develop the branding for Wardian London. The development was named after Nathanial Ward who invented the ‘Wardian case’ which transported rare plants and trees to London during the British Empire. In addition to buying a property, they have created ‘The Gardener’, a bespoke, indoor and outdoor landscaping service which is tailored to fit residents’ tastes to create their very own ‘sky garden’.
Made Thought were central to the creation of the marketing strategy, visual identity and all related collateral, from brochure and website design through to filmmaking and art-direction. They created distinct and highly creative campaigns that spoke to broad audiences on an emotive level that converted to sales.
What did the agency have to say? “Our work with Ballymore is a long-term creative collaboration that has brought ground-breaking new developments to the market, achieving brand recognition and delivering sales that have out-performed almost all of the competition.”
Not only did the branding help to build sales, it also attracted the attention of industry press titles from the worlds of design, architecture and property – and iconic industry magazines like Wallpaper and Architectural Digest.
According to Made Thought, the key to this success has been the strategy which consistently communicated the desirability of the development throughout the campaign. The core positioning statement at the heart of Wardian was “a botanical oasis in the heart of the city.” This was a brilliant insight. It was central to the final result of the project, and has had considerable resonance for prospective customers. For a city like London, having an oasis to retreat back to after a hard day at the office is the ultimate seduction.
John Mulryan, Managing Director of Ballymore UK, and responsible for Wardian London’s innovative botanical design said, “We are known for creating wonderfully liveable spaces and, with ‘The Gardener’, we are not just delivering an ideal but a lifestyle. This project will cement our reputation of producing unrivalled, unique products.”
Part of an aspirational lifestyle is being situated in prime locations.
What makes a prime location even more attractive? It’s not just a few trees dotted along the avenues.
The creation of a city shopping centre is a development that can dramatically affect the prosperity of an area, bringing regeneration cash as well as ongoing support services and infrastructure improvements. New malls act as hubs of investment which attract secondary spending, and deliver an economic boost along with plenty of jobs.
Part of this phenomenon is the Westfield Effect – a pattern of sharply rising house prices immediately following the appearance of nearby retail destinations.
Westfield London in Hammersmith and Fulham was built during the financial crisis when the capital’s house prices were inching along at 3.1% growth, yet saw an amazing 12.79% annual increase. The effect has been lasting, with the shopping centre itself opening a further £600m extension.
The Village at Westfield London was an ingenious addition in 2015, designed to further extend the complex’s attractiveness to shoppers and house buyers. An ever-evolving space that combines luxury shopping with culture, including some of the most recognisable luxury brands like Prada, Rolex and Burberry.
But how has Westfield faired in the face of the massive boom in online retail? It’s no secret there’s been a worldwide decline in department store footprints, forcing mall owners such as Westfield to rethink their business models to sustain or grow their earnings.
Westfield’s solution has been to invest heavily in attracting the customers to their premises and building new developments in close proximity. These expansion strategies help sell not only convenience but a lifestyle that home buyers will form a real emotional connection with.
It’s what the company has called ‘Destination Westfield’, a proposition whereby homeowners are persuaded that everything they need is available within their malls. So consequently Westfield functions not only as a shopping centre, but also as a lifestyle destination that is constantly innovating and offering new retail and entertainment experiences.
According to Citi analysts, “Westfield has been seen as a pioneer of reinventing the mall concept, adding cinemas, apartment towers, high-end food courts and luxury fashion labels to its rental mix.”
ikon has been working with Westfield for over four years, so we have a deep understanding of the business’s strategic approach. This understanding ensures our agency is able to deliver creative work that’s on brand and in line with creative objectives.
So having talked about some of the big challenges the property sector currently faces in a rapidly changing market, what should businesses in the sector look for when choosing a creative partner to articulate their message?
Choosing an agency that understands property branding but also how to approach a project strategically is key.
ikon works with businesses to get to the core of what they do to ensure they communicate the right message through the right marketing channels.
It’s an approach that fits perfectly with branding in the property industry, so ikon was quickly on board with the whole Destination Westfield concept when they were engaged to deliver a brochure pack for Westfield Stratford. That meant understanding everything from the established tone of voice and imagery style to the ongoing Westfield creative strategy.
“We were immediately thrilled when Westfield asked us to help create bespoke printed material for each resident within the Cherry Park development,” says Alex Colley, Creative Director of ikon. “The core idea was centred around getting residents excited about their new home and what Stratford has to offer them. So our creative idea was to focus everything around the Stratford postcode ‘E20’ with the strapline ‘The New Capital of East London’ – placing Westfield at the heart of it.”
“In many ways, it was an easy sell. Stratford is currently going through a huge growth period. It’s becoming the new go-to destination in the capital.”
Alex believes a deep understanding of postcode demographics is vital, knowing not only who the target market is but what they aspire to.
“You need to understand who you are marketing to so you understand what they value, but also what kind of brands they value. Take One Hyde Park for example, they’ve associated the development with a link to the ultimate in luxury, the Mandarin Oriental Hotels. Why? Because it’s a five star hotel and it’s likely to be the type of establishment clientele looking to buy a property in One Hyde Park would frequent. They would already be familiar with the high standards of service and luxury on offer.”
Luxury brands have been successfully selling this kind of aspiration for a long time. Property developers are now catching up after seeing the wisdom in prioritising brand strategy and identity before they spend a single penny on marketing.
In his book ‘Made to Stick’, Chip Heath says that we need to tie that which is unfamiliar with that which is familiar. What does this mean?
If the unfamiliar in our scenario is the property that customers are completely unaware of, then the task is to create strong associations with familiar reference points. These could be luxury brands, shopping malls, transport connections – the aim is to develop positive, emotional associations with the product you are trying to market, as Chip Heath explains:
Only by understanding your audience can you figure out what those associations are. The alternative is having a wild guess who you need to associate with and then spending a lot of money attracting the wrong audience. It's common sense which way you should choose.
With cities across the UK like Manchester and Liverpool undergoing rapid regeneration alongside numerous areas in London (not to mention a plethora of TV shows dedicated to property development), more and more businesses are investing in a comprehensive brand identity to stand out.
Digital is playing a huge role with the likes of Instagram and Pinterest merging lifestyle and property – with the result that they are now jam-packed with architects and interior designers all showcasing incredible designs, idea generation, execution and in-situ work.
It’s a hugely competitive property market. Finding a way of standing out and rising above the marketing noise is vital to help attract investors or buyers. Looking to the future, businesses that adopt storytelling and new forms of technology to stay ahead of the curve will be those most likely to prevail.
Depending on your product or service, there could be numerous parties to engage with, making it even more critical to have a properly developed brand strategy and identity for consistency. Whatever stage your business touches a development, survival and indeed leadership depends on choosing a creative agency who understands this market to help you make real inroads.
Travelling further into the 21st century, property marketers will need to sharpen their approach and adapt to new industry realities if they don’t want to be left behind. If you can spot the upcoming trends, you’ll have a great chance of getting ahead of your competitors to be a market leader.
But it’s a crowded field. Realtors are using every possible advantage to get the edge on their competitors. And like so many other industries, they’re turning to tech to give them that edge. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and AI are powerful technologies making a big impact in the industry. So while the worlds they create are virtual, the advantages they will offer for savvy property operators will be very real.
You should still start with finding an expert branding agency who understands the future of property and how the adoption of these breakthrough technologies will be a part of a consistent and comprehensive business and marketing strategy – characterised by innovation, intelligence and creativity.
Surely a lot wiser than yelling, “Alexa: Create me a digital branding strategy!”
ikon has a strong track record in the property market. We are adept at digital and print marketing to bring your property development to life. We know how to establish and target an audience and invite them to communicate interactively. We can influence the hearts and minds of your prospective buyers so you can out-shine the competition. Over the last 10 years, we’ve worked closely with Berkeley Homes, Rogers Stirk + Harbour, Chapman Taylor, Buro Happold, Rolfe Judd and Taylor Wimpey to name the most recognisable.
We also have sound experience in luxury residential property branding. One of our clients is W11 Construction, who build luxury residential homes that have achieved some of the highest resale prices per square foot in Notting Hill. Their building projects have become some of London’s finest addresses and ikon is helping them become renowned for their innovative architecture and stunning interiors.
Whoever you decide is right to help you, storytelling, strategy and experience in the property market will give you the best possible chance to replicate Wardian’s success, not only out-performing your competition but positioning yourself as a front-runner in the industry.
As the king of rock 'n' roll once said "A little less conversation, a little more action please."