Sector - Commercial

Knocking down walls

How to successfully market a mixed tenure property development

By Natasha Anslow, Director at Philosophy Design

Effective brands tell a clear story to a well-defined audience, and property projects are no different. Developers will typically design their marketing and sales strategies around the needs of their target customer base, developing tailored materials, communications and marketing campaigns to appeal directly to these groups.

However, what do you do when the audience is split very clearly in two? This is the challenge facing many developers, especially housing providers that market properties on the same site to both affordable and private audiences.

In reality, this issue is not as big a problem as many might think. Philosophy worked with leading housing provider Catalyst to create branding and marketing for its mixed tenure flagship Portobello Square development, and this work is testament to the fact that a clear focus on building a strong brand identity based on firm values can appeal to and even bring together very different audience groups.

This approach certainly worked: apart from the initial launch campaign and recent activity to promote the new townhouses, no advertising at all was needed or used throughout the four-year first phase of the project.

Joining forces

There’s no denying that private sale and affordable housing are worlds apart. From the way sales and rentals are handled to the requirements and priorities of the customer base in each sector. Indeed, the affordable rental aspect of such projects is often seen as the ‘poor relation’, resulting in communications which lack creativity, sophistication, and excitement.

In turn, shared ownership properties are almost always included in the affordable bracket alongside affordable rentals when it comes to marketing, branding and language, but actually, in terms of the target audience – young professionals who aspire to own property but cannot afford to without assistance – it makes much more sense to treat to this group in the same way as the private sales audience. Let’s not forget that current London prices mean that for most London boroughs, the cut off for joining a shared ownership scheme is a household income of £71,000.

With such marked differences in audiences, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the best marketing approach would be to develop two distinct strategies, each homing in on the very distinct needs of each group. However, Catalyst turned this concept on its head for the Portobello Square branding and marketing.

A famously diverse and inclusive neighbourhood which is home to the legendary street market, various celebrity residents and of course the renowned Carnival this corner of London has long been known for its community feel, with inhabitants of all backgrounds and means living happily alongside each other.

Philosophy devised a strategy for the branding of the project and the resulting communications activity which reflected this sense of unity and togetherness. By creating one name, one communication plan and one visual identity, it established a consistent brand that avoided dividing the two groups but instead presented a unifying message that was distributed across all target audiences.

In addition, the community engagement activity ensured that affordable tenants, the private development audience and the wider local community were actively involved with the project, giving them the chance to contribute ideas and have their say.

Karen Lee-Brindle, Head of Sales and Marketing at Catalyst, says: “We’re really proud of the bold approach we took with marketing this project. It not only allowed us to present a united proposition to all of our audiences, but it also strengthened our brand, bringing a consistency and depth to the marketing collateral that would not have been possible had the campaign been split across tenures.”

Going ‘tenure blind’

This example gives weight to the argument that the property sector is ready for a change in how it markets new developments. The ‘tenure blind’ approach is a refreshing step for developers who want to maximise the impact and return on investment of their marketing activity, allowing them to reach wider audiences and have a cleaner, more consistent brand identity that in turn becomes more memorable and long-lasting.

Once the step has been taken to develop a joint marketing strategy, it’s vital that time and care is taken to create an identity and messages that support all audiences. There’s no merit in having a united brand that only caters for one target group, and ignores the needs of the other. Similarly, avoid the trap of opting for style over substance. Research, planning and attention to detail are all vital in ensuring that the brand is a true reflection of not only the project itself but also the community and people it’s trying to target.

It’s also crucial to carry the chosen design and identity across as many channels and touchpoints as possible, especially when you are targeting two very different audience groups. Don’t stop at marketing collateral either: think about every available medium you can use to communicate your message, from the fit-out of the marketing suite to the site hoardings. The more you can get your branding out there, remembered and talked about, the better.

Reaping the rewards

Get it right and this approach can be very effective: after the official launch of Philosophy’s work for Catalyst on Portobello Square demand was so high that advertising was put on hold in order for the sales team to cope with the levels of interest. Sales targets were reached far earlier than originally estimated.

The consistent brand design and the core messaging that was carried throughout the marketing activity ensured that all audiences, regardless of whether they were affordable tenants, existing residents, sales targets or local community stakeholders, had a crystal clear understanding of the project and its vision, and were able to add their own contributions to its progress.