Your brand is the spearhead of your product. By implementing strong design principles – particularly in an era of ever-changing consumer tastes and behaviours – you will be able to scale your impact, spread your message and position yourself ever closer as an industry leader in a competitive arena. However, we first must step back and evaluate all those critical elements that go into constructing an award-winning coliving model, piece-by-piece.
Our Founding Partners at Spatial Experience explain the fundamental ins-and-outs of the brand development process, how an effective marketing campaign can serve to drive maximum exposure and the benefits of utilising visual imagery to communicate with your target audience. Supported by in-depth research, conversations with sector stakeholders and a wealth of experience, this three-part piece will guide you through your successful branding journey, step by step (part 2 of 3).
One of the biggest challenges that any company faces in the modern world is the ability to constantly adapt to ever-evolving industries, environments, digital developments and competition. Customer-tailored communication and marketing solutions have become the key to success of a recognisable and strong brand. Even now, not so many companies have realised the power that effective marketing strategy holds when differentiating oneself among your competitors, seeking customer loyalty and building a sustainable brand. However, what is effective marketing exactly and how can one bring success to the business by staying relevant to your customers?
The definition of marketing has evolved over the years and is constantly changing its meaning. Take for example the definition from American Marketing Association (AMA): “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large”. AMA, the largest association for marketing professionals, reevaluates and adapts the definition every three years, which testifies of the dynamic nature of the field. One possible explanation about the cause of these continuous changes are rapidly shifting customer needs. Alongside these changes, the challenge of staying abreast of marketing developments remains relevant.
Last year for marketeers was all about quickly responding and adapting to the critical situation caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Brands had to find a way to manage the crisis, draw the attention of customers and redefine the relationship with its audience in a lockdown reality. Especially for coliving, which is grounded in facilitating and providing a sense of community often by creating experiences in the physical world, delivering the brand promise proved to be a tough nut to crack during the isolation periods. Coliving operators had to think outside the box in order to survive and rethink the way they provide service for their communities. From organising online events to sending daily newsletters to creating remote gatherings, coliving marketing teams and onsite community facilitators all around the world had to use creative methods to offer a safe platform for their communities to continue thriving.
The world is facing an unknown future and although different experts are gaining knowledge and providing aid to overcoming the pandemic, we are still living with coronavirus-related restrictions and it is still unclear how and when the pandemic will end. This situation has significant implications on the strategies brands will adapt next year. Past performance of the brands that managed to stay active in these difficult times proves that the key to success lies in the ability to see the bigger picture with the customer as a central and inherent part. By leaving the beaten track of traditional marketing practises behind and thinking holistically about the brand and its impact on residents, employees, other stakeholders and the environment around them, the best strategy remains to focus on partnerships and collaborations on a wider ecosystem level, while constantly empathising with the current and future residents.
Empathising is the first step on the path towards creative problem solving and creating desirable products, services and experiences. Lack of understanding of your customers and their needs leads to inaccurate decisions that do not reflect reality. Listen to your audience and make sure your offer is tailored to their needs. Marketing is lucky to have a lot of data-driven results, but the human and social listening aspect is also crucial. You can utilise marketing with your organisation to tap into the minds of your audience and contextualise your offer in the glocal market. Leverage this knowledge to drive change in your business by raising issues, addressing the elephant in the room and discussing the topics that are important to the community. In this era of high uncertainty, you need to ask yourself as a brand a question: how can I be relevant to members of my community?
Now that you understand what to do, you can use marketing to matter to your current audience and future residents. Cut through the noise and emphasise the purpose of your brand, its vision and values. At this stage it is crucial to clearly communicate your why: Why do you do what you do? Why should people care about you? In fact, in the 2022 Global Marketing Trends report by Deloitte, purpose is the number one trend driving growth in marketing. Delivering purposeful, meaningful experiences to your audience throughout the entire customer journey keeps it engaged and makes your brand stand out from the crowd. You need to create a safe space, in reality and digitally, where people can co-exist and support each other. Be authentic, open and share your dilemmas and offer a platform that challenges your community to support each other throughout their learning path in becoming better members of society, and in our planet at large. If you organised a virtual yoga session and only two people showed up, do not consider it a failure – be there for those two participants and show that they matter to you. Humanise your brand to strongly connect with each and every audience member, because personalisation is another way to dive even deeper in the relationship with your customer.
It is also relevant to mention that resources must be used wisely. Creating a brand and product catered to the needs of your audience doesn’t stop at opening or when all the best have been filled. This is an everlasting process and in order to be successful with it, one must observe and listen to their residents. If they are not massively attending the above mentioned yoga session, then you might want to survey them on what kind of event they prefer. It is not about giving your community all they ask for, but about reassuring them that you are there and their opinion matters.
Moreover, it is imperative that real estate companies understand the old ways will not come back. As a matter of fact, Deloitte’s trend list shows that hybrid experiences are a relevant trend to invest in as it supports in delivering more personalisation, innovation and connection.
The pandemic has taught us what is relevant to our communities and wider ecosystem, and many real estate businesses have been challenged with a shift in ways their customers behave. Those who have embraced being outside of their comfort zone managed to thrive; being inclusive and welcoming to an audience that has always been there, but was not mattered to in the past out of the comfort of following old ways (effective in pre-pandemic times).
More than ever, it is important to understand what effective marketing really is. Effective marketing is derived from a standpoint that asks whether one’s brand matters to the customer and consequently reinforces that value throughout the whole marketing journey. Marketing professionals need to think about how their marketing efforts can reinforce their connection and service to their communities. In order to achieve that, you first need to make sure that you understand your customers’ journey and behaviours, as the latter are constantly changing. Those changes in customer behaviours and need for authenticity is, for example, reflected in how generation alpha is being shaped, which is now considered to be the most concerned and impact-driven group so far.
Another example of customer behaviour was from a live survey performed during The Class Conference 2021 with the event participants, where a shocking 72% of respondents indicated that email is a bad way to communicate with GenZ. This means that, firstly, standard email marketing is not enough anymore to stay on top of your audience’s mind, and brands need to think of innovative, omnichannel ways to reach their target groups. Secondly, companies need to pay close attention to where their target is present. As GenZ is the most tech-savvy generation, but also the most loyal and compassionate so far, brands can address them through mobile-based technology (e.g., community apps), social media, but also build connections through face-to-face communication.
Marketing strategies that we learned ten years ago are not suitable anymore in the modern context, which highlights the importance of a circular evaluation process of your branding and marketing efforts, which we dive into next.
All of our projects, from small to large, are deeply rooted within ‘Growth-Driven Design’ and ‘Design Thinking Methodology’. Starting from contextualising business goals and objectives, we analyse and understand the current situation and design a strategy accordingly. We execute its steps, conceptualise, develop and then externalise. Business ideas can be deemed successful in theory and strategies can be set for success to a certain extent. With experience and know-how, we create scenarios that hypothetically may lead to satisfactory results. But only by observing, measuring and evaluating your efforts can we drive towards conclusions.
This is where the power of marketing is at its culmination, as it is the engine that best understands evaluation and data-driven decision making. It is a department in a company that has the capability to adapt and learn how to survive business challenges. Marketing is running through a never-ending “learning cycle”.
Through marketing we can measure with qualitative and quantitative data the success of our efforts, then evaluate how the customers (residents, prospects and wider ecosystem) are experiencing the coliving experience you are delivering. Does this correlate with what you promised? Is there something they find more relevant, which you do offer but do not stress enough in your communications?
When you evaluate and process this feedback you may encounter the need to rewind and adapt to your new reality. This does not necessarily mean you need to start over; growth-driven design methodology allows you to ideate, create and develop in a permeable way allowing you to adjust and refine as you go. It is crucial to embed this methodology in marketing efforts if we want to optimise costs while staying relevant in a fast-paced business landscape. After all, marketing is irrelevant if no reaction of your audience is captured and understood. This is why there is a focal point that should always be present in internal processes: ‘mattering’, evaluating and fine tuning.
Investing in your marketing efforts goes beyond selling. It is a mechanism that enables you to understand and connect with current and future residents as well as the wider stakeholders of your business. Being authentic, inclusive, aware, committed and purpose-driven humanises your brand and allows you to emotionally connect with like-minded audiences on a deeper level. That way you show that your (future) residents and other stakeholders matter to you, and as a result, you matter to them. When as a company you focus on mattering, your whole business evolves.