USP Creative

What property companies can learn from retail brands

Shopping Cart

The property sector is booming. However, it is also relatively conservative and still slow to adapt to new consumer trends and expectations. In order to succeed in an increasingly competitive market we must continually respond to consumer needs or risk becoming obsolete.

The most successful players will be those who learn from leading marketers of our time, shifting from a feature-based model to a benefits-based model. We’re all more motivated by Cadbury selling ‘pure joy’ than selling ‘milk chocolate’, by Apple selling ‘creativity’ rather than ‘technology products’, and increasingly by more forward-thinking property companies such as British Land, selling ‘places people prefer’ rather than ‘bricks, mortar and square footage’.

Indeed, there is much the property sector can learn from consumer branding. A sector at the forefront of marketing from the outset, consumer brands have always had bigger budgets and more frequent campaigns to experiment with – learning lessons and finding new, more powerful ways of persuasion long before other business sectors. Consumer brands, therefore, are the ones we should look to when developing the property sector. 

Above all, the key to consumer marketing is finding and understanding your audience: Who are these people? What’s important to them? What will be important to them in the future? These questions are equally valid when selling a building or neighbourhood as they are when selling a laundry detergent. What are you offering these people that will lead them to paying you for your product or service over and above anyone else? This question can only be answered with a thorough understanding of who they are.

When it comes to property (commercial or residential) its inhabitants are our end-users and positioning is key; identify key benefits, identify market fit, clearly communicate the benefits (not the features). As easy as 1, 2, 3. And as the old adage goes, there really is something for everyone. The seemingly most unattractive space can still offer benefits to the right tenant – consider Old Street c.2000 vs ‘Tech City’ of today, or compare the Brooklyn of the noughties with today’s vibrant hub of creativity and tourism. 

So what are the key lessons can we take from the big consumer brands when marketing a property? 

Develop a clear brand positioning: Buildings and neighbourhoods alike will benefit from a clear brand proposition to draw in tenants, residents, workers and visitors. Think about what emotional benefits you can offer from being in and around that space?

Retail kerb appeal: Supermarkets, departments stores and hotel reception areas are all carefully designed, decorated and even scented to draw in consumers and keep them there. What difference can you make to your building or neighbourhood to entice people in?

Branded retail experience: what kind of behaviours do you need to encourage in and around your property or development that will create the right retail experience for your target? What do Apple, John Lewis or Audi do in the retail space that is different to Tesco, for eg?

These lessons and more can be put to great use when marketing any property – whether you need a full brand positioning and place marketing campaign or a simple ‘re-packaging’ of a reception area.  If you need to sell more, sell quicker, increase value or drive footfall, the real opportunities lie in borrowing from the strategies of consumer marketing.