By Mark Davis, co-founder and creative director, property branding agency me&dave
As the property industry’s mini bounce-back begins to fade, we need to rethink our approach and make sure we’re ready for whatever the future holds.
The weeks since the government eased restrictions on viewings have been good. Developers, investors and agents experienced none of the predicted nervousness about venturing back into the property market, whether private sale or rental. In fact, Zoopla reported an 88% spike in interest following a significant lockdown slump.
The pandemic and lockdown have seen many people rethink their priorities. After being stuck indoors, negative feelings about homes and neighbourhoods could have intensified. Some people may have decided to cut the commute and try city-centre living. For others, months of remote working could well have opened up new horizons (‘Maybe it’s time to swap Slough for St Ives’).
But whatever the reasons behind the initial reprieve, analysts are now predicting that it will soon run out of steam as we move out of lockdown and confront the recession. (Unemployment is on the up, unsurprisingly – the Office for National Statistics calculated a rise of 856,000 to 2.1 million in April, the biggest monthly upswing since modern records began in 1971.)
As uncertainty replaces this initial burst of enthusiasm, we need to think about the impact that the pandemic has had on our industry, and reconsider the way we engage with consumers to keep things on track. Picking up where you left off just isn’t an option.
How should the property sector respond and introduce a level of agility and flexibility that can cope with whatever the coming weeks and months throw at us?
As a sector, we need to regroup, strip things back, look afresh at what we’re offering – and how to communicate that effectively to consumers. Those who put the time into strategically working out how they are going to survive and thrive in an altered landscape will be the new winners. Those who were number one going into lockdown won’t necessarily be number one coming out. In other words, there’s an opportunity here.
There’s also scope to try something new when it comes to marketing and branding strategies. To give the ideas that were floated but deemed too risky a go. Now’s the time to push a few boundaries and take a new direction. After all, consumers and stakeholders have come to expect the unexpected in recent weeks.
Excelling remotely is so important, and many are exploiting virtual channels to great effect. From guided tours of properties to light-hearted brand-engagement strategies like the #ZooplaFortChallenge.
We’re seeing the more savvy property developers and investors out there really work social media, summing up their brand ethos in just a few seconds. U+I’s Regeneration Rethought Insta feed tells you more about the developer’s approach to redevelopment than pages and pages of corporate prose ever could. Short. Honest. To the point.
If you want to cut through in the digital space it pays to remember that you’re not just competing with other property sector companies. Everyone uses these channels. Even more reason to get to the point as fast as possible.
It’s worth noting that the average person will spend 100 minutes a day watching online video by 2021, according to Zenith Media, so connecting with people via this platform is increasingly important. We should be building these assets quickly. Look at how to make virtual tools work harder for you.
A multichannel approach also means that if there’s another Covid-19 spike, you’ll be ready when restrictions are reinstated. But, equally, if constraints are further relaxed, you can come out of the traps ready to act. Now’s not the time to rely on old-school methods. Yes, glossy brochures and marketing suites have their place, but we need to think outside the box, too.
Get the message right
It’s OK to sell stuff, you just need to get your language and tone of voice right.
People have been through all kinds of challenges; their lives have been stripped back to their barest essentials. Being given the hard sell is the last thing anyone wants coming out of hibernation. Yet so much property branding and marketing is overblown, trite and hackneyed.
Cut the hype. Simplicity, authenticity and a degree of empathy are what’s needed right now. Connecting in an emotionally transparent and empathetic way is more likely to resonate in times like these.
There’s a chance here to create unity between business and customer. When companies show a level of emotional intelligence towards their consumers in difficult circumstances, those customers become more loyal.
So talk to them as human beings. Imagine you’re explaining it all to your eight-year-old niece or nephew – their attention will wain quickly at even the slightest whiff of cliché. People’s responses become more frank and honest in trying times; it’s time your brand adopted these same qualities.