Last year I took Coniq through a Company Values process. One of the key themes that staff wanted to feature in the Company values was “People” - Not only in terms of developing our own people but realising that we live in a Community and we should do more to help people where we work. A number of staff and I found an excellent local charity - Food For All and a little while ago, several Coniq staff took a day out of the office to help prepare free hot meals for those who need it.
So recently we thought we’d reward their hard work and help raise some money with a charity mojito afternoon.
With the help of some of my home grown mint and an heirloom ice crusher, plenty of refreshing cocktails (both alcoholic and alcohol free) were made and enjoyed.
We raised an impressive £150 in just an hour and a half - a testament to the Marketing and Finance teams getting involved in developing their cocktail making skills!
What struck me was how quickly the Coniq staff have got behind the Value, how generous they were and how dedicated the company have become to helping our local community.
Last week I attended the PMA briefing session on the hows, the whys and the wherefores of award entries.
Chaired by the ever-eloquent John Williams from Instant Group and an excellent panel including Tom Foulkes from Carter Jonas, Freddie Ossberg from Raconteur and Thomas Brown @Thinkstuff and former CIM Marketing Director, the event was a great opportunity to reflect on why property marketing awards really matter.
So I have split this post into 2 parts; Firstly a poor attempt at summarising the key messages from the learned panel, and secondly why I think we as Marketing leaders should embrace the opportunity the awards present.
I’ll start with two interesting facts that came out, the first is that there are no property folk on the panel. This is a refreshing approach from the PMA which I applaud – the panel are sector-agnostic and simply excellent marketers.
Secondly two Jury panelists independently review a category, they then pitch who they think should be shortlisted to the panel. Another jury member does the same category, so they may not agree with the other judge’s recommendations so there is a shortlist debate and finally everyone selects a winner. The motto of the story – be compelling, someone will have to champion you!
Thomas’ reasons to enter:
His overriding advice was that passion makes an entry stand out, and to keep your submission focused. They like organisations that try to break out of the mould, but who do it with discipline.
Finally, my thoughts;
Property is one of the most exciting sectors to work on brand. We create more brands than most sectors – it’s exciting (and for many why we joined)
Stop saying our sector is behind: If it is, it’s only because we as leaders haven’t moved it far enough – yet. We should ask ourselves what we have to done to progress our teams and our sector.
Awards should not be considered a nice to do: All too often we are on to the next project without investing appropriate time in review. Awards create those natural moments to focus, reflect and importantly to learn, we should treat them as such – a chance for the team to learn and improve.
Leaders who worked on the project should be asked to critique the entry before submission: Not only does this encourage reflection, it re-enforces the value-add the marketing function creates. This approach also breeds advocates and a well-run review session will, over time aid the process of developing plans for future projects.
Outsource with care! The old marketing adage is that clients get the brief they deserve – if outsourcing without sufficient support, engagement and input is how you approach an award entry, it may well be a reflection of how you treat internal clients (you should expect a suitable win rate also).
Other products are available: Whilst the PMA stands out as an excellent target to focus on because of the calibre and independence of the panel, senior marketers should also look also at entering other awards.
Dare to dream: The proudest award in my career was being shortlisted for a Marketing week digital award and getting beaten by M&S, the fact a digital strategy for a shopping mall was evaluated against a retail giant was success enough. As marketing leaders in property I often hear “Property Marketing is behind other sectors” – we need to be the catalysts of our own change.
The website article is here and all the info you need - even if you don't enter this year, attend the event to start preparing for next year now.
Sean Curtis, Head of Marketing, Europe, Development, Lendlease
In John Hegarty’s book on Advertising he refers to a favourite quote of mine “A brand is the most valuable real estate in the world – a corner of a consumer’s mind.” I believe the shopping centers we build and manage today are brands in their own right.
Centres are often stronger brands in their catchment than an individual retailer, but with a brand-led mindset comes a great responsibility for the marketing department to protect, develop, and grow the brand appropriately. Managed well, strong brands present opportunities for lucrative collaborations, unlocking value on a surprisingly common ground between retailer and landlord.
A core strategic challenge for Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Executives alike is whether you are a “Branded House” (think Westfield or intu), or a “House of Brands” (think any of the REITs). Which strategy you chose will depend on what you believe the benefit will be. Does it gain more traction with staff in the head offices of retailers? Will consumers favor your centers based on the offer your brand promises or does it ultimately present a book value opportunity? How frequently you trade centers will also be key as the cost of adding/removing the brand is considerable.
Irrespective of the first challenge, as Hegarty says, the key role of a brand is to build a relationship with your customers and that is not always easy. Many consumer groups, including those at both ends of the age spectrum don’t believe brands understand them, so marketing teams must work hard to demonstrate that they do. A “one size fits all” communications strategy is no longer an option. Your data strategy must ensure you have the information to be able to segment your customers; data collected through competitions and Wi-Fi log-ins will rarely be enough, so campaigns to get to know people will be a key stage in the brand journey.
Understanding what your customers want is key; some consumer groups will engage with your brand because they buy into you as a brand, others will engage but want something in return, and if that is the case, it better be instant gratification. Finally, knowing how to reach your consumers is vital, especially in a world of challenging marketing budgets. The reality is that consumer polarizations are greater than ever before, making it harder to reach your entire customer base; the media consumption habits of a 21-year-old are very different to a 55-year-old, and as an industry we ignore this challenge at our peril.
Take Baby Boomers as an example. This group isn’t growing old gracefully and its behaviors are very different to previous generations, yet they will be one of the most powerful consumer groups for the next twenty years; alienating them with irrelevant email content, patronising model selection in adverts, or moving all your marketing budget to Instagram will disengage them instantly. In the same way, understanding how younger generations are growing up in a very different economic environment and how to engage with them is just as vital. Content is king for many younger groups, as are sources for them to seek out value such as review sites or social media. Rethinking advertising spend, building a good content plan, both yourselves and with your retailers will also help you stay relevant to your customers of tomorrow.
The role of the marketing team should be based on good retailing principles: get to know your customers better, entice them to visit more often, stay longer, and spend more. The role of the brand is to ensure you occupy that valuable space in their mind that will ensure their spend is with your brand.
With online sales set to account for 25% of non-food retail before 2020* the role of the store is changing, but so is the role of the venue and the experience it must offer.
The topic of digital strategy has been a constant theme at the autumn thought leadership events and at many of my recent client meetings. The conversation and (sometimes heated debate) has focused on what is the role of the landlord versus the retailer and which destinations currently have the best digital strategy.
So I have compiled 10 points that destinations should consider when developing their digital strategy.
1. Are you clear how your digital strategy fits into your existing business
Our industry is finally speeding up the pace in embracing technology; “Labs” is a zeitgeist phrase for landlords, we have apps offering geo-location, advanced loyalty systems both in app and physically, affiliate website models, customer mapping and better interrogation of big data analytics. The danger is that without a clear digital strategy, initiatives lack cohesion, or in the worst case prove counter-productive to the core bricks and mortar business.
In the past the role of a landlord was to get customers to a physical threshold – today I believe it now includes the digital threshold but there are a myriad of options where a company could invest its capital. Boards need to be clear about where the digital strategy fits into their business model, the level of investment required and what expected returns they will achieve. They must define whether the investment in technology is to create new revenue streams, a strategy to secure higher rents over time or frankly just the cost of doing business today to compete against pure-play retailers?
2. Are you clear how your business model needs to change and how technology will play a role?
The industry needs to alter its business model in order to serve tenants and consumers whose needs are different than they were in the past. With the physical store set to take less money, but play a bigger role in sales for a catchment, new approaches to leases, turnover, lease flexibility are some of the seismic shifts required. (See my next blog: Landlords are now media owners out Nov 26th).
3. Technology should enable more experimentation – Are you breeding a culture to harness the opportunity it provides?
Culturally this is a big challenge for our sector. Technology means we can try 4 versions, get data, adapt and go again, this is exactly how tech start-ups operate – get to a minimum viable product and test it quickly (It requires a different mindset to deciding where entrances or escalators go, it definitely does not need 5 layers of hierarchy, a 10 person steering group and 13 weeks securing board approval). It also means we can Fail Fast – when was the last time you approached an initiative with that a test-mindset and celebrated a good fail where you learned something invaluable?
4. Are you developing your C-Level execs to think like Business Angels?
The future success (or survival) of your business may well rely on being more entrepreneurial, we all ignore this at our peril, but how many of us can say that we really create an entrepreneurial environment or actually have the skills to create one?
Boards need to build this into senior team skill development programs at pace and establish financial support, however small to allow innovation to come from anywhere in the organisation.
5. Data is a new asset class – How do you currently value it?
Many landlords are grappling with exactly what the final value of data will be and how to use it most effectively, but I believe in 2 years when you sell an asset, the data will have a tangible value in the sale price.
The data will need to be relevant, and rich, (and not just competition entries). Organisations will need to maintain and grow it, and to do that they will need to remember the following point……..
6. Data is NOT the new oil without emotional engagement
Ever since retail began, the idea of getting to know your best customers has rung true; Technology allows you to identify, understand and personalise communications, building strong loyalty with your best customers, but without brand engagement it is just a list of tailored offers (and some of our industry fail to even tailor offers currently)
7. Data analysts may well be the next Marketing Rockstars
A while ago Digital marketing managers were key new hires, people to help navigate a changing digital landscape. Today in the leading landlords, more and more of their marketing team is made up of Data Analysts.
Ask yourselves how much data do you currently collect and how many people do you actually have to make sense of it? In my opinion, it is the
Analysts role to help make sense of the data, use insight to shape business strategy then test it to be sure. In addition, allowing analysts time to uncover insight they weren’t originally looking for is where the pure gold lies!
8. Is Wi-Fi the foundation or the pinnacle of your digital strategy?As a destination, offering great Wi-Fi where you can watch TV or price compare is not the end game; True it may be good for entertaining blokes dragged out for a Saturday morning but it should be the platform (alongside 4G) to build an engaging, relevant personalised experience.
9. Are you using Technology to take the friction out of the shopping experience?The consumer should be at the heart of everything we do, and true omni-channel gives the customer what they want, where they want and when they want it.
We must relentlessly look for what is important to them and, where relevant, how technology can help deliver it. (Delivering what the really customer wants will often require more of point 3!)
10. Landlords and retailers both need to collaborate moreLike it or not, there is no such thing as a Single Customer View, especially in shopping malls, but retailers and landlords can combine forces to create a powerful view of their shoppers behavior and create a truly omni-channel experience; An online retailer knows where a customer visited, how long they stayed, the conversion rate, where they left from and what brought them there in the first place – all this information is available to retailers and landlords but more collaboration is needed to unlock it into a powerful view of the customer.
With a clear digital marketing strategy then the rationale for a either a database sending better personalised content, a new loyalty program or better customer tracking (OK, and yes, even investing in improved Wi-Fi) become clear, with the investment easier to justify, the returns easier to measure and the strategy easier to explain.
*(Conlumino report 2015)
In John Hegarty’s book on Advertising he refers to one of my favourite quotes “A brand is the most valuable real estate in the world - a corner of the consumer’s mind.” As a leader in the real estate business, I believe we no longer build buildings, we build brands.
The rise & rise of the mobile, the continued growth of the internet and the proliferation of new channels such as Click and Collect have driven huge shifts in consumer behaviour and present a potential threat to traditional retail. Land Securities believe that putting brand at its heart and exhibiting brand behaviour allows us to embrace new opportunities, to stay relevant in this new omni-channel world and differentiate ourselves from traditional competing retail centres.
Brand behaviour doesn’t mean simply building the bricks & mortar, then calling marketing in for a logo and a launch campaign, Marketing can, and should contribute significantly more to the property sector. I often talk about viability, vision, leasing and launch as the key roles when supporting a development. For existing centres, being able to understand the customer intimately, identifying shifts in behaviour and guiding response to that change allow the centre to create a lasting, emotional engagement with the customer that drives loyalty and share of wallet in an increasingly competitive environment.
Our seminal moment was appointing Fitch to work on Trinity Leeds. We undertook an unprecedented level of insight to develop a brand vision for the scheme that we articulated as Everyday Wonder. The brand process included workshops for leasing, design, digital, customer service and marketing to ensure every area of the business worked towards one brand vision. We explored how this brand would look, think and speak in every area of the scheme: what would Everyday Wonder mean for the customer service team? What retailers and restaurants would create the perfect mix? How could we use our digital capability to deliver it?
Everyday Wonder is a big brand promise and one that we have to work hard to ensure our behaviour lives up to. The centre team recently organised a flashmob to help someone propose, our roof cleaning team dressed up as Batman and Spiderman after people told the team they were superheroes for working in all weathers and when people discovered that our secret pop-up restaurant in a metal shipping container was hosting the hottest chefs and coolest cocktail mixologists, they shared it via social media – over 1.1 million times.
The award-winning Trinity Kitchen was born of the brand – we host 7 retail pods and every 8 weeks we bring in 6 street food vans. We have to take them into the basement, empty fuel, load them on a special flatbed lorry, drive them around the building and the lift them into the first floor location – a lot of work but the result is an ever-evolving mix of the best street food operators in the UK set in the most innovative food court in the country.
Six years ago the industry was asking itself why would people want to be friends with a shopping centre on social media? Today almost 120,000 people choose to be friends with Trinity Leeds on Facebook and our levels of engagement rank highly, not against other shopping centres, but against the consumer brands we now consider our peers.
We are delighted that Trinity Leeds has been awarded Coolbrands status. Chosen by an independent Expert Council and thousands of members of the public, Coolbrands is the barometer of Britain’s coolest brands, people and places.
In order to keep our status we need to continue to try to understand the role the brand can play in the property world; continue to evolve our behaviour and continue to embrace new channels to deliver the great experiences that keep us relevant to our consumers. In exchange our consumers will stay engaged with our brand and keep coming back to our centres and our clients.