Seniors Housing Business

AUG-SEP 2015

Seniors Housing Business is the magazine that helps you navigate the evolution of the seniors housing industry.

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50 Seniors Housing Business n August-September 2015 n Marketing Brand building from the bottom up By Jef Shaw When consumers think about a strong, established brand like Coke, they aren't imagining "red" or "script font." They visualize about all the adjectives that brand represents — sweet, cold, refreshing. It's easy to consider a seniors housing community's brand to be simply its logo and color scheme. But when it comes to a service industry like seniors housing, it's not that simple, according to lead- ing seniors housing marketers and operators. The image a brand presents needs to match the actual boots-on- the-ground reality of a community, or else a branding campaign could do more harm than good. "Companies promise to deliver what their brands represent," says Cherie Dupor, vice president of marketing at Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle Corp. (SLC), one of the largest owners and operators in the country. "It tells consumers who you are and what you stand for." A brand, in short, informs potential leads what they can expect when they visit the community. The indicator of a successful brand, then, is how well the actual ser- vices offered match what a brand tells consumers, according to seniors housing marketing frm GlynnDevins based in Overland Park, Kan. Branding that looks luxurious, and then delivers luxury service and amenities, will be more successful than one that doesn't match. "It goes much more beyond website and logo and collateral and goes into the operations," says Molly White, director of strategic plan- ning for GlynnDevins. "The people in dining, marketing and every part of the community deliver on that experience. That experience makes that brand." For that reason, the frst step of building a strong brand is to research how the community or company is already perceived in the market and single out exist- ing strengths and weaknesses. "Brand decisions can be really emotional. Operators have a connection to how they've always talked about their community," says Sue McClure, president and COO at GlynnDevins. "Executives need to get out of that and see the community the same way the mar- ket does. It might change branding strategies a bit." Once a community's current and ideal future position within the market is established, branding materials can then be built to match. A brand is also an opportunity to show off the differ- entiators that make a community stand out from the com- petition, according to Dave Martino, chief creative offcer for the senior living division of Minneapolis-based Bluespire Senior Living, formerly Martino & Binzer. Communities frequently think they're trumpeting their benefts, but are instead blending in with every other community. "Because senior living is a somewhat homog- enized product, we hear all the same stuff all the time — our people make the difference; we really care about our residents; we have a great wellness program; we have great dining," says Martino. "Your brand becomes either part of your differentiation or it completely muddles the water." Good research can help communities defne what makes them stand out from the crowd, and then the brand can be built around that. But simply looking good isn't enough. In order for a brand to succeed, its promise needs to be under- stood and executed at every level of the company. It takes a village Communities tend to fall short when it comes to delivering on the experiential part of the brand, explains Martino. "They spend all this money and build great cam- paigns, then there's a huge disconnect with the actual experience in the community." Martino recommends that all levels of operations — healthcare, dining, wellness and every other department — be part of the brand- building process so they understand and provide service that matches More than just the look and feel, a community's brand requires execution by entire staff. This branding exercise by seniors housing marketing frm Bluespire Marketing helps operators determine the target market of their communities based on location, demographics and interest in senior living. Once a target is determined, a brand can be established that both appeals to those seniors and accurately represents the services of the community. ". . . operators should compare themselves against best- in-class organizations overall," says Cherie Dupor, vice president, marketing, Senior Lifestyle Corp.

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