Property marketing case study – Key points from the EG property marketing conference 2018

I thought this year’s Estates Gazette (EG is the new brand) property marketing conference in June was a great improvement from last year. There was a series of excellent talks – both property marketing case study presentations and views from the experts. The main messages appeared to be:

  • Finally we are seeing the use of strategic marketing to segment markets, research customer needs and focus on the customer experience. Those that do have reaped significant commercial benefits.
  • Technology is already a disrupter in the residential property market – and it likely to be more so in the future. This will extend to commercial markets too.
  • More sophisticated branding approaches – with emotional connection at the heart – and an understanding of their transfer to the digital channel are becoming more apparent. Let’s hope that some of the more advanced digital engagement techniques (and their metrics) being used in residential market (B2C) will extend into the commercial markets (B2B) soon.
  • Regeneration – whether of residential communities or town centres – can achieve phenomenal success with the right marketing.

Property market overview (Damian Wild)

Damian Wild, editor of EG, started with a review of the UK property market – and the impact of the Scottish referendum, the General Election and the EU referendum. He said that until 2017 there was a bull run on the prime residential market and, whilst it slowed, the industrial market kept going. Since then things have been quieter with investors talking weak volumes. The High Street is in crisis and London prime rents are down. The next downturn is predicted for 2023-2025.

He argued that globally things are more interesting with considerable investment inflows and low vacancy rates. Listed properties, winning cities, the gap between prime and secondary property and trophy assets (London, Manchester and Birmingham) are seen as an opportunity.

Technology is seen as the biggest driver of change – for example, the use of real estate data and the PropTech revolution. He argued that the real estate industry is often seen as remote and disinterested in the wider concerns of society and this needs to change. Public trust is deteriorating and planning is now more focused on community.

Innovation trends (Paul Smith)

Paul Smith, creator of the SOSTAC model (Situation, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Action, Control) in the 1990s, talked about innovation trends. Big data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things, Virtual and Augmented Reality and marketing automation were discussed.

He offered some interesting examples – facial recognition to verify stolen cycle claims, emotional recognition to detect whether bank customers were happy with the service received and a system to predict your age ( Shared homes and “pod palaces” were also mentioned.

He explained that KPMG accountants allocated one of 12 categories to its web site visitors. Others use reverse forensics to analyse “digital body language”. He talked about Sales Navigator in LinkedIn and offered a new TOPPPSEED framework for planning: Target market, Objectives, Positioning, Partnership, Process, Sequence, Experience, Engage and Data.

Property marketing case study – Placemaking at The Lexicon Bracknell (Legal & General and Portland Design)

Bracknell was created as a new town and benefitted from the housing boom and growth in the Thames Valley in the 1980s. However, the town centre had become disconnected.

In 2011, Waitrose was the first new retail building in 25 years. A £240m regeneration project started for a million square feet of shopping and leisure development and included eight new buildings, 70 new retail units, three-storey 80,000 sq ft Fenwicks, two-storey 80,000 sq ft Marks & Spencer, 10 new food and beverage outlets, a 12-screen Cineworld and 3,800 car parking spaces.

There were 1,200 visitors to the Lexicon Room open days (VR goggles and an app were developed) and newsletters were delivered to 120,000 households. There was business community liaison with local clubs and 3,500 new jobs were created when it opened in 2017.

There was 4 million footfall at the start and this has increased to 16 million. It has won multiple awards.

Panel discussion – Understanding the customer

I completely agreed with the sentiments of James Fenner of Silk Road when he said he was “Appalled by the lack of knowledge and insight into customers or future trends for residential development”. The need for detailed segmentation was stressed.

Charlotte Steedman of Conductor talked about the need for research in placemaking projects – with local authorities, housing associations and regeneration agencies. The question “What do people want and need?” is rarely asked. The development at the former TV Centre at White City  was suggested as a good example of the use of customer research. She mentioned as a way to connect people, places and organisations in a community.

Matthew Brown of WeWork said that every one of their buildings has a community team to create the right member experience. They can even track how often a sofa is used in different positions. Flexible amenity spaces will extend from co-working to co-living. There needs to be recognition that there is a move from financial asset management to running a people business. He talked about “rewilding” – getting people in towns back in touch with nature.

In essence, the message seemed to be that residential development needed to move from superficial “designfest” tactics to a strategic marketing approach with more focus on the needs of the relevant market segments and customers.

Changing face of estate agency (OneDome) and panel discussion

This was a fascinating presentation about the battle between the High Street and online estate agents (easyProperty, Yopa, Tepilo, Emoov etc). The original model was a fixed flat fee that was not refundable. Then PurpleBricks (£15m marketing budget, market share 7% and valued at US$1 Billion) challenged the commission model. Countrywide responded by cannibalising its own offering.

The market wants an integrated approach bringing together location search, property portals, estate agency, conveyancing, mortgage brokers and insurance. In October 2017, the Government pledged to improve the home buying process. In April 2018, 94% felt that technology was the answer. It is a fragmented market (50% of the market is one or two branch agents) providing a disjointed customer journey.

Property marketing case study – Social buzz for Paintworks, Bristol (Crest Nicholson and Kolab)

Creating an emotional connection with the audience was at the heart of the strategy for this development with 95% of the activity on digital channels. There was initial work on the brand purpose and tone of voice, content, visuals and video and KPIs. The aim was to create authenticity (site heritage) and pop up studios, street art and parties, arts hackathon, hashtags (Twitter and Instagram) were used to stress the lifestyle experience.

There were 221 units over 72,000 square feet. The metrics and results were extraordinary:

  • 22,378 page views from 5,500 individual users during a 30 day campaign
  • 3,586 likes on Instagram and 75 comments
  • 278 social referrals to the web site
  • 30,900 impressions on Twitter
  • 28% conversion rates at the marketing suite compared to an industry standard of 10%
  • Sales were completed 17 months early saving half a million pounds of budget. The return on the development has increased 30% in two years.

Panel discussion – Brilliant Basics (Great Portland Estates, Flockler and Key Intelligent Property Marketing)

Marketing has shifted from sales creation to sales confirmation. There is a shift to make an emotional appeal to the hearts and minds of customers – even in the commercial markets. Social media helps to create experiences and has become a fundamental part of the marketing mix. Marketing case studies of Hanover Square and Rathbone Square were reviewed.

Build your digital brand (MediaVision)

Integrated digital marketing was shown to be: SEO, paid media, content marketing, digital PR, social media, analytics, CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation), affiliate marketing and SERM (Search Engine Relationship Management).

Interesting examples were explored including Knight Frank’s rural agents and a duck race. The JLL triathlon was another example. WeWork became the first commercial property brand that engaged with digital. The following brand health charts were shown:

Commercial property brands

Brand Search Volume in 2017 Year on Year change
Savills 925,000 -23%
Knight Frank 665,600 -18%
Strutt & Parker 405,800 -26%
CBRE 301,500 0%
Carter Jonas 206,500 -11%
JLL 179,900 3%
GVA 128,000 5%
Allsop 121,600 -8%
Colliers 85,800 6%
Workspace 83,300 17%
Cushman & Wakefield 43,600 4%
Stirling Ackroyd 41,700 -31%
Wiseman 39,500 2%
LSH 33,200 -15%
Kalmars 26,200 -3%

 Residential property brands 

Brand Search Volume in 2017 Year on Year change
Savills 932,500 -23%
Knight Frank 665,600 -18%
Foxtons 553,600 -24%
Strutt & Parker 405,800 -26%
Haart 333,900 -23%
Winkworth 247,500 -20%
Hamptons 214,700 -22%
Carter Jonas 206,500 -11%
Chancellors 205,400 -18%
KFH 194,600 -20%
Chestertons 146,700 -3%
Remax 142,900 -24%
M & M 117,900 1%
Keatons 102,900 78%
John D Wood 78,800 -8%
Cluttons 57,800 -9%
Castles Estate Agents 54,000 -5%
Storey’s 52,400 8%
Douglas & Gordon 49,700 -15%
Jackson Estate Agents 47,600 -20%
Brinkleys 44,000 -2%
Stirling Ackroyd 41,700 -31%


Brand Search Volume in 2017 Year on Year change
Rightmove 130,120,000 -16%
Zoopla 35,130,000 -11%
Prime Location 2,111,000 15%
On the market 607,200 38%

The message for property firms, as for all smaller businesses, was to focus on long tail, specific keywords (e.g. “Houses for sale Northcote Road”)

Brand and Branding (Dilys Maltby, Circus)

“Great brands are built on compelling stories: stories which inspire and captivate internal and external stakeholders alike. They have an ideology that makes them distinctive and commands our attention. They build engagement through consistency of behaviour and experience”.

Once the brand purpose definition is completed, the job is to build the experience. Narrative and storytelling is critical. Their approach included: ideology is key, inspiration matters, sacrifice is necessary and discipline is underestimated. They urged a deep drive to really understand experience – What is shopping? What is a restaurant? What is entertainment? What is convenience?

There needs to be clarity on being rare (only in the here and now), focused (for me) and connected (for me and others). The Hive at Kew Gardens and The Big Quiet were two examples mentioned.


The new book “Know your place” by co-conference chair Joy Nazzari looks like an interesting read.

I might also add that I was awarded a prize (Paul’s book “SOSTAC – The guide to your perfect digital marketing plan” for being the most prolific tweeter throughout the event! I hope to read and publish a review in due course

Previous conference reports: (2017) (2015) (2014) (2014)