Property marketing through lockdowns – what we have learnt?

By Dan Jones / Marketing , Media Planning / 23rd December 2020

Think back to January 2020.  Can you recall a conversation with anyone that involved the words ‘R-rate’, ‘face mask’ or ‘antibody testing’?
The answer will most likely be no (unless you were already working in the field of epidemiology, or are a fan of zombie apocalypse fiction!) and this underlines just how much change there has been over the past year.

For us marketeers, 2020 has required adjustments in thinking that is nothing short of revolutionary. We can no longer just make assumptions about our target customers based on socio-economic profiles, but have been forced to consider other factors that have always seemed somewhat alien, for example, whether our target market is even willing to set foot outside of their own front door!

First-party data at the forefront    

Take how we use data too.  First-party data has long been a keystone of any marketing strategy, but through, and since lockdown 1.0, the value of first-party-data has only increased, with it offering marketeers an efficient and speedy way of measuring changes in customer sentiments and behaviours.

Here at Focus on Media, we’ve been busy working with our clients to ensure they are actively using their first-party data for gleaning meaningful insights. From email surveys to purchasers, to customer match media campaigns, marketing in 2020 has been about reacting to our customers as they navigate the pandemic and not just how we expect them to navigate it.

Time to say goodbye to seasonal campaigns?

Thinking about seasonality in 2020, I think it’s fair to say that beyond Mother Nature doing her bit throughout the year, all other bets are off!  Our summer holidays turned into a race to get home before new quarantine rules kicked in, and owing to the looming second National Lockdown, Halloween ended up being as dull as Freddy Kruger in every Nightmare of Elm Street movie post the original.  Halloween, and 2020 in general, will forevermore be known as all tricks and no treats.

"But through all of this, what are the key learnings for us marketeers?"

Well, for me, as a marketeer for all things home, I’ve switched my overall approach and learnt that it’s not about planning media in the hope that things will improve, but instead planning so we’re prepared for when things change for the better.

Prior planning prevents poor performance – the new 5 P’s of marketing?

Take the UK housing market for example.  We know that January is a busy month for the UK housing market.  It’s the month that new home developers tend to excitedly promote the ‘New Year, New Home’ message (or a variation thereof) in a bold effort to tap into consumer sentiment around new year resolutions for positive life changes. Indeed, research by the HomeOwners Alliance in January 2020 showed that properties tend to sell quicker in January than the other months of the year.  Taking all of that into consideration then, we’d be right to plough on and treat January 2021 like any other year?  If only this was the case!

While it’s absolutely right for new home brands to run capitalise on any shifts in demand in January 2021, it’s also the case that we need to consider additional campaigns that are deployed subject to wider macro-economic/national events that could take place in Q1 2021.

"Believe it or not, there is a definite link between Mr Sunak offering half-price Peri-Peri chickens, and consumers then feeling more confident about making an appointment to view a new home."

Our own research of all of our property client’s website conversion metrics demonstrates that there is a causal relationship between the Government’s pandemic messaging and consumers’ propensity to register as a lead on a new home’s website.

So, let’s take the vaccine as an example here.  It’s now well on its way to national distribution.  We don’t know if or when it will mean the end to social distancing, but we do know it’s a force for good and we can assume that good things will come from it.  Thinking about Q1 2021 then, in addition to our standard ‘New Year, new home’ campaign, we should also be considering a campaign that allows us to ride the wave of positive sentiment that surrounds any further announcements around the vaccine.

What does our CRM messaging look like when 40% of the country has had the vaccine and we move from Tier 4 to Tier 1?  How could those good new vibes filter through to our organic social strategy?

Now let’s think about when social distancing measures are relaxed.  What about when festivals like Glastonbury are back on and nightclubs and theatres are allowed to reopen?  How can we weave that into our messaging?  Perhaps we could run an incentive where we offer our purchasers a year’s free pass to a local independent Cinema so we’re actively supporting local amenities hit by COVID-19 to get back onto their feet?  Here we’re weaving our CR strategy into our wider marketing efforts.

By thinking about these things now, and getting our advertising messaging and media plans ready, we’re on the front foot, and we ready to capitalise on the positives that might be around the corner.


So, in summary then, what has the lockdown taught me?  Well, I think it’s the power of first-party-data in terms of immediacy, and the necessity to ‘read the road’ ahead and make sure we’re two steps ahead of events.  2021 has the potential to be a better year than 2020, but let’s not for a second think it should follow the same path as 2019!

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Dan Jones

Written by

Dan Jones

Dan Jones is the Managing Director for Focus on Media. Specialising in all things home, Dan has a wealth of marketing experience - with 13 years under his belt, much of which spent heading up the media planning account for a FTSE 250 property developer brand. Dan’s passion for creating and implementing creative media strategies is trumped only by his passion for dogs, terrible dance music and the odd TV box set or three!