Creative and Design

 Why Your Senior Living Brand Matters

(From the point of view of a senior living creative agency.)

Remember those Pepsi Challenge commercials from the late 70s and 80s? Pepsi built an entire ad campaign around the fact that people overwhelmingly chose Pepsi over Coke in blind taste tests. It would have been embarrassing for Coke if not for one thing: Coke had the superior brand. People simply didn’t care if they liked Pepsi over Coke. Coke was cooler.

It’s hard to get more commodified than a can filled with syrupy carbonated water, but we’d argue that many senior living communities are in danger of falling into a similar commodity mentality, at least when it comes to a large portion of their intended audience.

Why? Because many communities focus on their features: tasty food, heated pool, lovely grounds, friendly residents, caring staff. Don’t get us wrong, these are important, but in an increasingly competitive market, they’re just table stakes.

Brand development and why it’s important.

Features do not generate excitement (or leads). Features are the bullet points that help assure a newly decided resident they’ve made the right decision. They’re the antidote to buyer’s remorse. Features are not your brand.

So, what is a brand? Your brand is how you make your current and potential residents feel. It’s how you attract and keep great staff members. Think of your brand as your company’s personality.

Some communities are purposely a little formal. They encourage sport coats and dresses in the dining room. They like things to be done a certain way. Their residents appreciate the formality. Other communities are into activities and fun times. Some are artsy and well educated, while still others are down-to-earth and like to keep things simple.

What is branding and how do you build a brand?

Branding is simply the act of assigning meaning to a company, a product or a service. You build a brand by creating and shaping that meaning in the minds of your target audience (in this case, older adults). By crafting a unique brand, you help people quickly identify who you are and what you offer. Your brand, when done correctly, also triggers an emotional response.

Remember that Pepsi Challenge? When people didn’t see the brands, they chose Pepsi. Did this help Pepsi unseat Coke as the number one soft drink in America? Nope. Not even close. Why not? Because the Coke brand is so strong, it could overcome even its own users realizing that Pepsi was the superior product. That’s what you want from your brand. It’s the feeling that transcends features.

We recommend working with a senior living creative agency when you’re ready to create or adapt your brand. And not just because we are one. It’s kind of like having someone who knows you help you fill out your dating profile. It helps because we’re often too close to the subject and tend to see our flaws, whereas a friend, in this case a creative agency, can help you put your best foot forward and attract the right people (for your community, although we would gladly help with your dating profile if you’d like).

Building a lasting brand in 8 steps:

1. Identify your audience.
Every older adult cannot and should not live at your community. So whom do you want to attract? Who will benefit most from what your community has to offer? Who will benefit your community most? Is there a gap in the market you can exploit? A group of seniors that is underserved?

2. Know your competitors.
Ever shown up at a party wearing the same thing as someone else? It’s embarrassing, right? People keep confusing the two of you. The same thing can happen with brands. You need to know what the competition is doing, what they’re saying, how they’re promoting themselves, so you can create a brand that stands apart from what they offer.

3. Know yourself.
This is a hard one, and often the point at which many communities reach out to a senior living creative agency like ours. What is it about your community that makes you different? A good agency will look at you through a strategic lens, measuring your strengths and weaknesses and identifying your opportunities and threats.

4. Build around your purpose.
Whether you’re in the blue sky phase or are an established community hoping to strengthen your market position, ask yourself these questions: Why did you choose your location? What do you hope to offer the older adults in your market?

5. Develop a unique brand personality and voice.
Loaded with all of the information from the first four steps, your creative agency will then begin to develop a unique personality and tone of voice for your community. Again, think about Coke vs. Pepsi. They’re both carbonated sugar water, but their personalities are very different. Coke is the cool older kid everyone wants to hang out with. They’ve been places and seen things. Pepsi is the young and energetic little brother who wants attention and isn’t afraid to jump up and down to get it.

6. Craft a brand story.
Every brand should have a good story. Not only does your brand story help draw your target audience to your community; it also helps your creative agency and everyone else responsible for working on your brand remain consistent. Consistency is key.

7. Design with your audience in mind.
There’s a reason the design phase doesn’t start until step 7, and it’s not because design isn’t important. It’s because great design showcases your brand’s point of view, its values. Great design is based on the personality of your brand and the desires of your target audience. Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Remember, you want to stand out, not blend in.

8. Integrate your brand into everything you do.
If your brand is the personality of your community, you don’t want to portray yourself as having multiple personalities. Besides, at this point you’ve spent a lot of time and money to develop the right brand for you. Make sure it shines through in every piece of marketing and collateral you create.

Choose a creative agency that gets you.

Do you need a senior living creative agency or will any full-service agency do? We know we’re biased, but this is a very niche market. We think it requires a niche agency partner. At Attane, we do one thing only. And we work hard to do it better than anybody else. We provide marketing services for the senior living/aging services industry. We’d love to sit down with you, perhaps over a Coke or Pepsi, and talk about your brand.

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