Marketing the market: why we need to adapt our processes to respond to our audiences

Harris Associates discusses what marketing the market truly is, and the importance of adapting to new audiences.

Scape student accommodation. The company's Co-founder offers his insights to Harris Associates on the importance of marketing | PBSA News
Scape student accommodation.

Real estate, traditionally an established industry has seen its fair share of cycles and crises over the years and a reinvention each time. And while there has been numerous introductions of new asset classes and innovative sub-sectors, little has changed in the way we approach marketing. Social media has provided a level of excitement with people getting ‘exclusive’ tours of luxury homes, but on the B2B side, very little has changed.

By Jamie Harris, Head of Student Accommodation at Harris Associates

One sector that is moving the marketing dial however is purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). In part this is due to the savvy consumers at the heart of the asset, but also the increasing demand for the best investor opportunities on the market.

Having proved its resilient performance during the pandemic, it is unlikely we will see a reduction in desire for the sector. However, for PBSA developers, there is a need to create brand identity that will resonate for both investor and consumer audiences.

For the consumer audience, the buildings are typically associated with students only living there for two years, maximum three years, and therefore the power of the brand really isn’t as important. However, for an operator and investor who want to see returns, the cycle needs to continue each year as a new audience is introduced.

When asked about the importance of good marketing material for investors, Adam Brockley, Co-founder of SCAPE, one of the leading PBSA investors and developers shared his views.

“You can’t market something that is fundamentally undesirable even by wrapping it in a great wrapping paper. You can however differentiate two different offerings by the way the information is presented, the image quality the way the information is presented in terms of succinctness.”

Adam Brockley, Co-founder of SCAPE

And he’s right. By offering engaging and valuable marketing material, you not only showcase the assets you’re associated with, but also highlight your business’s style. There needs to be a hands on approach that sells the energy and vibrancy of the asset and/or lifestyle on offer.

Marketing for SCAPE has been an important business tool since day one and something that has solidified our relationship. It has always been about a customer centric experience.

“We’ve always tried to inject a fun working environment for the people that are involved in the business. And given we’re due to welcome a million people by 2030, I think we can safely say we’re still delivering on that.”

Adam Brockley, Co-founder of SCAPE

Since opening its doors in 2008, SCAPE has welcomed a high level of overseas students, which meant an even higher level of pastoral care requirements due to the geography of residents to family. This also meant that marketing had to be created to engage and appeal to two audiences: the students who would live there and then their parents.

“To us being a student shouldn’t mean making compromises. There is a huge amount of planning that goes into our schemes, to ensure comfortability and safety. This needs to be clearly communicated in our marketing to appease the audiences we want to attract.”

Adam Brockley, Co-founder of SCAPE

The marketing rule of seven, which originated in the 1930s, states that consumers need seven impressions to remember a new brand. For a typically institutional asset such as PBSA, this brand awareness is critical.

A strong brand conveys a degree of trust that when you’re making such an important decision, whether that is working with Harris Associates or moving into a SCAPE building, you’re making a decision based on knowledge and reliability that your partner has a firm understanding of what marketing the market truly is.