December is a notoriously busy month for many — ask the shop assistant, the purveyor of the red cup or the caterer.
For property professionals, however, it is thought of as a quiet month. It has become a time when we can take a break from the frenzied activity of the other 11 months, when we can plan for the year ahead.
Is this a missed opportunity? After all, to date 2014 has been an exceptional year for residential sales, with prices soaring higher than ever and property supplements bulging with adverts for new developments. So can we really continue to see the final month of the year as downtime?
At me&dave, we are beginning to see a shift in this attitude, for example at Barts Square, the foray into residential by leading commercial developer Helical Bar. This 3.2-acre, mixed-use development is an important one, not only for the developer but also for residents in the area. Since it launched in August, it has been busy pulling buyers into its marketing suite. And it is not resting on its laurels this month.
It has used December to host events to celebrate 2014 — in the first instance for local residents from the Barbican. This is a discerning group notoriously hard for developers to connect with, so a low-key drinks evening was a chance to reach out and enhance the local reputation of the development.
Helical Bar also held a festive event at its marketing suite for future residents who have recently purchased at Barts Square. Guests were invited to meet their neighbours in the most festive of settings, with carol singers and plenty of mulled wine. Each guest left the evening with a luxury branded candle gift. The property industry is hardly famed for its after-sales care, and so again this was a great chance for a developer to stand out from the crowd and show it is about more than shifting boxes — it’s about building communities.
In a market as competitive as UK residential, developers need to work ever harder to maximise their assets. This can be seen in the investments developers are increasingly making for brands and marketing materials. Take Mount Anvil’s Old Street development, The Eagle. Using the concept ‘Old Street, new rules’ it offered an edgy, urban vision of luxury which resonated with the target audience far more than the generic vision depicted by so many property developments.
This is the type of marketing that was unthinkable in property just a few years ago. Yet there is much more we property marketers can do. In November, me&dave sent three of our account managers to New York to see how they market residential over there.
From $2.5m marketing suites that offer an IMAX-style panoramic image of the view from each individual apartment in a tower block to digital screens laid out across a vast table where you can literally reach in to pick out the property or room you want to view. New York is making use of new technologies that remain science fiction for many UK property developments.
December shouldn’t be like other months - it is after all a time of celebration. But there is still much that can be done with those celebrations to build relationships, use assets, and lay the ground for further success in the year ahead. There are already many developers that are recognising the potential here, and it is a trend that is likely to develop. It is yet further evidence of our increasingly competitive and sophisticated property market.
Mark Davis is director of me&dave