Youtube VideoThe retirement industry isn't the most glamorous, but with our ageing population and the 'pig in the python' that is the baby boomer generation, there's plenty of brass to be found in the muck. Typically, the big sell is all about the facilities on offer. But Summerset Group, which listed on the stock exchange in November, has taken a slightly different approach with its first national marketing campaign and is buttering up its residents instead.
Increasingly, brands are treating their customers with respect, rather than shoving sales messages down their gobs. And Tristan Saunders, Summerset Group's general manager of marketing, says respect is the key with this campaign, which uses the tagline 'we love the life you bring to our retirement villages'.
"We really researched this. And no-one is fighting for the hearts and minds," he says. "They all talk about benefits and bricks and mortar. We focused on how lucky we are to have them here. It was all about them. And that's a very unique approach in our industry ... We're making an emotional connection, as opposed to a product connection."
Historically, he says companies went about attracting residents as developers, rather than as marketers, but, as he says, if you focus on the customers, the rest flows.
He says they sought the opinions of their existing residents to see if the campaign felt right. And it did. And because increasingly media savvy consumers have a much better understanding of the services now offered in this very competitive industry and what life in a modern retirement village is like, he says it pays to tell the truth.
"If you don't deliver on what you say you're delivering, then your brand can come unstuck very quickly," he says. "You have to be very transparent, and very honest."
While there is a perception that the decision to put someone in a retirement home is often made by the children, he says the vast majority of its residents are still making their own calls and doing all their own research.
Another way it's "pushing the envelope" is by looking at how to branch out into social media, which may seem incongruous at first, but, as he points out, the over 50s have the highest uptake of Facebook usage in New Zealand and lot of them are using text and Skype as well.
"We're playing in an area that wouldn't normally be played in," he says.
While he says the brand has been on TV before, it was slightly more fanciful back then because Summerset wasn't a national offering. Now it has 14 villages, mostly in the North Island, with four more new developments on the way.
He says it's too early to say how effective the campaign has been, but the response has been terrific, with a doubling of website traffic and a tripling of phone calls.