St James Homes asked us to come up with a unique and impactful campaign to promote a new residential development in Reading. An interesting brief. But with a caveat.
The location of this development didn’t work in its favour. The site was a former sewage works. It was boundaried on two sides by low-end industrial warehousing and factories. It also bordered Whitley Wood Estate, one of worst council estates in country with high crime rates.
This accessible and affordable solution for first-time buyers and investors needed something different to tackle poor local opinion. Perceptions needed to be altered.
At the time, St James were working in partnership with ThamesWater and PruPim, who were building Southside, a new business park.
The initial name of the new housing development was to be Southside. However, because we felt we needed to differentiate it from the Southside commercial business offering, we suggested a new name.
In so doing, we risked causing a rift between the housing developer and their business park partners, PruPim and Thames Water*.
PruPim had already built a business park next door, which remained empty as its tenant CISCO were paying rent but hadn’t moved in due to adverse economic factors. Our strategy took into account that people would want to live in neighbourhoods amongst people, not faceless businesses.
The development sits alongside the River Kennet, an integral part of Reading. Water always brings the scent and sense of nature to any home. A river gives a feeling of boundary and safety.
What then, if we were to go to market under a sub-brand: Kennet Island? Local roots, soothing water, safety, boundary. Even exclusivity. Our client swallowed hard and went with us. The work began.
For the four months leading up to launch, a ‘Curious’ campaign featured a young man and woman as nosey neighbours - peeking over the fence and through fence knotholes.
On the main arterial route into Reading, a raised hoarding along the length of the site ran simple messages based on the ‘Curious’ theme. It led to 70-90 enquiries each day.
‘Keep-in-touch’ postcards maintained contact with a database of prospects. Six weeks before launch, the campaign intensified to include press advertising, billboards, text messaging and AdVans.
People were invited to register for a Kennet Island ‘Passport’ allowing them to get in and look around first on launch day. Brochures, marketing suite design and fit, and directional and site signage were just part of the supporting materials we produced.
*In the event, our strategy and work so impressed PruPim that they asked us to pitch for the branding and marketing of Southside business park too. A pitch we won.
When it launched in April 2006, St James Homes had in mind a sales target of 30 Kennet Island properties. On first day, it sold 56 and took £11 million, exceeding projected turnover by 47%.
The initial 24 months of marketing work put St James three years ahead of sales targets, putting it in a healthy position to weather the current adverse market conditions.
Often, if you look hard enough, you see things you never saw before.