Musical artist Doja Cat was on TikTok, mildly grumbling that Taco Bell was requiring her to rap about food for an upcoming commercial. Her commiserating followers tracked the progress of her saga, making certain to see how the song came together.
This, though, was all part of an ingenious marketing approach by Taco Bell, which asked Doja Cat to bemoan the rap request in low-key fashion. Millions followed her pursuit and it worked wonders for the fast-food giant.
Marketers are constantly seeking fresh ideas to reach an ever-evolving target audience, and it’s no different in the multifamily space according to panelists at the 2022 Entrata Summit session What’s Next in Multifamily Marketing?
“Something we’re really starting to think about is the use of influencers, especially in the student housing space,” said Cait Carney, Executive Director of Sales and Learning for Coastal Ridge. “We’re basically begging some random sophomore to hang out with us.”
Unfortunately, artists such as Doja Cat, Billie Eilish or Madison Beer are seldom available for social media ads in the multifamily space, but the marketing lesson to be learned from these Gen Z-facing artists is that transparency is key. Younger renters react more strongly to authentic messaging than to canned promotions—even if it’s done by a leasing associate who doesn’t quite have 30 million Insta followers.
“The biggest influencers you’ll always have are your leasing folks,” Carney said. “When I think about the biggest differentiator in multifamily, it’s belief in your management company and your operating platform, because your customers demand authenticity and transparency.”
Session moderator Virginia Love, Industry Principal for Entrata, noted that a key component of any successful multifamily marketing strategy is aligning the right message with the right channel. For instance, TikTok might not be the right place for more of a buttoned-up ad, while young partygoers dancing to The Motto by Ava Max probably wouldn’t win over would-be residents at an active-adult community.
Marketers must also consider changing strategies based on certain markets—even if targeting a similar customer base—and not fall into the trap of using one-size-fits-all solutions, Love said.
Brian Miller, VP of Brand Strategy for Berger Rental Communities, said that eschewing the multifamily norm by altering or eliminating standard industry policies can work wonders. For instance, Berger Rental Communities does not issue lease-break fees if a resident has an opportunity to purchase a home.
“We’re a little bit funky,” Miller said. “Our operations theme is based upon ‘leasing shouldn’t be hard,’ so we train our people to do things a little bit differently than a traditional lease. We let our customer be the guide for how a lease should look.”
Berger Rental Communities also allows residents to sublet through Airbnb, because as Miller puts it: “Before we decided to become Airbnb-friendly, we realized that we were already Airbnb-friendly. We just didn’t know it and we weren’t getting paid for it.”
Berger Rental Communitites also offers transfer flexibility for residents as part of an approach that led to a No. 1 2022 SatisFacts ranking. In addition to some of the company’s off-beat ideas, Miller said “basic stuff, like communication,” played a large role in the lofty ranking.
Caitlin Garrison, EVP of Consumer at Catalyst, said that a predictive marketing approach works best in the multifamily space, where prospect preferences continue to contort.
“We do have to coincide with what is happening operationally 60 days in the future,” Garrison said. “So we’re working off a forecasted occupancy, and the best thing about that is you really reduce the amount of fire drills that come to you from a marketing perspective—because you’ve addressed a lot of those trending forecasted issues already.”
Panelists agreed that marketing teams and operations teams must be aligned for strategies to be most effective.
“Your marketing manager should be just as aware of your operational KPIs as your asset manager and RPM, because that strategy is being built together,” Garrison said.