Tool 3: Marketing the Neighborhood
The purpose of neighborhood marketing is to build a positive image that attracts the desired investments of time, money and energy that support the neighborhood’s revitalization goals.
Neighborhood marketing often fails because it is confused with the goals of marketing an organization’s work there, or of simply getting publicity for a housing program or activities such as the crime-fighting efforts of the neighborhood watch. Successful neighborhood marketing is very clear about what it hopes to accomplish, who its target markets are, and the messages that will cultivate the desired response from those target markets.
The timing of successful neighborhood marketing is sensitive to neighborhood health and the progress of revitalization. Neighborhood marketing will be most successful when the following foundations are in place:
- Organized neighborhood leadership with the capacity to make decisions on behalf of the neighborhood and assist in marketing activities. If there is little organization among neighbors, time may be better spent solving that problem before taking on marketing.
- A reasonable sense of security. If crime is a significant issue, efforts may be better spent on bringing it under control.
- A comprehensive revitalization strategy designed around the neighborhood’s particular strengths and weaknesses. Think of the neighborhood as a “product” being marketed to prospective buyers, and design strategies and programs around making the product better match the preferences of target markets.
- If the neighborhood is very large, and/or has sub areas of varying type and quality, it might be helpful to have sub-neighborhood names, with associated marketing plans, to allow for different paces of marketing effort.
Some basic steps for neighborhood marketing include:
- Define the Goal: Decide on what you want marketing to accomplish. What will be the evidence that a marketing strategy is successful? More owner-occupant buyers? More neighborhood residents engaged in the community? More positive media stories about the neighborhood?
- Identify Target Markets: Who do you need to “speak to” with your marketing efforts in order to accomplish your marketing goal? If you want more owner-occupant buyers, you might need to “speak to” real estate agents and potential buyers with your marketing efforts. If you want greater engagement by residents in the day-to-day management of the neighborhood, you might need to “speak to” neighborhood residents. If you want more positive media stories, “speak to” the media. If you want enhanced city services, “speak to” those who provide them.
- Decide Core Components of Neighborhood “Brand”: What are the first three things you want target markets to think/feel when they hear the name of the neighborhood? If you focus in on three things, you can promote them relentlessly, through all of your marketing strategies, until they crowd out the other images people have of your neighborhood. These core messages will be your neighborhood’s “brand.” Examples include: friendly neighbors, quirky and interesting, green, great for fitness activities, safe, cool place to be, a great opportunity to get in before the neighborhood gets too hot, close to downtown, family-friendly, a great value, great looking houses, neighbors are proud to be here.
- Get a Logo with Which to Reinforce the Neighborhood’s Brand: Engage a graphic designer to create a logo (and maybe a tagline) for the neighborhood that conveys in images or words the three core images you chose. Use this logo on everything you can – newsletter, website, house flags, decals or stickers for cars and house windows, yard signs for best porch contests, letterhead, blog, entryway signage and so forth.
- Align Neighborhood Activities, Communication and Other Strategies to Reinforce the Neighborhood Brand: As is true with any other branding strategy, consistency is important. If the desired brand includes having the neighborhood be known for its leadership in green technology, many strategies could help reinforce that. For example, a rehab loan or grant program that reduces energy consumption, a rain barrel collection program with neighbors, use of the color green in the neighborhood’s logo and marketing material, green home tours, infill construction with green building material and techniques, energy audits and workshops for neighbors, etc.
- Flood Communication Channels with Positive Stories about the Neighborhood to Dilute Other Messages: You may not be able to prevent every negative media story or correct every untruth, but you can dilute the messages you don’t want with messages that reinforce your desired brand image. Look for every opportunity to influence the opinions your target markets have about your neighborhood. Be careful that you are not accidently putting out a negative message (“War on Drug Dealers Declared by Elm Street Neighborhood”) when you could turn it into a positive message (“Elm Street Neighborhood Hosts First Annual Good Neighbor Oscars”.) You can still fight the drug dealers, just don’t use that as the lead message or the neighborhood will be synonymous with drug dealing.
- Reinforce the Three Core Components of the Brand: The more you repeat the brand message the more it will stick. Put the neighborhood logo on decals and give them to kids to put on their bikes and to neighbors to put in their windows. Turn it into a stencil for kids to use in a public art project. Put it on house flags and award one to new homebuyers, leaders of the neighborhood association, winners of the Good Neighbor Awards or Best Garden Awards or Best Porch Contest. Incorporate the logo into a house number plaque and sell it to neighborhood residents to raise money for other activities. Put the logo on street light banners and mount them on the main street or business district of the neighborhood – or rotate them among blocks that complete a joint beautification process.
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