Senior Living Eyes Rebranding in New Advertising Push

There are many reasons why a senior living provider may choose to launch a branding campaign, whether it’s seeking a fresh start or an effort to establish wider awareness and gain recognition, but the return on investment may come simply from reinvigorated advertising.

Bloom Senior Living—formerly called Bloomfield Senior Living—is the latest in a line of senior living companies of varying sizes that have announced branding initiatives.

With its newly-tweaked name, Bloom will shift all seven of its communities to  the naming formula of Bloom plus the community’s geographic location. The company is spending about $20,000 per property to introduce the brand to the local markets through advertising efforts and direct mail campaigns, says Bradley Dubin, Bloom’s director of acquisitions.

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The total rebranding effort is expected to cost about $200,000, he says, including the cost of “updating and refreshing” the company’s website.

Senior living providers’ motivations for rolling out a branding campaign or launching a rebranding strategy may vary, says Margaret Wylde, president and CEO of mature market research firm ProMatura Group, but their goals are usually the same: a fresh start.

“By rebranding what their product is, giving it a new name or brand, it gives them—hopefully—a fresh start in people’s minds,” Wylde says. “It can be a chance to come out with a different image [of itself] and not be associated with the past. For some, it’s just [a way] to update.”

While ProMatura hasn’t measured the impact of rebranding efforts, Wylde says many believe they can produce fairly significant results.

“It might not have anything to do with the branding, but rather the fact that they’re now advertising more,” she says. “Advertising may become routine; maybe a community will maintain a yellow page, but won’t make any sort of push.”

With a new brand or image, communities tend to invest more in their advertising efforts, and that should have a positive effect on what they accomplish, according to Wylde.

It wakes up the personnel in the community,” she says. “It puts the staff back on their toes.”

More often than not, providers rebrand for a positive reason rather than because they’re trying to cover up something, says Wylde. A lot of times, it’s done when one company buys a property from someone else and wants to assimilate it into their portfolio.

That’s what motivated Bloom after a recent acquisition of two senior living communities from Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE:BKD), a company that recently announced its own “game changing” advertising campaign featuring national TV and print ads.

“We had to rename them, and we wanted to start leveraging our name in the community,” says Dubin of the two new communities. “We had two other assets in the area, and decided then to rebrand all the communities and create a brand that’s scalable for growth.”

Dubin acknowledged the financial element of rebranding, but says it goes beyond a return on investment.

“We’d like there to be a good ROI, but it goes toward some of those intangibles, such as creating word of mouth; better employee morale; and building the culture,” Dubin says.

Some of those tangibles could include lowering future marketing costs by heightening word-of-mouth referrals and community recognition.

Branding and recognition is a “huge” part of Bloom’s strategy to expand in clusters. “It allows us to leverage our reputation as family-owned and operated,” he says. “Recognition is big, and you can also create a labor pool in markets [with more than one location]. That’s a big advantage.”

Increasing awareness and community recognition are a crucial aspect of branding, research suggests.

For a 2012 study on independent living ProMatura did for the American Seniors Housing Association, Wylde’s team conducted telephone surveys of people living in a five-mile radius of independent living communities, during which they described a community in that person’s area but didn’t name it.

They’d ask if the interviewee was aware of any communities similar to what they had just described, and if the subject answered affirmatively, the researcher would then ask for the person to name the community.

“Only 10% of the 4,209 respondents who participated in the telephone survey named any community,” Wylde recounted. For some communities, no one could name it. Only four had 40% or better recognition among those surveyed.

Three out of those four communities ranked in the top 20% among respondents who “strongly agreed” they would be willing to recommend the community to a friend; that it offered “good value” for the dollar spent; and that they were “very satisfied” with their community.

“While these four communities were not always in the top echelon of measures of quality, they were among the best,” Wylde notes, adding that the sample size of the study is too small to identify a major trend. “Building name recognition [is a strategy] for when it comes time for someone to look for a community. When people go to the polls, they might not know [about] the person they’re voting for, but if they recognize the name, they’re more likely to vote for that person.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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