Best Practices for Marketing Apartment Communities to Multiple Generations
What to do when the needs, wants and behaviors of your target residents vary by age.
If you own or operate senior or student housing communities, your marketing strategies are probably pretty straightforward. After all, you only have to focus on one generation—and you no doubt have a good understanding of the needs and wants of your target renter.
But what if you’re trying to attract multiple generations, which could include single professionals, couples, families with children and older adults? What if the specific needs, wants, behaviors and concerns of your target residents vary based on age?
Millennials are the largest generation living in apartments today, comprising 39.3 percent of all U.S. adult renters, according to data prepared for Multi-Housing News by the National Multifamily Housing Council. But other generations are renting as well, including Gen X (22.6 percent), Baby Boomers (17.1 percent) and Gen Z (16.2 percent). A smaller number of the Silent Generation (4.4 percent) and those born before 1928 (0.4 percent) round out the renter generational pool, according to NMHC.
It can be challenging trying to market to multiple generations at one time. “What it comes down to is being able to evoke an emotional connection to the community by figuring out what the messaging needs to be for each of the generations you’re trying to attract,” said Tammy Casserly, senior vice president of growth and brand development for Resident360, a multifamily branding and marketing agency. “The strategy all comes down to what is the unique value proposition of your community over another.”
But that value proposition might be different for renters of different ages. Older adults may look for walkability to restaurants and shops, as well as meeting rooms for socializing, playing cards or doing crafts. Younger renters may prioritize schools or a reliable internet connection for those who work from home.
So, what can you do to attract renters from different generations?
Cast a Wide Net
“Our approach is to market to all,” said Noel Carson, vice president of marketing and creative director at Bozzuto. “We don’t look at demographics because we pride ourselves on being really psychographic-focused on how we market to residents.”
Psychographics is the quantitative study of consumer attitudes and interests. It gives apartment marketers such as Carson the ability to dig down deep into a prospective renter’s values, opinions, attitudes, lifestyle and interests.
“We take these psychographical nuggets, and that’s how we market buildings across the portfolio,” he said. “We found specific attributes that were consistent across our portfolio, whether they are senior citizens or young, so it can be a lot easier for us to market to a whole swath of people.”
For example, through their psychographic research, Bozzuto found that their residents are social and enjoy engaging programming and events. That attribute cuts across generations, Carson said.
Brian Koles, senior director of corporate development for Property Markets Group (PMG) in Miami, said the company “is very conscious of marketing to the widest group of qualified renters.”
PMG currently operates several communities where renters of different generations reside. Koles said the company ensures that all renderings and photos include diverse images. “Way too many renderings are people of one specific age group and background,” he said. “So, we’re conscious of making sure that all the imagery we put out shows that people of all stages of life are welcome here.”
Find the Common Denominator
As Bozzuto’s research found, while different generations have varying needs and wants, they also share characteristics.
“What demographic research has shown us is that building communities is more about hitting certain lifestyle milestones, and those milestones can be similar across multiple generations,” said Ian Robertson, director of development for Titan Development in Albuquerque.
“We focus on amenities that cross generations,” he said. “Those are the greatest return on our investment. That means that things like gyms and pools and grilling areas are standard in communities. For amenities oriented toward a single generation, we look at who the renter is in the area. Do we want a climbing wall if we know the predominant age is over 45? Probably not.”
One example: Allaso Vineyards, a multifamily community under construction in Albuquerque that will have a wine-tasting lounge with custom wines supplied by a local wine maker. “Celebrating local culture and history while serving up spectacular wine is a great way to attract wine enthusiasts from across generations,” Robertson said. “Good food and drink have always been a great unifier of people.”
Start at the Design Stage
Marketing an apartment community starts well before the project is completed, as any owner or operator knows—and companies marketing to multiple generations will often design units and amenities to appeal to those different generations.
“We look at the geography, what we’re building, the unit mix, how big the apartments should be and what features are important to this group,” said Michelle Tomassetti, director of marketing and new business development for WinnResidential in Boston. “We create a profile before they move in that serves as a foundation for what we’re building.”
One example: Mill Street Square, a community under construction in Paterson, N.J. that will have 74 units of affordable housing. At this property, WinnDevelopment is creating amenities for all ages, such as a courtyard with a historic sculpture and a large community room, as well as age-specific spaces, such as a playroom, Teenage Focus Room for doing homework, an adult work-from-home space and an adult Gathering Room for crafting, book club meetings or social clubs.
Bone Up on Social Media Differentiators
While an apartment website is the key driver of prospects, and, ultimately, new leases, social media is an integral part of marketing a community to a prospective renter of any age.
Take care when choosing a platform, however, because social media usage varies by age. For example, according to Hootsuite, a social media management platform, more than half of Instagram users are under the age of 35, while 41 percent of Facebook users are 45 and older. As for TikTok, only 4 percent of Americans 65 and older use it. So, if you’re marketing to older adults, Facebook is probably the way to go. For student housing communities, TikTok is where you’ll find your target audience.
Test, Test and Test Some More
Regular testing is necessary to ensure your marketing methods, and the keywords you choose for the community’s website and digital marketing campaigns, are working by bringing in qualified leads.
“You have to have the data analytics, to know what works and what doesn’t work, as opposed to just having a gut reaction,” said Stephanie Brock, managing partner, property management at Waterton, a real estate investment and property management company in Chicago. “You have to be open to the data, hone it to create your strategy, and then continue to tweak that strategy.”