Last edited 27 Oct 2020

Main author

Alex Harvie Other Consultant Website

Mixed-use marketing


[edit] How to market mixed-use developments

[edit] What is mixed-use?

Mixed-use developments have a carefully curated balance of different activities and uses within a single site. They tend to be masterplanned by a developer or consortium of developers and investors, overseen by the planning department of a local authority. Their aim should be to establish and maintain a thriving place which is popular with visitors and occupants.

Large mixed-use developments might be referred to as mixed-use districts.

[edit] What is the purpose of mixed-use marketing?

At talks and seminars, speakers tend to give the same broad statement: “The aim of mixed-use marketing is to create a campaign which turns a new development into a place people want to live, work and visit.”

However, given the scale and complexity of mixed-use schemes, this statement falls short. A single campaign is rarely enough for a mixed-use scheme. Marketing it effectively requires a layered programme of multiple, connected campaigns, along with the support of multiple groups of stakeholders and end users. In order to deliver this, mixed-use marketing can benefit from adopting some of the principles of place branding alongside its traditional property marketing approach.

[edit] How a place branding approach can help

Place branding is used to project a positive impression about a place across multiple channels, delivered by multiple stakeholders, including those who don’t technically ‘own’ the brand. Place branding fuses elements of ‘reality’ with curated messages, blending sponsored and managed content with organic content.

Mixed-use marketing can benefit from this approach because it creates an impression both virtually (before someone actually arrives at a place, and often before it is built), and by direct experience (as the phased delivery of mixed-use schemes typically means some elements will be built and in use while the marketing activities are still ongoing).

Like a city or a country, the scale of a mixed-use project makes it impossible to own and control all messages. Many voices influence the brand, from the masterplanners and architects to the construction teams who define the place in its early stages, to the commercial agents who connect with potential purchasers and leasers, to tenants, residents and businesses, as well as local people living in and near the district. People will be quick to notice inconsistencies if different channels carry different messages to the generally perceived reality.

It can be helpful to split the branding of a mixed-use scheme from the commercial brands being offered. This allows the master brand to adopt a co-creation approach, and specific business lines to carry commercial sales messages dictated by their phasing.

Given these points, a better statement defining mixed-use marketing might be: “The aim of mixed-use marketing is to establish a shared identity which is clearly and uniquely identifiable as belonging to that place. This shared identity should evolve through co-creation, enabling stakeholders and consumers to develop a shared place where people want to live, work and visit. The offering of particular businesses should fit within this umbrella notion of place.”

[edit] The process of mixed-use marketing

[edit] Stage 1: Insights

Gather information about the project, its history, current status, timetable and vision for completion. Establish corporate requirements for marketing as set out in the business plan.


  • Has consultation work already been undertaken on the scheme?
  • How was this handled, what was the reaction?
  • Is there a requirement for outreach work?
  • Is there an agency/specialist in place to do this?

Does the scheme have a heritage angle?

  • Schemes which build out of their heritage are more interesting to the end user but only if there is a genuine story.
  • What has the site been used for in the past?
  • Are there any stories which are of relevance to the development?
  • Are there references and images in local archives?
  • What work was undertaken at planning?

Who is the scheme targeting? A mixed-use scheme will attract a range of end users and its communications / commercial strategies will need to reflect this.

How do local people currently view the place?

About the developer/funding companies

  • What requirements does the developer have?
  • Is this the same as any funding companies?
  • Are there specific targets/dates?
  • What is the business plan?
  • What is the corporate cycle (ie when are board reports prepared) and what information will be required?
  • How will the scheme reference its funders?

How close is the vision for the scheme to ‘reality’?

  • What does the masterplan say the site will become?
  • How will this be phased? What is its timetable for planning, construction, sales and delivery? Each of these stages requires different work.
  • What is there on offer for local people?
  • What issues does this raise for how the place should be branded?

Out of 10 for each, how well does the scheme score as an overall place, now and in its coming vision?

  1. Accessibility
  2. Connectivity
  3. Accommodation
  4. Local area
  5. Nature and open spaces
  6. Heritage and originality
  7. Nightlife and entertainment
  8. Activities, shopping, sports facilities
  9. Price
  10. Safety

What work needs to be undertaken to move current perceptions to the new identity?

[edit] Stage 2: Strategy

Insights gained at stage 1 will dictate the shape of the strategy, for example in terms of commitments made in planning, the scale of the offer made to the local community etc. The strategy should identify what the marketing team aims to achieve over time, and it should be segmented by sector (residential/commercial/leisure/community etc).

The strategy should consider issues of risk and reputation management for the developer/funding companies involved as well as the place being marketed. Place brands must be developed with care because even though place branding is about linking an impression with a ‘true identity of place’; the notion of identity is subject to change as well as political interpretations.

The strategy should consider the best times for the scheme to go live.

  • It may be that an early phase of publicity (with interviews with the team and a discussion about the vision) is of value, both to enable members of the public to see what will be delivered, and also to act as an anchor for the scheme’s long-term SEO (search engine optimisation). It is important to get these pieces positive and factually correct as they will be used as reference points by journalists later on.
  • Phased publicity through the life of the scheme is likely to be required, and the strategy needs to consider how this will be handled. Much property marketing relies on advertising which is expensive and short term in its impact, however creative PR work should aim to achieve good cut through with editorial to benefit the long term marketing plan for the scheme.

[edit] Stage 3: Preparation and detailed plan (pre live)

[edit] Preparation

Agree on a name for the scheme and register it.

Develop a compelling and memorable visual brand. It should project what the scheme will offer as well as its unique character. The brief for your branding company should reflect the insights stage of work so the purpose of the brand is clear, as well as any element of heritage in the scheme.

  • Once you have a brand, create a website which embodies it visually and in compelling copy.
  • The website should be responsive and mobile-first in its build. Set up analytics to be able to monitor the average time spent on pages, bounce rate, and conversion rates. You may want to include a system to be able to track conversions from social media.
  • You may want to put up a holding page with sign up information while the website is under construction.
  • The website will be the main point of contact for the scheme. First impressions take under a second and only take in the ‘above the fold’ content.
  • The website should be designed as a system of templates so you can add pages or alter content (and the emphasis of particular pages) through the life of the scheme without incurring additional design or development fees.
  • Note – if you opt for a simple, or open source platform, it will be easier to change web developers and designers during the life of your scheme. If you opt for a more complex, proprietary build this is may be less possible.
  • Note – GDPR regulations need to be understood when creating sign up options and handling people’s data.

[edit] Detailed programme

The construction timetable should be used as a base for detailed planning work. The delivery of specific elements will dictate commercial campaigns, and running alongside it will be activity associated with place. The detailed plan should include timings for:

Digital work:

  • SEO
  • Website developments
  • Social media.
  • PPC (pay per click) advertising.

Narrative development:

  • Commission photography – this can be important for PR work.
  • Note that different social media channels carry narrative threads very differently.

Community outreach work:

NB Considerate Constructors require that the construction team prepare newsletters including information on disruption, road closures etc as well as the build programme. It is important that they also have contact details for any complaints about noise.

Sales support elements:

PR and launch events:

  • These will include different participants and be aimed at different audiences as the scheme develops. A community event has a different structure and approach to a corporate topping out.

[edit] Stage 4: Implementation (go live)

Generally a scheme (or parts of it) goes live with a launch event in order to gain publicity. This should be targeted at the relevant audience in line with the strategic plan.

[edit] Engagement

The team should continue to focus on building a collaborative network of partners, stakeholders and interested parties. The more diverse the overall group the better. The aim is to co-opt and involve these groups so they understand the scheme’s vision and objectives. The best approach is to layer the groups and engage with each layer differently:

[edit] PR

The scheme will need a master list of journalists, and these will need to be segment. For the residential phase, lifestyle publications and residential pages should be targeted and commercial phases will need to reach B2B and business publications. Events on site can be pitched into leisure publications as well as local papers.

Creative PR on a mixed-use scheme should aim to achieve editorial coverage. A content-led approach should find interesting angles about the development. When planning PR work, consider the end goal. A piece in what a board member may consider to be a reputable newspaper may have significantly less reach than many digital channels which may be less well known at board level.

[edit] Stage 5: Measurement

It is important to set clear metrics before beginning a mixed-use marketing project. Regular reviews can then help inform and update the strategy as the project progresses.

  • Commercial success – the scheme’s sales and leasings figures tracked over time. Ideally this needs to be read against economic climate and marketing/advertising spend.
  • Partnership work within the place brand element – has a coherent message and an identity been created? Are key stakeholders using it? Are end users using it? What changes need to be made?
  • Perceived image audit – this could be an annual survey on a small scale (asking sample groups in the street) or a large scale audit with a professional company. It is important to undertake the first audit as early as possible in the process, and to keep the questions, timing and approach consistent. This allows a tracking of the place’s penetration, image and brand value through time.
  • Projected image audit – what are online communities saying about your brand on blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc? Engagement levels are key success markers. Analyse and better understand your followers with tools like Audiense.
  • Media coverage – monitoring the coverage of the mixed-use scheme across the media, making sure to track any negative press as well as positive stories.
  • Sign ups to newsletters, enquiries.
  • Review the customer journey at every touch point.
  • Footfall – trackers can be placed at key entry points to a scheme. Spikes in attendance can be monitored to asses the success of marketing campaigns over time.

There are many providers offering monitoring services based on content analysis including - which searches media intelligence, which tracks trends on google, as well as numerous sites providing social media monitoring and web-analytic tools.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

--Alex Harvie 12:45, 06 Aug 2018 (BST)

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