Strategic Message Planner: The Exchange at

Prepared by: Kelsey Fath, Michael Fee, Joe Sallustio Due Date: April 15, 2010 Strategic Message Planner: The Exchange at Lawrence I. Client and Product The Exchange at Lawrence is a student living apartment complex in Lawrence, Kan., which emphasizes the luxury aspect of its complex and room units to University of Kansas students. With 14 apartment buildings stacked with three floors each, the student living complex is one of six Exchange properties in the United States (3). The Exchange at Lawrence is the most recently built student living complex in Lawrence, as it will be one year old in summer 2010. The Exchange is owned by Fairfield Residential Properties, LLC; a housing branch out of San Diego. In addition to Lawrence, Fairfield has built five other university apartment communities in Oxford, Miss., Athens, Ga., Auburn, Ala., Statesboro, Ga., and Huntsville, Texas. Other types of Fairfield housing include mixed-­‐use urban developments, luxury apartments and tax credit affordable housing (3). Fairfield provides property management and marketing services for more than 60,000 residential units. In late 2009, Fairfield filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because of a declining real estate market (1). As it is based in a college town, The Exchange competes in the student housing category. The gated community includes a clubhouse, with a swimming pool resort-­‐like area (as pictured right), fitness center, basketball court, sand volleyball court, game room and business center. Housing units come fully furnished, with stainless steel appliances, security systems and energy efficient insulation. Pricing for units vary based on number of inhabitants, flooring, location and extra conveniences. Costs for rooms: one resident, $749; two, $569; three, $479; and four, $459 (2). Conveniences for pool-­‐view apartments and for carports add $20 each to the monthly cost of rent, and faux wood flooring adds $10 (2). Signing up or 1 transferring rooms at the complex costs $200, but The Exchange offers signing periods of waived fees and signing costs. Leases are signed on an individual basis, allowing for roommate matching, individual payment and subleasing. II. Target Audience The Exchange at Lawrence is a student living apartment complex that appeals mostly to KU students who desire an alternative to the ‘dorm life’. The Exchange targets men and women in their twenties who want a place that meets their lifestyle expectations. Residents of the Exchange are independent, yet want a fast past social atmosphere as well. Individual rooms with private baths allow for independence, yet facilities such as basketball/volleyball courts, study rooms and club rooms allow for social interactions. Those living at the Exchange are willing to pay the extra price for luxury living; the Exchange at Lawrence offers a wide array of features for the price asked. Rationale The target audience was selected because the Exchange at Lawrence is luxury-­‐living designed specifically for college students. The amenities offered appeal to both men and women students at KU. Prices for the Exchange are higher than most student living apartments in Lawrence, however; the students that do choose to pay the higher price are willing to because of the extended list of features. III. Supporting Features and Benefits The features and benefits for the Exchange at Lawrence are noted below in the table. They are comprised of features located both on the interior and exterior of the apartments. The features are shown on The Exchange’s brochures and advertising, and the benefits were explained by human interviews. Features Benefits Covered Parking Car protection for harsh weather 2 Gated Entry/exit Regulates people entering/exiting; safety 24-­‐hour on-­‐site maintenance Quick repairs without a long wait Basketball/Volleyball Courts Entertainment/exercise without leaving community Swimming pool/spa/lap pool Entertainment/exercise without leaving community Private study rooms Quiet/focused studying for groups/individuals Fully-­‐furnished rooms Saves money/time spent moving furniture Located on KU Bus Route 11 Saves money on parking passes. On-­‐site pickup Security systems Secure home safety; Notifies security personnel “Green” windows and insulation Environmentally friendly and saves energy costs Walk-­‐in closets for each tenant Spacious living to help keep organized Bathroom for each tenant Spacious to keep organized and clean Bicycle racks Secure place to store bikes out of the home Close to Wal-­‐Mart, Target, Kohls Convenient location to retail stores 24-­‐hour athletic club/tanning Exercise without leaving home; saves on membership Fully-­‐equipped game room Can host private or group parties for free close to home IV. Current Brand Image The values of Fairfield and The Exchange indicate a “home away from home”. In its brochure advertising, it states, “Who wants to share a closet, bedroom, or bathroom, you’re away from home now, start living like it!” It also mentions competition by saying, “we’re not talking dorm rooms and apartments with your aunt’s old couch, we’re talking a community designed around your lifestyle.” (5) The Exchange is setting itself apart with emphasis on luxury and comfort. The Exchange brand holds strong top-­‐of-­‐mind recall for luxury student living in Lawrence based on personal interviews of both Exchange residents and competitor residents. Still in its first year of operation, The Exchange provides more amenities than competitors (5). Residents say they are willing to pay more for a better 3 living experience and for added benefits. One resident said, “You can eat, sleep, workout, study, play and be happy all within one place.” (4) When compared to other student apartment complexes, people admit that The Exchange is most desirable, being the newest. The majority agreed that The Exchange will eventually age and follow in the footsteps of older complexes, which have completed renovations and enhancements to compete with newer complexes. (4) The Exchange is new to Lawrence’s apartment advertising, and advertised in several student media outlets in its first year. Media outlets include, The University Daily Kansan, the Lawrence Journal-­‐World, Facebook, promotional events, KU’s campus and via its Web site, The ads for the complex follow a color scheme of blue, brown and tan with several pictures that represent luxury aspects. Most ads include amenities that differentiate it from other Lawrence apartments (5). Compared to its closest competitor, The Reserve, it hasn’t advertised in as many outlets, but does not seem to have an issue selling units or drawing visitors. The Exchange’s brand image will change over time, as the complex depreciates in value and more living alternatives become available. V. Direct Competitors and Brand Images The Exchange faces three major competitors in the off-­‐campus student living category: The Reserve on st
West 31 , Legends Place and Highpointe. These locations each feature eight or more large apartment buildings, each of which include several floors with two to four apartments per floor(8). Although located at differing distances from campus, all three competitors are included on the KU shuttle bus route(8). st
The Reserve on West 31 , formerly named Jefferson Commons, claims to “offer everything students need to have the ultimate college experience near the University of Kansas”(1). In 2008 and 2009, the Reserve received first place in the University 4 Daily Kansan’s ‘Top of the Hill Best Apartments’ voting contest. The apartment complex features 12 buildings and more than 700 apartments total (1). The Reserve also features an individual lease system, which benefits the apartment residents by allowing them to only be responsible for their part of the rent (1). Also, every apartment comes fully furnished—the living area includes a couch, chair, coffee table, built-­‐in entertainment stand, full-­‐size washer and dryer and a dining room table with chairs; each room includes an extra long full-­‐size bed, dresser and st
desk with chair(1). Other amenities at The Reserve on West 31 include: 24-­‐hour emergency maintenance, assigned covered parking, basketball and sand volleyball court, extended basic cable (including HBO), community BBQs, a fitness center, game room, pool and Jacuzzi (1). The Reserve features two bed/three bath, four bed/four bath, four bed/two bath and three bed/three bath apartments, with rent for each at $519, $329, $319 and $378, respectively(1). In reviews, the Reserve is ranked relatively higher in the parking category, but significantly lower than average in the noise category(8). Several reviews complained about the “thin walls and constant party atmosphere” and raised questions concerning the quality of management (8). Legends Place claims to be the University of Kansas’ “premiere off-­‐campus student housing community” (2). Similar to The Reserve, Legends Place offers an individual lease system and fully furnished apartments. Legends Place features nine apartment buildings, each with four levels containing four apartments per level (2). Legends Place offers the same amenities as The Reserve; however, Legends Place also offers: a complimentary breakfast every morning in office, garages in addition to car ports, a beach entry resort-­‐style swimming pool, a carwash and detail bay and a tanning bed. Legends Place features two bed/two bath, three bed/three bath and 5 four bed/four bath apartments; with rent for each at $529, $479 and $440, respectively(2). In reviews, Legends Place is ranked relatively higher in the safety and parking categories, but significantly lower in the office staff category(8). The majority of reviews mentioned “management problems” and “extraordinary sublease fees”(8). Highpointe touts itself as “luxury living at its finest” and that it was designed “with today’s hectic lifestyle in mind”(3). Unlike the other two competitors, Highpointe does not offer an individual lease system. Those who sign the lease are responsible for the total sum of the rent no matter the situation. Also in contrast, Highpointe is significantly closer in proximity to the University of Kansas campus and downtown Lawrence(3). The apartment complex features eight buildings, each of which includes four levels of four apartments. Highpointe offers the same amenities as The Reserve, while offering in addition: a fully-­‐equipped fitness center with showers and lockers, a large sunning deck area near the pool, a continental breakfast and free DVD rentals from the office(3). Highpointe features one bed/one bath, two bed/one bath and three bed/two bath apartments; with rent for each at $610, $755, and $895, respectively. In reviews, Highpointe ranked relatively higher in the maintenance category, but significantly lower in the noise, office staff and safety category. Numerous reviews listed complaints of the apartment as “overpriced” and several mentioned “horrible management”(8). VI. Indirect Competitors and Brand Image Although The Exchange primarily competes in the off-­‐campus student rental housing category, the University of Kansas’ residence halls still present competition to the Exchange, as the dorms undoubtedly compete for a part of the target audience. The residence halls are touted as the “largest on-­‐campus community, resulting in 6 a broad mix of people, interest and events” (4). The University of Kansas primarily features eight residence halls—
two of which are women-­‐only and the other six being coeducational. Four residence halls were recently renovated and renovation is planned to continue for the remaining for in the next three years(7). The residence halls hold the advantage of direct location on campus, as well as the feature of a cafeteria and meal plan, which benefits students’ convenience. Altogether, the residence halls feature a wide variety of room styles, from rooms with one bed/no bath to rooms with four bed/one bath/one living room area; with prices that range from $3,642 to $6,624 for the year(5). The residence halls feature guest and visitation policies, which can be a nuisance to students but possibly reassurance to parents. Also, the meal plan option allows for food to be carefully budgeted and assured. Most importantly, living in the residence halls is the traditional route for first-­‐year students, as it is the common perception that living in the dorms results in a much-­‐needed experience (6). VII. Desired Brand Image The Exchange currently holds the position that visitors and prospects believe it to be: luxurious. The gated community provides more options in student living and it will continue to set itself apart from others in that aspect. One aspect it might consider in future advertising is to mention affordability. Rent is currently one of the highest for student living in Lawrence because of the luxuries provided, and it should emphasize what rent applies to and pays for. The promise that this brand can deliver is comfort and luxury away from one’s parent’s house. The desired brand image is the comparison of permanent home to college home. The brand wants to make prospects find opportunities and comfort within a whole community, as well as in a single apartment unit. Making the list of benefits extensive and overwhelming will actually help in the living situation decision-­‐making process. 7 VIII. Selected Features and Benefits The selected features and benefits are ones that most directly appeal to our target audience, as well as best serve to positively differentiate The Exchange from its competitors. Features Benefits Gated Entry/Exit •
Monitors people entering/exiting. Safety No unwanted visitors roaming around Private study rooms •
Quiet/focused studying for groups/individuals Opportunity for constructive academic activity •
Saves money/time spent moving furniture New apartments—no significant wear and tear from previous tenants New, fully furnished rooms IX. Advertising Goal Initially, the Exchange should pursue advertising efforts that strive to gain more top-­‐of-­‐mind awareness with the target audience. Reminder advertisements should be used to increase recall and recognition in the minds of the target audience. Also, social media marketing should consist of the majority of advertising efforts, with the goal to increase web traffic for The Exchange’s website. After better recall and recognition is achieved, advertising efforts should transition to primarily communicating the benefits that more positively differentiates the Exchange from its competition. Rationale: The ultimate goal for these initial efforts is to insert The Exchange in to the list of names that are immediately recalled when a target audience member thinks of off-­‐campus student housing. In order for advertising efforts to succeed, more awareness need to be created so that the target audience actually considers The Exchange in their decision for where to live—which will lead to the target audience pursuing further information. 8 Social media advertising should be employed as this will provide the opportunity to further segment the target audience, as well as increase the ‘word-­‐of-­‐mouth’ strength of advertising efforts and lead to easily measured results (i.e. website traffic). Advertising should transition to differentiated benefits only after better recall and recognition is achieved. If the target audience is not initially aware of The Exchange, then it will not even be considered in the decision process. The target audience needs to consider The Exchange as a viable option before it will consider the different benefits of each option. Once The Exchange becomes an immediately recalled option for the target audience, efforts to differentiate will finally be appropriate. X. Strategic Message University of Kansas students should live at The Exchange because of the high luxury and personal comfort offered by both its apartments and the gated community as a whole. Rationale The target audience desires an alternative to the dorm life. These motivations are mainly derived from concerns about living conditions and distractions. Although the target audience does not prefer an abundance of activity to surround them at all times, the target audience still wants to be part of a large sub-­‐community, which provides an easy outlet for social activity. Each of The Exchange’s competitors offer this sort of community; however, The Exchange can differentiate itself by focusing advertising efforts to primarily communicate two things—the newness of the complex (which communicates better living conditions) and the sense of less noise and distraction compared to its competitors. 9 Advertising efforts should directly communicate the newness of The Exchange in order to assure the target audience that The Exchange provides the best living conditions in its category. The target audience is willing to pay extra for extra luxury. In order to satisfy this desire, advertising efforts need to address that the newly constructed buildings will result in better living conditions and less hassle in regard to any maintenance problems. This strategy will also provide The Exchange to advertise the quality of its new homes at the expense of the older apartment complexes. Since each of The Exchange’s competitors rated relatively low in the noise category, The Exchange should use this to its advantage in advertising efforts. The Exchange should strive to communicate that it is an environment that is free from unwanted distractions. This will differentiate itself from competitors, as a distracting environment is a common problem for The Exchange’s competitors. The communication of a quieter atmosphere can support the communication of a supportive community, for instance, by communicating that the quieter, more relaxing environment is a result of the supportive community. XI. References 1. |­‐1-­‐1njea1.html •
Fairfield Properties company profile and corporate information 2. | •
Provides information about The Exchange at Lawrence, with tours, a list of amenities, contact information, photos and more 3. Fairfield Properties | http://www.fairfield-­‐ •
Corporate information with promotional tone; also included locations and statistics for other living options 10 4. People | Daniel Knox, Brittany Nelson, Mitch Titus, Chris Perll, Cherie Gossett, Amanda Huddleston, Brandon Woodard, Joey Stallman, Duane Bruce, Cody Quintero •
These are both residents and non-­‐residents that I questioned regarding brand image of The Exchange 5. Exchange brochures and materials | •
Online virtual tour with brochures; also picked up advertising materials and brochures from the complex st
6. The Reserve on West 31 | west •
Apartment complex information, amenities, rental rates and more 7. Legends Place | •
Apartment complex information, amenities, rental rates and more 8. Highpointe | •
Apartment complex information, amenities, rental rates and more 9. University of Kansas Residence Halls |­‐halls.shtml •
Information about each residence hall, room style, location, yearly rates and more 10. University Daily Kansan – “Student housing includes good, bad, a lot of ugly” (February 16, 2001) •
Article in student newspaper that covers life in the dorms, the recent renovations and more 11. Topeka Capital-­‐Journal (AP) – “KU dorm renovations to continue” (January 4, 2010) •
Information on the residence halls’ renovation, as well as projected time for completion 12. Apartment Ratings and Reviews | •
Reviews and ratings for The Exchange and its competitors 11