Branding Archives – Varsity Branding

Tag: Branding

Communities in different parts of the country came together last Thursday to share their thoughts and challenges as shutdowns continue. Jackie Stone, VP of sales at Varsity, joined our general discussion to share insights on virtual event topics and processes during social distancing.

Check out the takeaways below. You are also welcome to join our next sales & marketing roundtable, coming up this week.

Jackie leads a discussion on virtual presentations:

  • Presentation objectives
    • New lead generation
      • Use the purchased email list and lead base
      • Select universal topics of interest to anyone
      • Ensure that the presentation represents the lifestyle at the community and reinforces the established brand
    • Sales presentation
      • Target the lead base
      • Address common objections
        • “I’m not ready yet.”
        • “I want to stay independent.”
        • “I’ve lived here for 50 years; I don’t know where to start.”
        • “This apartment is so small.”
        • “I don’t want to live with all old people.”
        • “How would I even go about selling my home?”
        • “The economy/stock market is unstable.”
      • Personalize to the prospect
        • Customized to each individual prospect — what he or she values in life and in a community
  • Potential presentation topics
    • New lead generation
      • Mindfulness — Putting Your Practice Into Place
      • Healthy Aging: Achieving Wellness in All Dimensions
      • Living a Big Life
      • Dispelling the Myths of Retirement Living
    • Sales presentations
      • Decluttering Your Life to Make Room for Experiences
      • Living a Big Life
      • Bridging the Gap Between “I’m Not Ready Yet” and “I Wish I Had Done This Sooner”
      • Protecting Your Nest Egg
      • Does a Life Plan Community Make Sense for Me?
      • Selling Your Home in a Virtual World
    • Personalizing to the prospect
      • Presentation of the community’s services, amenities, residences and benefits
      • Video walking tour of the community
      • Happy hour Zoom call
  • Marketing automation
    • Targeting prospects
      • Email seminar invitation
      • Confirmation and login instructions
      • Resending of seminar invitation to those that did not open the original email
      • Reminder email two days prior to the event
    • Communicating with those who did attend
      • Post-webinar “Thank you for joining us”
      • Survey
      • What other topics might interest you?
      • Schedule a private appointment?
      • Next seminar invitation
    • Communicating with those who did not attend
      • “We missed you” email
    • Schedule a private appointment?
    • Next seminar invitation
  • Typical attendance expectations
    • We’ve seen anywhere from 7–10, 25–30 and close to 50, so it can really vary.

Where are you doing to go from here with marketing?

  • It depends on your community.
    • Examples:
      • One community is stretched for dollars because of the current bond market.
      • Other communities may have more money to spend, with cancelling in-person marketing events.
    • You may need to move dollars around in your budget. The focus will need to be on engaging prospects in blue sky projects. If you don’t use the money this year, you won’t have it next year! Spend it wisely, and don’t let it go.
    • An AL community in New York has online events/speakers every week. It’s very buttoned up and structured — link to check out:
    • I think we’ll be Zooming for a long time.
    • Follow these virtual call tips.
      • Do a roll call.
      • Ask what participants miss during this time of quarantine. If they say Starbucks, deliver a coffee to their doorstep.

Join the next sales & marketing roundtable on June 4!

We thank everyone for participating, and we invite you to join the next session on Thursday, June 4, at 12 p.m. ET.

You don’t have to be a client to join — all are welcome. For call-in information, email .



As social distancing continues, communities came together for roundtable #9 to share their ideas and challenges. Robinson Smith, creative director at Varsity, joined our discussion to share insights on brand-centric messaging during quarantine.

Check out the takeaways below. You are also welcome to join our next sales & marketing roundtable, coming up this week.

Insights from Rob’s discussion on creative messaging:

Rob shared this video, which essentially highlights how painfully similar much of the COVID-19 advertising is.

  • Every commercial is exactly the same, with catchphrases like: “uncertain times,” “home” and “together.”
  • Brands want to let you know they were there for you in the past, are with you now and will be with you moving forward. While these messages of hope and empathy are important as we move forward, it’s critical not to lose sight of the brands we’ve worked so hard to establish. We need to make sure we’re not abandoning them, especially as normal community marketing will not return for quite some time.
  • While all communities want to communicate that they care about the safety of their team members and residents, they also should make sure that they are talking about their BRANDS and are leveraging the messages that they have put out into the marketplace and established over time.
  • At Varsity, we talk about branding and brand personalities in terms of archetypes. The caregiver archetype is typically the archetype of industry, so it’s not a long-term solution for individual community branding as we go forward. Communities need to be intentional about expressing their own voices — explorers, magicians, lovers — and make sure that the things that set them apart from competitors are being stated in true, unique and compelling ways.

Join the next sales & marketing roundtable on May 28!

We thank everyone for participating, and we invite you to join the next session on Thursday, May 28, at 12 p.m. ET.

Jackie Stone, Varsity VP of sales, will be joining us for part of the session to share her insights on virtual event topics and processes.

You don’t have to be a client to join — all are welcome. For call-in information, email .


‘Like it’ or not, we’ll never know, thanks to a new update being rolled out by Instagram that will prevent you from seeing how many likes the accounts you follow are receiving on their accounts. To see what this means for your brand, check out this infographic.

What do you call a single-family, detached or semi-detached residence at your community? Is it a villa, a cottage, a townhouse or something else entirely? I’ve worked with aging services providers that have built homes that are exactly the same, in two different locations, calling them a villa in one community and a cottage in another. Outside of the physical location of the structures, they were identical in every way.

This led us to wonder ­— are we, as aging services marketers, confusing potential residents because of the language we use to describe our products?

Let’s go back to the basics. What’s the definition of each of these housing types? For the purpose of consistency, we’ll utilize as our point of reference for our definitions.

Villa — a country resident or estate; in British parlance, it can also denote a semidetached dwelling house, usually suburban

Cottage — a small, usually one-story, modest dwelling that could be owned or rented, sometimes as a vacation home

Townhouse — a house in the city, especially as distinguished from a house in the country owned by the same person; one of a row of houses joined by common sidewalls

Condominium — an apartment house or other multi-residence complex in which the residences are individually owned but with shared responsibility for common areas

Bungalow — a cottage of one story; popular during the first quarter of the 20th century, usually having one and a half stories, a widely bracketed gable roof and a multi-windowed dormer, frequently built of rustic materials

Mew(s) — a place of retirement; chiefly British; a street having small apartments

Carriage house — a small home, usually part of a larger estate, adjacent to a main house

I’ve found all of these terms used to describe residences in one community or another. Objectively, many of these residences were very similar, the only major difference being whether they were detached residences or not.

Put yourself in the shoes of Boomer or seniors that are attempting to compare options and services. They may be trying to decide whether your 1,700-square-foot villa is comparable to another community’s 1,700-square-foot cottage. Or maybe they are considering a 1,200-square-foot carriage house or townhouse. Do the descriptors “cottage” or “bungalow” equate to “small” in their minds, or does “villa” make them think of a memorable trip to Tuscany? The sheer brainpower it takes to sift through all of the options could be staggering.

Throughout the years, branding has shown us that the best-selling products are those that can be described simply and that can easily show their value. Can you say that about the residence mix at your community? Perhaps your community isn’t even the challenge, but other campuses surrounding yours are using different language in an attempt to position themselves in the market. How could this trend be helping or hurting your marketing efforts?

This post is somewhat rhetorical. We don’t have a succinct answer to the problem; rather, we want to ask the question and start a conversation. How much does the language we use matter? Does it create confusion in the marketplace simply because we want to make a product sound more appealing? What will we be calling our senior living residences of the future?

All I know is that, as long as I’m not living in a tiny house, I think I’ll be okay.

Last week, it was announced that Toys “R” Us, the ubiquitous American children’s retailer, is filing for bankruptcy and shuttering a huge number of locations. As we read this news, it struck us that the retail chain is really a Boomer brand in a lot of ways. As of 2018, Toys “R” Us was a 70-year-old company. While it didn’t start specializing in toys until the late 1950s, the retailer has certainly been a part of mainstream American life for the better part of a century. Always curious, we asked ourselves what the demise of this brand says about Baby Boomers and changing generations.

First, we recognize that only a small part of the Baby Boomer generation would remember Toys “R” Us from their youth. As a brand, it was headquartered where it was founded, in Maryland. Of course, that means much of the early growth for Toys “R” Us was in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, limiting its initial exposure. Sure, some Boomers may remember the organization and its giraffe mascot from their childhood, but for most Boomers, this is a brand that has memories tied to the rearing of their children — rather than to their own younger years — which makes it an especially interesting brand to understand.

Boomer parents built Toys “R” Us; Millennial parents and Boomer grandparents killed it.

For many Generation X and Millennial children, Toys “R” Us was a fabled destination that their parents took them to as a treat. It was a fantasyland where kids ruled and toys were the only product to look at. For Boomer parents, it’s where they would go to purchase the hot toy at Christmas, a child’s first bike in the spring and that newfangled Nintendo that hooked up to the television. By being a category-killer retailer, the brand was able to push out any competition, helping it to corner the market. Because of this, Toys “R” Us found that it had become a part of the American experience of raising children. Family memories were created at and because of Toys “R” Us stores — but the retailer failed to keep up with the times.

First, came the big-box stores, especially Walmart and Target, which have continued to expand their toy selection throughout the years. Why would a parent go to Toys “R” Us when they could just pick up a treat for their child at the store they were already at? This turned Toys “R” Us into a destination store rather than a habitual stop. From that angle, it makes sense. We’ve all seen the unbridled passion of a child let loose in a toy store. This excitement can easily become a parent’s worst nightmare — screaming children begging for an expensive toy, as well as tantrums galore. A trip to Toys “R” Us could just as easily devolve into a parental hellscape as much as create a lasting memory.

Then came the Generation Xers and the Millennials. They were the ones who had thrown themselves to the tiled floor of a Toys “R” Us as children, crying until a toy was purchased. Having been the child in that situation, newer generations eschewed the brand, opting instead to purchase toys in a different way — online and at steep discounts.

Why chance a tantrum in the aisle when you could just sit at home on your laptop and make a purchase? Plus, as a consumer, you were no longer limited to what was on the shelf. If little Emma wants a Malibu Barbie, why go to a store that is probably sold out? Surely Amazon has the exact doll in stock and ready to ship, arriving at your door in two days or less.

Convenience. Service. Choice.

These are the factors that lead to the downfall of Toys “R” Us. As aging services providers, we can learn from this very public brand collapse. Are we repositioning our services and amenities to appeal to a changing consumer? When the Boomer phases out as our target consumer — which is still a decade or more down the road — how will we change our marketing strategy to appeal to Generation X and, later, to Millennials?

While many aging services marketers will retire before that reality hits, we must recognize that the marketing coordinators and salespeople that we are hiring today are the marketing directors of tomorrow. They are learning from our leadership, and we must be conscious of the future to come. Otherwise, we could end up just like Toys “R” Us: a fond memory of a brand built by the generation before, which just didn’t keep up with the times.


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