April 30, 2020

How to creatively market your property during lockdown

Social distancing means that your potential tenants or buyers can’t view your properties in the traditional way, but there’s still plenty that can be done to keep them interested and engaged with what you have to offer.

It’s true that life will probably never be quite the same again once this pandemic has passed, and the way that we live and work is likely to change forever. Flexibility will be the new watchword, as households and businesses look more closely at their daily habits and behaviours. The lengthy commute may become a thing of the past, as many workers are questioning why they spend so much of their lives travelling too and from work when they’ve found it perfectly possible to work from home.

This provides a golden opportunity for property specialists, both in the commercial and residential fields.

By creating spaces that meet this greater demand for flexibility and by demonstrating to your prospective tenants or buyers how your properties can meet their needs, you can engage with them in an entirely different way.

Showcase your flexibility

The market may be suffering at the moment, but the bounce back will happen. Businesses, individuals and families are always going to require property; many businesses may be downsizing as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, but there will still be a need for physical space.

What’s more, MDs and CEOs could use the crisis as an opportunity to look critically at their business operations. Rent and property costs are often some of the largest outgoings for a company, and as leases come to an end, innovative property companies have the opportunity to get front and centre, demonstrating how their commercial property solutions can provide businesses with the flexibility they need.

The picture is a similar one for residential property firms. With multiple generations now sharing a roof under lockdown, families will be reassessing if their home gives them the space they need. Whether being cooped up in quarantine has made exhausted parents realise that they yearn for a bigger garden or a study to escape to, or adult children realise they need to fly the nest and set up their own home, it wouldn’t be surprising if many of us start ‘window shopping’ for new properties, browsing listings online to feed their dreams of post-lockdown space.

Stay connected

To encourage tenants and buyers in their window shopping, it’s more important than ever that you make sure your properties are being seen by prospective tenants at the right stage in their customer journey.

Keeping your property listings up to date, with well-optimised copy, high-quality photos and clear descriptions, is obviously critical. But there’s plenty more than can be done well before your audience gets to the browsing stage.

If you have a GDPR-compliant database, now is the time to make the most of it with original, authentic and engaging email content. Put yourself in the shoes of your tenants and buyers – what are they likely to be interested in right now?

Whether it’s inspiration for new home décor schemes to help while away the lockdown hours, or signposting vital government support to businesses, make sure you tailor your content to your audience. It goes without saying that all content should be sensitively written; we’re living through a pandemic, after all, so it’s important to check that all external communications are appropriate to current circumstances.

If you can provide your audiences with the content they need right now, this will not only position yourself as a company keen to help, but will also mean that you’re front of mind when your audience move on to the exploration and browsing stage of their property journey.

Think outside four walls

What about those tenants who are close to signing on the dotted line, but the coronavirus lockdown either ground things to a halt, or they’ve decided to press pause until economic conditions improve?

Or, how about those who have resolved to move on in their property journey once we’re through the worst, and want the experience of viewing a property from the comfort of their own home?

VR has come on in incredible leaps and bounds in recent years. An increasing number of property companies are offering virtual viewing to clients, allowing prospective buyers or tenants to explore properties 24/7. From headset ‘walkthrough’ experiences to 360 online tours, there’s plenty you can do to showcase your property.

Even for those properties still in the planning or construction phase – and even if work has paused for now – there is still value in offering a virtual experience. Investigate how you can use 3D imaging technology to reach your buyers and tenants remotely, to help keep them engaged and excited by the prospect of their future home or workplace.

Interested in using digital marketing and immersive experiences to connect with your audiences? We can help. We work with property companies across the residential and commercial markets, and are focused on engaging your future tenants and buyers. Call us on 191 375 9150 to find out more. 

April 29, 2020

Creativity in the time of coronavirus

The Coronavirus crisis has triggered some great creative thinking-and-making from the design community. In some ways that’s no surprise, big moments in history are typically a time when art, design and copywriting play a powerful role.

Alongside the now more or less ubiquitous banking ads making the the most of the Zoom call format (the first one in this format was OK but please stop it now, it’s not clever to just keep copying one another), there have been some truly creative ads and design appearing. Some are playful, some are powerful and some are well thought out imaginative responses to the strange world we find ourselves living in.

Here are just three of our favourites. Credits attached to all work.


Unofficial Guinness Ad by freelance copywriter, Luke O’Reilly

You may have seen this on social media. It’s been something of a sensation. It’s pure genius (as Guinness would say), completely nailing the aesthetic and playful spirit of the official Guinness ad campaigns but with the added irony that it’s not an official Guinness ad at all, just the brilliant output of Luke O’Reilly’s spare time.

If Luke can do this kind of work, Guinness, come on, appoint this guy to your creative roster. Guinness has actually credited the work and posted it to their official Instagram site, so at least they have recognised the elegance of the idea and the creative talent involved. Hopefully there’ll be some paid-for work coming Luke’s way at some point soon from Guinness HQ.


St Luke’s NHS unofficial STAY HOME NOW

More of a poster than an ad per se, Richard Denney, executive creative director of branding powerhouse St Luke’s, and his colleague Al Young, created this image at the end of March, in the early days of the Stay Home, Save Lives campaign.

The idea came to Richard following a radio broadcast in which he’d heard an exhausted NHS consultant pleading with the public to stay at home to avoid spreading the Coronavirus and over-stretching the NHS.

It proves the point that the simplest creative responses can also be the hardest hitting, capturing so much from its slight alternation of the instantly recognisable NHS branding. It has been used across many official NHS social feeds to help reinforce the messaging.


Secret Cinema and Haagen Dazs – Secret Sofa

Secret Cinema is something of a cultural phenomenon. It describes itself as a ‘fully immersive cinema experience’. For anybody who has attended one of their events, you’ll know how amazing these nights are. Guests are literally plunged into the world of the movie: amazing locations, brilliant costumes, an invitation to take centre stage by acting out parts, singing, dancing, yes, they think of everything with a vast attention to detail that creates instant fandom.

A friend attended the Moulin Rouge event in London a couple of years ago and announced it one of the most enjoyable and exciting nights out they’d ever had. And that was somebody who’s done their fair share of ‘big nights out’ around the world! So, how do you bring that magic to people during lockdown? Well, they’ve set up Secret Sofa, a subscription activity that brings classic movies to stream every Friday night, along with suggestions on how to dress, things to eat and drink and a number of other suggestions that can get you into the spirit of the movie you’re going to watch. There are hangouts to join that can take the experience further.

And to make it a tad more enjoyable, there’s also a free Haagen Dazs ice cream of the week to accompany the movie, delivered to your door by courier. Well, it will never take the place of the real thing but it’s a pretty cool response for those who are missing their hit of culture and cool!



April 29, 2020

Don’t let your customers lack for inspiration during isolation

Whatever the coming weeks and months have in store for us, it’s clear that certain elements of the retail sector are never going to be the same again. Before the COVID-19 crisis, bricks and mortar retailers of all kinds were already experiencing difficulties due to the cost of high rates, dwindling footfall and the fast move to online shopping, but recent events are going to call for an entire sector re-think.

The fashion and beauty world is a clear example of how retailers are experiencing a huge change in consumer behaviour. Burberry is already reporting that in-store sales have fallen by 50%, and Next have warned of a significant sales drop this quarter, with boss Lord Wolfson saying “people do not buy a new outfit to stay at home.”

There could, however, be a silver lining for retail businesses that are already geared-up for ecommerce. In time, with more and more people remaining at home, and perhaps taking fewer foreign holidays, retailers involved in furniture, homewares and DIY may benefit from a surge of ongoing spending.

There’s nothing quite like being stuck at home all day to make you want to revamp your spare room or brighten up your kitchen. From getting a new desk to make working from home a little more comfortable, to that new slow cooker to help you finally master that stew you’ve always wanted to make, there’s plenty that retailers can be offering to help consumers spend their time in isolation a little more comfortably.

If you’ve not already invested in a smooth ecommerce user experience, now is the time to do so. Make sure that consumers can see your products in as few clicks as possible, with vibrant and engaging product descriptions to bring them to life.

It’s more important than ever to be clear about your delivery options, so make sure you have well-written copy on your site that explains how customers can get your products to their door – especially in light of the most recent social distancing measures. If you can offer delivery with minimal contact, such as leaving items in a safe place, talk about this loudly and clearly.

Consumer spending will drop, there’s no doubt about that. But if you can go the extra mile to show customers that you care about their safety and that you can still offer them the products they want, you’ll go a long way in setting up your brand for the weeks and months ahead. Remember, we don’t stop daydreaming just because we’re no longer out and about.

Give your customers the inspiration and tools that they need to create that home office or complete that DIY project they’ve been putting off. We all need to stay creative in times like these – make sure you and your customers do too.

April 29, 2020

How to strike the right tone in uncertain times

Tone can be the difference between earning trust and alienating audiences. Right now that’s particularly true, so here are a few pointers to help you get it right. Tone applies to written and spoken language so keep these tips in mind when you’re putting together that next social media post, customer email or radio script.

Tip One: In unsettling times of crisis, people will take comfort in authority. To invoke authority, make sure your language is precise and concise. Don’t ramble. Inspire confidence by using clean sentences. Resist the urge to use parentheses. If you need to qualify or explain what you’re saying think hard about whether you really need to say it. And, here’s a PR tip: don’t fake it. If you can’t say something authoritatively, it’s not worth pretending. Getting found out will lose more trust than you stand to gain.

Tip Two: Look lively. In a crisis, sometimes brands default to a stilted, scripted tone. There’s misconception the gravity of the situation calls for “official sounding” communication. You know, the sort that mimics police speak: “we regret to inform individuals our stores are closed at the present time.” Don’t tense up like this. It will distance your audiences. Show you’re tackling the issue by using energetic language. Earn empathy by using warm language. So, try: “to keep you safe, we’ve moved online. In the meantime we’re working on exciting new features to make sure we can welcome you back in store when the time is right.”


Tip Three: Be original. Try not to borrow phrasing from other brands, however tempting this can be. If you do this too much you’ll risk sounding trite. Even worse, your audiences will ignore the message. Having go-to references from other brands can be useful – but use them in moderation. On a related style note, try not to open your comms by saying “in these unprecedented times” – people have read that hundreds of times now and you’ll switch them off immediately.

Tip Four: Use sensitivity. Sure you want to be positive, but don’t be tone deaf. Come across too chipper and it will be irritating and jarring. We’ve seen some brands try rallying cries – using combative language to urge a “fight” against the virus. The Foreign Secretary recently fell foul of this – alienating thousands of people who thought the image of the fight was tasteless.

Tip Five: Honesty is the best policy. You might not have all the answers yet. Don’t be tempted to bluff it. This crisis could be long term and you’ll need to take your audiences with you. Give them reason to trust you. Don’t embellish, inform. Give your audiences useful information and they’ll stay engaged.

If you want some help to find the right words, give us a call on 0191 375 9150.

April 23, 2020

Recruiting frontline communications volunteers

Time to connect with your local communications superstars

Ironically, communications professionals don’t always have the best reputation. But now, more than ever, we can use our powers for good.

All over the country, emergency services, healthcare trusts, care providers and other frontline organisations are working hard to keep the public safe and well. But they also have another challenge: communicating in an effective and engaging way.

In this age of misinformation, where rumours about 5G masts causing pandemics and garlic as a ‘cure’ for coronavirus can spread like wildfire, frontline services are having to battle to communicate clear and accurate information that could save lives. It’s a depressing sign of the times that the World Health Organization has this month released a series of public information posters to dispel myths around COVID-19, but such is the topsy-turvy world we live in.

We’re encouraging organisations and businesses at the frontline – from emergency services to supermarkets, food delivery companies to pharmacies – to connect with the communications specialists in their network and reach out to get the support they need.

Put the call out

Asking for help is not a particularly British quality. But now, more than ever, we all need to work together to support businesses and organisations in need. From help in drafting content to graphic design, crisis communications advice or SEO support, there’s plenty that your comms volunteers can be doing something to get much-needed messages out to the general public.

Your communications contacts – either through in-house teams or local agencies – will likely be used to supporting brands and businesses of all shapes and sizes through times of crisis, and although it’s clear that this pandemic is unlike anything we’ve experienced before, there’s plenty we can all be doing to support our frontline services.

At Cool Blue, we’ve been working closely with the North East Ambulance Service since the lockdown came into effect, providing strategic support on how best to get their message out on social media. From drafting social media content to ensuring they’re connecting with the right audiences online. We’ve donated our time for free to give this vital organisation the support they need in this challenging time.

Work out what you need

Start by identify what you need most. For the North East Ambulance Service, they needed to expand their audience on Instagram, so we began working with them by ensuring that clear messages on coronavirus prevention were being communicating effectively on that platform. We’re now working with them on an ongoing basis, speaking with their team twice a week to provide advice on how best to reach their varied and diverse audience in an ever-changing communications environment.

It may be that your organisation needs to get new information online quickly, or you need to contact your service users to inform them of changes. Talk with your contacts about what exactly it is that you need, then form a plan to split responsibilities accordingly.

Be prepared to think on your feet

With the current social, economic and health climate changing all the time, it may be the case that you need different support at different times, or that your plans need to change rapidly.

Don’t be afraid to enlist help to deal with time-critical messaging. For example, if you’re a local council offering support to businesses and need to reach your audience quickly, find local volunteers who can help you keep on top of your email marketing, social media messaging and web content. You may find that the following week brings a totally new communications challenge, but now that you have people willing and able to offer you their time, you can make good use of your volunteers.

Right now, every little helps. Experts in PR, marketing, brand, design, SEO, digital marketing and more are willing and able to lend their superpowers to those who need it, and do what we can to communicate the messages the public need to hear. Once you put out the call for support, you may be surprised at how big a difference communications volunteers can make.

April 1, 2020

Are subscription boxes the lifeline retail needs right now?

Whatever the coming weeks and months have in store for us, it’s clear that the retail world is never going to be the same again. The fashion and beauty world is a clear example of how retailers are experiencing a huge change in consumer behaviour; Burberry is already reporting that in-store sales have fallen by 50%, and Next have warned of a significant sales drop this quarter, with boss Lord Wolfson saying “people do not buy a new outfit to stay at home.”

There could, however, be a silver lining for retail businesses.

The subscription ecommerce market has boomed in recent years and is forecast to be valued at £1 billion by 2021. Everything from meal kits to razors, shampoo to alcohol can now be delivered straight to your door, and its our prediction that these companies are likely to see sales skyrocket as households stay indoors.

The UK subscription market is dwarfed by our cousins in the US, but with over a quarter of UK consumers currently signed up to a subscription service, including over half of millennials, it’s clear that there’s a huge growth opportunity.

As the threat of coronavirus spreads and major shopping districts empty out, there’s a lesson in the subscription boom for bricks and mortar retailers. Already some big-name brands have got in on the action, with international beauty giant Sephora launching their own subscription box in the US.

Our advice to retailers is this: get creative. Whether it’s turning your sit-in bistro into a takeaway (the Government has already made it easier for pubs and restaurants to do this), turning your personal training offering into a virtual class, or creating a subscription box to deliver direct to your customers, we’re all going to have to think differently about how we do business.

Look at the furniture industry as an example of innovation. A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to buy big-ticket items like a sofa or bed online, but as retailers have stepped up their game and transformed their online offering, customers are more and more comfortable with the idea of decking out their homes at the click of a button. As a result, the furniture ecommerce market has boomed, with major retailers and smaller brands more effective than ever in marketing directly to consumers.

In this age of uncertainty, no-one can say for sure how our shopping habits will change. There are, however, opportunities to be had for the retailers willing to innovate. Customers still want to look good, feel good and eat well – perhaps even more so in this age of uncertainty. If your brand can offer an easy and convenient way for them to do so in the comfort of their own home, you could attract a larger and more loyal following than ever before.


Cool Blue is a full-service agency that pays special attention to the interiors sector. We make waves in the home and lifestyle world, whether by helping brands find new relevancy or supercharging their sales, our strategic expertise makes brands like yours achieve their goals.

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