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Gift of a Lifetime: Laing+Simmons

It's not often someone has a birthday celebration where others receive the gifts, but that’s exactly what happened when Laing+Simmons turned the big 50. Managing Director Leanne Pilkington explains how giving away $50,000 in prizes sparked the perfect recipe for marketing success.

What do a pizza, a walk in the park, a haircut, a cocktail and a cup of tea have in common?

They’re the key elements in a $50,000 award-winning marketing campaign that successfully promoted the Laing+Simmons real estate brand last year.

Entitled Memorable Moments, the campaign took out the Annual REA Excellence Award for Brand Campaign of the Year – Residential. Laing+Simmons Managing Director Leanne Pilkington says the Memorable Moments campaign was designed to mark the agency’s 50th birthday in an engaging and fun way.

“We wanted to give away prizes valued at $50,000 and we wanted to reward more than just one person, so we offered five $10,000 prizes,” she says.

“At Laing+Simmons we do things differently; we wanted the campaign to recognise that we are quirky, we like to have fun and we want to engage with our consumers and team members in a really authentic way.

“The prizes on offer were items one would normally consider simple and inexpensive; we just offered them with a twist.”

Catherine and Petar Sabados, from Oxley Park in Sydney’s west, were the lucky winners of the $10,000 pizza in Rome.

Rather than a pizza from a franchise store, the agency flew the winner to Rome to enjoy an authentic version in the heart of the Italian capital.

The winner of the walk around a park was able to take their stroll around New York’s Central Park, while a seemingly mundane cup of tea became anything but boring when the winner was flown to London to enjoy high tea at The Ritz.

The winner of the $10,000 haircut mixed it with LA’s finest in Beverly Hills, while the winner of the $10,000 cocktail sipped their pina colada in Hawaii.

“This is a campaign we were really proud of because it was fun, vibrant and different,” Leanne says. “The stories from the winners were amazing. One couple had put off having a honeymoon to buy a house, so this was like their honeymoon. Another winner had never been overseas before. We wanted to create memorable moments for people with this campaign and I think we succeeded.”

Leanne says that, while the aim of the campaign was to engage people with the Laing+Simmons brand, they sought to avoid the traditional ‘list with us’ mentality. They wanted the campaign to reflect the agency’s values of treating everyone – team members and consumers – like family, as well as appealing to a younger demographic.

“The competition was open to everyone who owned a property,” Leanne says. “They didn’t have to list with us or agree to an appraisal; they only needed to have made the step to ownership. They need not have been a Laing+Simmons customer, as this was a celebration of our birthday and their home ownership.

“It was about recognising that home ownership is tough and many people do struggle to meet mortgage payments day-to-day. We wanted to reward that struggle.”

“It was about recognising that home ownership is tough and many people do struggle to meet mortgage payments day-to-day. We wanted to reward that struggle.”

The competition ran from March last year to early May and involved a targeted social media campaign, newspaper banners, radio advertising, and posters and flyers at office level. More than 2,000 entries came in, with winners selected randomly according to lottery rules.

Catherine and Petar Sabados, from Oxley Park in Sydney’s west, were the lucky winners of the $10,000 pizza in Rome.

“We got married in August 2016, so it was just past our first anniversary when we went on this holiday and this was our honeymoon,” Catherine says. “We didn’t have a honeymoon straight after we got married, because we bought a house and the first year of a mortgage is the most sensitive.”

The couple’s trip included five nights at the five-star Sina Bernini Bristol Hotel, including a pizza at the rooftop restaurant Giuda Ballerino, along with a 14-course degustation cooked by Michelin Star chef Andrea Fusco.

“As we chose to go during off-peak time, the hotel was cheaper and the flights were cheaper and we had a budget left over – so we were able to have five nights in Paris as well,” Catherine says. “We also took a train to Venice and paid for our own accommodation there, so in total we had three amazing weeks away.”

Catherine says the fact that the competition recognised the struggles and achievements people go through in order to own a home really resonated with them.

About five years ago, the couple decided to sell their one-bedroom Guildford unit as they needed something larger and without as many stairs with their first baby on the way. “Every building report came back saying ‘don’t buy this house’,” Catherine says.

“There were issues with mould, leaks, concrete cancer, you name it. So we ended up renting. With me off work half our deposit was sucked up, so we had to start saving again.

“The fact the Laing+Simmons competition celebrated the finish line was brilliant, because it really does take a long time to get there. Townhouses we looked at five years ago for $400,000 were on the market again for $650,000. Luckily we ended up finding a townhouse comparable to what we were paying in rent and I’d rather be putting that money on a mortgage.”

Catherine says they didn’t purchase their home through Laing+Simmons but do follow them on social media, and will be getting in touch with the agency when they start looking to buy an investment property.

To build on the first half of the campaign, Laing+Simmons followed the competition up with a series of letterbox drops connecting memorable moments in history, such as the moon landing and completion of the Sydney Opera House, with each decade the agency had been in business.

The campaign resulted in the agency’s social media network growing from 1,250 followers to 1,700. “Our average social media reach prior to the campaign was 1,250 to 2,500 per week,” Leanne says.

“During the campaign, at its highest point, this reach spiked to about 113,000. In terms of weekly engagement, Laing+Simmons was sitting at about 100 to 150 prior to the campaign. During the campaign, this number swelled to between 600 and 700 per week.”

“The fact the Laing+Simmons competition celebrated the finish line was brilliant, because it really does take a long time to get there.”

Leanne says that, while the aim of the campaign wasn’t to list properties, the agency has generated some appraisals as a result.

But, she says, hearing the stories of the winners and receiving their texts and travel photos was the greatest reward. “We were able to share that on social media, in newsletters and really share in their joy,” she says. “The feedback was fantastic and it really energised the staff.”

(Left to right): Garry McLaughlin, Jackie Jones, Leanne Pilkington and Rob Blythman

The agency isn’t about to rest on its laurels, though, with a plan to expand on its 42-office network with four new offices opening this year, including in Hunters Hill and Oatlands.

“We’re also talking to five more right now,” Leanne says. “There’s a lot happening at the moment, but our focus won’t change; we will still focus on doing things differently and fostering that personal connection with people.

“We’re a smaller brand, we all know each other and even though we are expanding we won’t spread ourselves too thin; we want to maintain that engagement.

“We also really try and focus on the customer experience. We train our team to understand that, while they do these transactions every day, most of our clients don’t do them very often. For most people it’s stressful, and we want to make the experience as pleasant as we can – particularly in giving good advice and communicating really well.”

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