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.

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

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.”

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 dayto-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 Guil­ford 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.”

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.”

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.”

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

Cather­ine and Pe­tar Saba­dos, the lucky win­ners of the $10,000 pizza in Rome.

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

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