Senior living communities do not clearly explain why they are different and better than their competitors.

By Pam McDonald

I had a chance the other day to talk about branding and positioning with Paul Flowers, President of Circa 46, an advertising agency with a speciality in senior living, and a Senior Housing Forum partner. He told me about a marketing mistake he sees lots of businesses make. He said:

“A universal advertising truth – at least, from my perspective after four decades in the ad business – is that companies tend to create their brands in a vacuum. That is, they create their brand positions without considering how their competition is positioning themselves. As a result, their advertising generally does not clearly explain why they are different and better than their competitors.”

That’s the bad news. But he also offered the following 8 questions businesses, including senior living operators, can ask about their community’s brand image.


  1. What is it about your community that is especially meaningful to your target prospects?
    As you are, no doubt, aware most 65+ adults do not want to move to a senior community. However, they might consider a move if they are facing a problem they cannot address in their present circumstances. Can you identify a significant problem or need seniors face that your community is uniquely capable of addressing? Is this capability stated in every brand message you communicate?
  2. Is your message proprietary?
    That is, does your community OWN that brand position in your market area – or are there other communities that can make the same claim? If you can position your community as unique from others in your area, your prospects can clearly understand why your community deserves further consideration over others.
  3. Is your message preemptive?
    Are you the first community to make that (meaningful and proprietary) claim in your market? There is ALWAYS an advantage for being first. You set the competitive bar. Others would have to spend a lot of money on advertising to claim your message once you had established it in your community’s brand DNA.
  4. Can your community deliver on that message?
    It is one thing to make a claim in your advertising, but if you cannot deliver on your brand promise, prospects will be turned off when they take a deeper look at your community. Do you have the staff expertise and capabilities to do what you promise in your advertising?
  5. Is your brand promise aligned with your community’s heritage and reputation?
    Is your brand promise believable given your community’s history? While you can certainly change a community to reflect a new brand promise, it is a much easier task to create a brand promise that mirrors your community’s existing strengths, heritage and reputation.
  6. Does your brand message have a life?
    That is, can it last for years? It takes time and money to establish a proprietary and preemptive brand. And, once you have determined your brand message, it takes a lot of repetition to establish that message in the minds of your prospects. So you need to approach brand development from the perspective that your brand is going to endure for a long, long time – because if you ever decide to change your brand, you must start from ground zero reestablishing it in your prospects’ minds.
  7. Does it have “legs?
    Does your brand message work internally and externally, in all media forms, with all audience segments? Just because your brand message can be communicated in a sales presentation doesn’t mean it can be effectively delivered in a brochure, banner ad or billboard. Make sure your message works everywhere you might consider communicating it.
  8. Does your brand messaging have management support?
    If top management does not buy into the brand message you have developed, it is destined for failure. In fact, you will be much better served if management actively participates in the development of your brand, because they will then have a stake in it.

Paul concluded, “If you can answer all eight of these questions in the affirmative, you have the basis for a brand that clearly differentiates you from your competitors. Therefore, your community’s marketing efforts are positioned for success!”

Download the Brand Evaluation Questions HERE.