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A Local Digital Brand Finds its Audience

Chroma, a luxury apartment building on Sidney Street in Cambridgeport–a sleepy residential neighborhood in otherwise bustling Cambridge, Mass.–moved in its first residents in November. For its PPC campaign, Chroma initially used keywords like “Kenmore,” “Allston,” and “Brighton”–each one of these representing a nearby neighborhood, albeit in Boston. “Brookline”–another nearby city–was also used as a keyword.

“We originally drew a two-mile radius around our location and made an educated guess about where our traffic would be coming from,” Lauren Dewey said in an interview. “If you were looking to live in Cambridge, maybe you were also looking at Brookline or at the Kenmore area; it was broad.”

As Chroma’s Leasing Manager, Dewey manages the property’s digital marketing and branding initiatives on a day-to-day basis. Dewey shared her story of Chroma’s digital branding evolution.

“SEO doesn’t happen overnight–especially in Cambridge, which is an incredibly saturated rental market–but it came to a point where the new kids on the block were…appearing on page one [of Google], getting top-of-page ad space,” said Dewey. “So the obvious question was ‘Why aren’t we?'”

The “Aha” Moment

Across the Charles River from Boston and Brookline, the City of Cambridge has its own unique, eclectic identity. Harvard is in Cambridge. MIT is in Cambridge. Kendall Square–billed as “the most innovative square mile on the planet“–is in Cambridge. Several major technology and life-science companies, along with a plethora of startups, are in Cambridge.

All within walking distance of Chroma.

“We very quickly understood the magnitude of the workforce in immediate proximity to our community,” Dewey noted. She began “focusing on getting a better understanding of the Cambridgeport community, our prospects, how they behaved online, and what they typed into a Google search–and it wasn’t ‘apartments in Brookline’ or ‘apartments near Kenmore.’ It was ‘apartments near Kendall Square’ [and] ‘apartments in Cambridge’.”

This digital brand realization–like SEO–also didn’t happen overnight. It happened, Dewey explained, by analyzing Chroma’s data on qualified leads. The overwhelming majority of those were people who wanted an easy, walkable commute.

“There was an ‘Aha!’ moment of ‘This is what we are,’ and we changed the PPC campaign to…reflect who we were,” recounted Dewey. “[T]his new brand was very Cambridge.”

At this point, in February 2016, Dewey teleconferenced with her colleagues to discuss her findings. That same day, Dewey and the rest of the Chroma marketing team (working with an outside consultant GoToMyApartment) raised the brand’s PPC bids on “Cambridge”-related keywords, lowered bids on less relevant keywords, and stopped using keywords related to extra-Cambridge neighborhoods. 30 days later, Dewey pulled Chroma’s web analytics to discover the fruits of her labor: “A higher quality score, a lower cost per click, and a 70% increase on our clickthrough rate,” Dewey enumerated. “We saw an exponential growth in website traffic[,] engagement, and conversions.”

As for ROI? In the 80-day period succeeding these changes, as Chroma attracted more targeted leads, the property skyrocketed from 45% leased to 80% leased.

“Our trajectories have been positive since,” said Dewey.

“Let It Organically Evolve”

This is not to say that Chroma’s initial PPC planning was wrong. Rather, it was necessary to the branding process: analyzing, acting, evaluating, and rinsing and repeating.

“We had a baseline strategy early on,” said Kathy McMahon, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for National Development (the company that manages Chroma), in a separate statement, “and we were able to refine it as we learned more about our exact customer base.” “I don’t think there’s anything we could have done better,” said Dewey. “The creation of this brand was…a very organic process that happened on its own as we got to know the area and got to know who the Chroma resident was [until] we could comfortably hold that brand in its entirety to rework things. It all happened very quickly.”

So how can other brands learn from Chroma’s success? Dewey offered some advice.

“At the start of any project, no one hands you the key to your brand in a nicely wrapped package,” noted Dewey. “You have to get some boots on the ground, figure out what it’s going to be, let it organically evolve, and track it’s progress–and take it as it goes.”

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