The answer is almost certainly "no," you don't recognize them. If you're a senior living professional, beyond recognizing them specifically, their mere actions don't mirror those of any residents you've ever seen.
I recently passed a shuttle bus for a local assisted living community. The bus was freshly-wrapped in graphics including the community’s logo, phone number and an image of 6-8 seniors. I did a double-take when I noticed the seniors pictured were collectively jumping for joy. You’ve probably seen this popular photo style in bridal or beach-settings and may have captured the same with your teenagers– a line of friends simultaneously jump and make wacky faces. More power to those beach-goers and the wedding bunch, but assisted living residents? Really? The very thought of even one—let alone half a dozen—AL residents jumping in the air is enough to terrify any nurse or executive director and might just result in the hospitalization of your corporate risk management team! Don’t do it!
This real-world example highlights the now decades-old quandary of how our industry should or shouldn't portray residents in marketing pieces. At the heart of the issue is the basic question: how realistic should the marketing photography be? Some argue residents depicted must never look a day over 60, and the sight of a walker or wheelchair is completely taboo. The other faction contends young/overly active images establish an expectation that won’t hold true when prospects walk through your front door. So, who’s correct?
The truth is, all of us are conditioned to view advertising images of an unknown entity with a healthy degree of skepticism. The latest ad for a heavy duty truck features a handsome, rugged-looking man, model on his arm, as he heads to a fancy dinner after a day on the ranch. A new skincare ad features a beautiful woman, boasting flawless skin, reportedly achieved just days after using a $5 drugstore moisturizer. When it comes to unknown brands, our minds automatically “dial back” expectations in response to claims presented by an advertisement. Accordingly, one might reason that senior living photography should exaggerate the enthusiasm and vivacity of residents in senior living ads.
However…here’s the catch: Senior Living marketing is a far cry from marketing pickup trucks, face cream, car insurance, etc. The wide range of considerations and emotions in evaluating senior living options are as serious as they get. Decision-makers research, consult with others, explore social media posts and take every possible step for the specific purpose of developing an accurate feel for your community.
We proved this point during a recent focus group conducted for a multi-site assisted living client. Without any employees present, we learned valuable tidbits as residents and family members candidly discussed their views of marketing, first impressions of the community and competitors, amenities that mattered and those that didn’t, etc. Time after time, we were amazed to hear that a community’s dazzling resident stock images elicited feelings of distrust and suspicion. One daughter said it best, “if they’re clearly misrepresenting the actual residents than I have to think…what else are they sugar-coating about the place?”
We left the focus groups with dozens of ideas for programming, dining, marketing and much more—all shared exclusively with the client. We also left with a renewed, passionate dedication to advise clients to utilize custom photo shoots—those which are “real” enough to appear candid and give a glimpse into the unique aspects of each community, but still professional enough not to look amateurish.
We’re thrilled to work with amazing photographers who love seniors and thrive on capturing heart-warming moments that resonate with prospects and adult-children alike. Once armed with an array of delightful images, your marketing possibilities are endless: Facebook, Instagram, your website, accompanying PR, brochures, billboards, slideshows and so much more. We’d love to talk to you about your community and how Senior Living Direct can help you portray your campus in its best and most accurate light to bring more qualified prospects to your door.
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