Merchandising Marketer – Give Your Model Appeal


One of the biggest mistakes this merchandising marketer sees in her travels is a lack of target market appeal in model merchandising. It’s pretty. It’s nice. And it’s oh so boring. In an attempt to appeal to everyone, the “safe” model ends up being memorable to no one. Instead of focusing on making sure we don’t turn anyone off, it’s time to start thinking about turning people on. We’ll start with the Generation Y.

To appeal to Gen Y, (for anyone that has been residing in cave, they’re about 18 to 33 right now), it’s important to understand and speak to what they value in a brand.


Gen Y is extremely well educated and they expect brands to understand they’re smart. How do we add smarts to a model?

1. Know and show the details.

If your community offers exceptional insulation, soundproofing, quality construction or eco friendly design, display information in the form of a lifestyle graphic or even in the form of an actual construction sample itself. Make sure leasing professionals can speak intelligently and specifically about the feature.

2. Create a lifestyle graphic with a header that says, “As you search for an apartment, you will want to consider…”

and fill in the rest with real and crucial items that would or should affect the decision making process. Have a copy of this available on your website, and text the client a link following the presentation.

3. Not only does this generation expect smart, they also expect the truth.

Stay away from “dressing up” the model to include anything not provided with the actual apartment. Don’t, for example, use better carpet or carpet padding in the model than what is provided in the actual unit. Wall to wall mirrors may make the model look bigger, but if they don’t come with the apartment, get rid of them. Paint that can’t be replicated,

should a resident desire to customize, is an absolute no-no. Built-ins that aren’t included must be abolished. This demographic will feel duped if what they see is not what they get, and there is a big difference between showing them how they could use the space, versus how it could be…if only we would let them.


To Y, useful is the new cool…and the new essential. Start thinking about ways to demonstrate usefulness in your model apartment. Since this generation sees a strong overlap between work and play, and pretty much are always “on”, show how that lifestyle can be accommodated in your model – for example, how a closet might be modified to easily become a home office hub.

Or, show how easy life will be when they have the uber-fast internet service included with their rent.

People Power

To appeal to Gen Y, the team must be perceived as likeable, useful, experts. That means they know things like how many outlets are in a typical apartment, or how deep the garage is, or how big, specifically, the closet is. Have the team explore the model and find and memorize specifics. It will make a volume of difference to how the model is perceived. How can the team be seen as useful, knowing the demographic is conditioned to a self-serve experience in product exploration?

Healthy Lifestyle

Gen Yers, as a whole, value a healthy lifestyle and the older they become, the more they are considering the food they eat and the lifestyle they live.

1. Punch up the Water

Rather than the traditional bottled water in the fridge experience, try botanical waters, vegetable juice blends, kombucha, and sodas sweetened with honey, agave syrup, and evaporated cane juice for a novel and different approach. If you can’t afford that, try smart water. Unprocessed, low calorie, and natural should be your mantra to make an impact.

2. Healthy Snack Trend Alert

Jerky is enjoying enormous popularity, and would be seen as novel and unique to this demographic. Skip the candy and try some jerky snacks as a way to differentiate.

Keep it Real

Understand the Generation Y lifestyle and find ways to amplify their reality. Work to show furnishings they could actually afford and let them know where to find them. This demographic loves brands like IKEA, Target, Pottery Barn, and any product that offers a story. Provide solutions to the floor plan’s drawbacks with over the door ironing boards, bathroom shelves, etc. Remember, millennials have been inundated with DIY and are not afraid to do it themselves, if you provide the idea.

Finally, if your target is on the younger side of the generation, don’t be afraid to take what is normally considered a traditional space and change it up. Instead of a dining area, for example, you might try placing a foosball table gaming area in the space. Show them fun creative ways to dress up the space in the way they will likely live in it and watch occupancy grow.

In our next issue, I’ll be talking about Boomers!