The company introduced homeowners to equity finance, but they had a naming problem. FirstRex had executed hundreds of deals with homeowners, the attractive product filling an unmet need in a market of rising home prices and stagnant incomes. With a home co-investment from the company then known as FirstRex, you get cash today in exchange for a share in the appreciation or depreciation of your home. There’s no extra debt, no interest and no monthly payments. Sustained declining home values after the global financial crash of 2009 put the company on hiatus. As the US housing market returned to normalcy, FirstRex was ready to reenter with a new, improved offering. Market research, however, showed that there was opportunity for improvement in the brand. Not only was the name less than ideal, the messaging and positioning of their offer needed to improve to gain consumer traction. Time for rebranding.
Interviews of customers acquired before the pause gave insights into how homeowners thought about FirstREX. We followed up with surveys of potential customers to uncover the attitudes and beliefs that governed their purchase decisions. Key insights from this research were:
Analyzing the sales process for generating deals, it also became obvious that a large amount of consumer education was required to fully inform and convince customers of the potential benefits for the program.
Utilizing these insights to develop messaging and positioning that addressed the target markets needs, we developed several direct mail programs reaching out to audiences with the financial characteristics that we predicted would be most amenable to the offer. These early test campaigns were unsuccessful. Retooling our messaging, we tried again working with a leading direct mail marketing firm to ensure that all parts of our campaign were operating to the best practices of the industry. These efforts also delivered unsatisfactory results but pointed the way to the communications and channels that would work with customers.
Anecdotal evidence from the market research was that FirstRex was not a very good name. It conjured up images of dinosaurs for some people and at best neutral emotions in the rest. To turn a possible deficit into an asset, We hired Marshall Strategy to conduct a positioning, strategy and naming exercise. Over the course of three months, we worked with Marshall Strategy to clarify our value propositions, messaging and brand architecture and create a new name for the company and products that best aligned with our values and character. The end result was Unison.
Acting on the insights from our marketing tests and research, Unison developed a content marketing and consumer education strategy that helped put unison’s equity co-investment product in context for homeowners and buyers nurtured sales efforts.
Unison capitalized on its early category leadership to grow from less than $100MM in investments to $4.2B. It has spawned competitors in the space like Point, Unlock, Haus, HomeTap and Noah.