The “Surban” Millennials Trend: What We’ve Learned and Where It’s Going

Millennials – where are they going?

Up to now, millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1996, have favored city living.  Nine in ten millennials currently live in metropolitan areas.  However, a problem has arisen, and as a result, a new trend has started to emerge.  As millennials – roughly ages 22 to 37 – begin to marry and raise families of their own, they are faced with higher and higher housing costs, as well as poor public schooling.  These factors have begun driving millennials increasingly to move to the suburbs.

What do they want?

In moving to the suburbs, however, millennials want to take a number of key elements of urban living with them to their new homes – walkability and access to public transit, as well as close proximity to amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores, day care, health care/fitness centers, and community events and entertainment. This is giving rise to a new type of suburb called a “surban”.

What is a “surban”?

“Surban”, a term coined by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in California, is a suburban area that has the feel of an urban area, with walkability to great retail (like stores and restaurants) from a house or apartment.  Ideally, these communities offer the best of both worlds – larger, more affordable homes in safer environments with good schools, but also a sense of community, convenience, and in general, a sense of place.  It’s a suburb that is designed with a kind of village mentality in mind.

In the Philadelphia area, an example of a “surban” can be seen in the Village at Valley Forge in King of Prussia – a newer development that bills itself as a place to “live, shop and dine.”

What does this mean?

As millennials continue to move out of the city and find new homes and communities in which to live, this shift in the population will create new opportunities for variety of businesses, such as food markets and household furnishings stores, as well as for institutions like healthcare providers that are seeking to develop and expand their reach.

Want to continue the conversation about millennials and surban living?  Contact Sharon Hackenbracht at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x112, or Linda McAleer at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104.

Sharon Hackenbracht

The Melior Group Team Profile: Sharon Hackenbracht

A few years ago our President, Linda McAleer, was selected to be featured in the Philadelphia Business Journal as part of their ongoing CEO File series – and we created a throwback blog post to share some highlights about her leadership and personality.

Inspired, we decided to create a Melior Team Profile for everyone on our staff. By asking and answering these questions, we hope you’ll get to know us a bit more, both personally and professionally.  So far, we’ve featured Vice President Liz Cohen, Senior Project Director Sindey Dranoff and Vice President Elizabeth Foley.

Today, we’re taking the time to get to know Field Director Sharon Hackenbracht, who shares some fun facts about herself:

  • Essential business philosophy: To give clients everything they ask for, but then go further by considering what else they might need to reach any goals they may have
  • Word that best describes you: Persistent
  • Person most interested in meeting: Joyce Carol Oates – extremely intelligent, funny, complex, and yet seemingly approachable person
  • The most important lesson you’ve learned: Any experience, good or bad, can be the basis for learning something useful

To learn more about Sharon, check out her full bio here.


Philanthropy: It’s More Than Just Money

This past week, Giving USA™ presented its report of charitable giving by individuals, corporations, bequests and foundations.  The extremely positive news was that in 2017, charitable giving was up 5.2% in the U.S.  Each of the donor groups increased its giving over the previous year, with the greatest overall percentage of giving attributed to individuals… whose giving represented 70% of all charitable gifts.

This philanthropy represents the true kindness and generosity of the American people.  When faced with a crisis, a need or the inhumanity of others, Americans step up and demonstrate our caring with both financial and other gifts.  While the classic definition of philanthropy is “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes,” today’s true “philanthropists” are more than that definition; they demonstrate passion and focus on positive change; and they are not solely defined by the amount they give.

What does it take, then, to encourage charitable giving to particular institutions, organizations and issues?  The following are words of wisdom, implications taken from research conducted by The Melior Group in community studies and for other non-profits:

  • Donors must be inspired. A performance, story or (hoped-for future) event can encourage prospective donors to consider gifts.
  • Donors want to be engaged. It is no longer a one-and-done gift:  donors want to feel a personal connection; they want to give time and expertise in addition to money, and to feel that they know the organization.
  • Donors want to make a difference. While donors recognize their role is not to actually solve the problems, they do want demonstration (such as tangible metrics) of the impact their contributions are making.
  • Donors recognize it’s their voices, as well as their money. It is important to consider the critical role of advocacy as a philanthropic mechanism; positive change comes from organizations that work from the inside as well as the outside to improve the lives of others.

Questions?  Comments?  Interested in learning more? Contact Linda McAleer at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104.

Elizabeth Foley

The Melior Group Team Profile: Elizabeth Foley

A few years ago our President, Linda McAleer, was selected to be featured in the Philadelphia Business Journal as part of their ongoing CEO File series – and we created a throwback blog post to share some highlights about her leadership and personality.

Inspired, we decided to create a Melior Team Profile for everyone on our staff. By asking and answering these questions, we hope you’ll get to know us a bit more, both personally and professionally.  Earlier we featured Vice President Liz Cohen and Senior Project Director Sindey Dranoff.

Today, we’re taking the time to get to know Vice President Elizabeth Foley, who shares some fun facts about herself:

  • Essential business philosophy: Plan ahead
  • First choice for a new career: Radio DJ
  • Person most interested in meeting: Michelle Obama
  • The most important lesson you’ve learned: Common sense isn’t very common

To learn more about Elizabeth, check out her full bio here.

independent high schools

Three Criteria Crucial To Marketing Independent High Schools

In our 35 year history, The Melior Group has worked with numerous independent high schools, including those with a faith-based mission.  Given the demographic forecasts which predict a dip in the number of high school students over the next several years, rising tuition costs, and overcapacity in many markets, it is not surprising that our recent projects all center on helping independent schools enhance their outreach and recruitment efforts.

In our work, we’ve talked with countless parents about how they make educational decisions.  We’ve heard them express their hopes and aspirations for their children, and their belief that the “right” school can enable those visions.  We thus have gained insight into what parents value when “shopping” for schools, and we know what schools need to communicate in order to attract the students they want.

First and foremost, our advice is this:  in this competitive environment, every school needs to be prepared with the answer to the following question:  ‘at the end of high school, how will my child be better as a result of attending YOUR SCHOOL (versus going somewhere else)?’ 

Parents, in making assessments about what is the best school for their child, compare schools on three overarching criteria.  We believe that in each of these areas, schools need to articulate their unique approach/philosophy, strengths and track record:

  1. Strong academics are a baseline expectation of independent schools. Parents assess excellence in this area by examining college admissions statistics (parents want to see that nearly all graduates attend college, and that some are accepted to highly competitive colleges); breadth and depth of classes offered; word-of-mouth about teaching quality; availability of advanced courses; presence of academic enrichment opportunities (e.g., STEM club, trips, lab facilities, etc.); and availability of academic support from teachers and learning specialists.
  2. Parents want to see evidence of measurable outcomes on the “investment” in tuition. They want to know how their investment will impact admissions to competitive colleges; ability to earn college scholarship money; and career prospects and earning potential.  It is important to note that parents love seeing evidence of strong alumni networks, which they perceive can contribute to graduates’ career success.
  3. Potential for personal growth is also critically important, and as such parents look closely at extracurricular opportunities, and the extent to which their child could identify and pursue their individual interests and passions. They also assess intangible culture factors including values, spirituality/religion, character development, love of learning, and where their child will “fit”.  While these factors can be difficult to articulate, they are what parents point to as distinguishing public schools from independent schools, and independent schools from each other.

In sum, the schools that are able to meet their enrollment goals are those that can make the case that their graduates are better off for having gone there. 

Do you have questions about marketing an independent high school?  Give us a call or shoot us an email and let us know how we can help.

For more information please contact Elizabeth Cohen at [email protected]/215-545-0054 ext. 103

sindey dranoff

The Melior Group Team Profile: Sindey Dranoff

A few years ago our President, Linda McAleer, was selected to be featured in the Philadelphia Business Journal as part of their ongoing CEO File series – and we created a throwback blog post to share some highlights about her leadership and personality.

Inspired, we decided to create a Melior Team Profile for everyone on our staff. By asking and answering these questions, we hope you’ll get to know us a bit more, both personally and professionally.  Earlier we featured Vice President Liz Cohen.

This month, we’re taking the time to get to know Senior Project Director Sindey Dranoff, who recently became the leader of our Jewish Studies Initiative:

  • Essential business philosophy: Don’t jump to conclusions, listen carefully and ask questions to clarify.
  • Best decision: Going to Northeastern University in Boston. Northeastern’s Cooperative Education program exposed me to real life and the business world.  Not only did I gain work experience, but I also had the opportunity to take these experiences back to the classroom and apply them in an academic setting.
  • Word that best describes you: Fearless – I am willing to try new things and learn new things in business.
  • The most important lesson you’ve learned: Honesty is the best policy – in life and in business. Be yourself and be true to yourself.  This informs my work in ethics and compliance at Melior, as well as my other work and volunteer projects.

To learn more about Sindey, check out her full bio here.

higher ed marketing

Keeping Up With Higher Ed Marketing

We’re often asked to share the newest insights we’ve developed through our work with higher education clients and partners, and we’re happy to do so!  Here’s the latest on what’s happening in higher ed marketing:

Prospective students and parents want a compelling story

They want to know that college education will lead to a “good job” after graduation.  It’s incumbent on colleges to show this in stories.  We’ve learned that prospective students want to see outcomes – not data, because they don’t believe what they see or know how to interpret what they see – but stories that they can see themselves in, i.e. specific examples of their possible future.

Prospective families want to understand how to finance college

Understanding the financial planning that goes into college decisions, enrollment and graduation is a daunting task for parents and students.  The various ways of funding higher education – including the impact of student loans on the financial future of students – is confusing and stressful.  Many families do not think they have the information they need to make informed financial decisions with their children.  Colleges that put forth information that helps families to make the decisions are often more appealing than those that don’t.

Branding is still the buzzword

Remember that your “brand” is not your logo, your font or your colors.  And it’s not what you say about yourself.  IT’S WHAT PEOPLE THINK AND SAY ABOUT YOU.  Knowing what each of your target audiences (prospective students, faculty, stakeholders, alumni) currently think and say about you will help you to craft future messages that are honest and appealing.

Brand differentiation is becoming more important – what makes the experience at your college distinctive and worth considering?  If you sound like everyone else, why enroll at your institution over another?  As you work on refining your unique brand, keep in mind that understanding the difference between brand strategy and marketing tactics is critical – once, a college marketer told us her institution’s marketing strategy was billboards.

Social media and online videos have changed the face of information delivery

Universities are looking for multiple ways to get the word out to prospective students, and smart college marketers are meeting students “where they live” – i.e., online via a range of social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.  A social media marketing strategy that includes your web presence is just as critical as a strategy for producing your print materials.  Beyond knowing where to find them online, you need to find out what messages prospective students want to hear about you on social media.

The use of mobile devices to access college information continues to grow and includes video.  Think about it:  the trends of screen sizes of our mobile devices over the past few years are actually getting bigger – and that’s to accommodate video.  One of our agency partners is convinced that within 5 years, everything on college websites will include video.

Traditional measures of success no longer tell the whole story

Traditionally, top-of-mind awareness is used as a metric of success to understand where an organization stands in the minds of consumers… and colleges often use this metric to measure success among prospective students.  Those colleges that are really stepping up their marketing initiatives have learned that incorporating a combination of metrics help to better predicts success, including:  prospective students’ likelihood to visit, interest in applying, likelihood to recommend, as well as the college’s own web/social media activities, in addition to alumni giving/engagement.

The Melior Group can help

Keeping up with higher ed marketing can be a daunting task.  The Melior Group regularly works with our higher ed clients to understand brand awareness and develop metrics appropriate to evaluate success, as well as better engage with prospective students, parents, alumni and stakeholders.  Reach out to us to learn more about how our research can help you.

To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, please contact Elizabeth Foley [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111


Eagles community

It’s a Community Thing!

Philadelphians have a unique relationship with our sports teams – especially our Iggles!   We wish for the best, but expect the worst.  So as each win occurred this season, we held our collective breath just a little bit more.  Could it be – could this be the year that the Philadelphia Eagles finally win the Super Bowl?

On Super Bowl Sunday the Philadelphia airport was filled with people “coming home” to watch the game in their community with their friends and family members – to witness history together.  I myself cut short a “girls weekend” in Nashville so that I could be home too.  Almost everyone on my flight to Philly was wearing Eagles paraphernalia – and we even had the flight attendants lead us in an “E-A-G-L-E-S!” cheer.

By now we all know how this turned out – and the resounding “yes we can” turned into “yes we did!” The Eagles overcame injuries, adversity and underdog status and came out on top!  But this is about more than just a group of very talented athletes and coaches who won a trophy.  This is about lifelong dreams finally coming true – about generations of families coming together to celebrate something they never thought they would see in their lifetimes.

As the new leader of the Community Studies initiative at The Melior Group, I look at this experience as an example of the unique culture of the Philadelphia community.  Each community across the country has its own culture, its own way of expressing itself and its own sense of what is important.  In our community studies projects, we ask the right questions to understand what makes a community tick, what is important to community members, how they make decisions and what the implications of those decisions are.

Philadelphians might leave the nest, but they flock home for the important things – like Eagles Super Bowl games and victory parades!  Fly Eagles Fly!

Want to talk about your community’s challenges and opportunities? Please reach out to Sindey Dranoff at 215-545-0054 ext. 108 / [email protected].

market research

When Conventional Wisdom Isn’t Wisdom: Five Considerations to Get the Answers You Need from Market Research

Both for-profit and non-profit organizations wrestle with the approach to marketing themselves.  Management questions emerge about whether and how to advertise, how to price products and services, what new markets are emerging, how to (re)position and take advantage of opportunities, how to retain customers, where to look for new customers or business partners, whether a new product or service will succeed and when to launch something new – the list goes on and on.

Too often, management relies on conventional wisdom or “gut” thinking rather than integrating information from market research.  The right information can help focus these management questions and provide important answers.  When considering whether or not to include market research, think about the following:

  1. What marketing or management decisions do I need to make for my organization? How much will it cost me (in time, money, or reputation) to be wrong?
  2. What do I already know? Do I have the data to back this up?  What will I need to learn?
  3. What do I need to know about my competition and what they are doing that will help guide my organization?
  4. What should my marketing and sales strategies include in order to optimize my reach to existing and new audiences/customers?
  5. Once I’ve conducted research, how do I use the resulting information optimally?

Providing data to answer these questions is one of the roles of market research. Organizations want to make business and marketing decisions based on a deeper understanding of the key factors that will influence successes, so they can feel confident that their plan will reap rewards.  The Melior Group can help you discover these key answers, data and influential factors, as well as provide strategic recommendations, that will help you guide your organization to greater success in the future.

For more information or to request a proposal, contact Linda McAleer at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104.

market research

The Value of Market Research

In our 35 years in business, we’ve often stumbled upon the same roadblock with our clients – they know they need to do market research in order to move forward, but they have trouble gaining approval from the higher-ups.  When there is a “we already know this” attitude but it’s not backed up by data, that’s where companies and organizations run the risk of wasting time, money and energy on ineffective endeavors.

We were happy to see Quirks, the marketing research magazine, publish an article that touches on the importance of research, as well as how to explain to colleagues why it is valuable.  If you’re invested in a new research project but know you need approval to start, check out these tactics and then contact us – we will help you get the sign-off you need to move forward.

Click here to read the article: Educating internal stakeholders on the importance of marketing research

Interested in conducting a market research project?  Contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

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