COVID-19 and Pivoting for Productivity

COVID-19 and Pivoting for Productivity

COVID-19 and Pivoting for Productivity


Mike Peacock: Welcome back to Cosmic Soup. Thanks for tuning in to part two of our conversation with Derek Dujardin. In part one, we talked about how creative thinking can help with your ROI. Now sit back and listen as we discuss COVID-19 and Derek’s thoughts on pivoting for productivity and positivity. We’re going to pick up right where we left off last time. Here we go.

Yeah. Let’s kind of shift gears a little bit then. We’ve talked about what you are, what you do, and how the industry is historically and normally right now. But if we’re going to talk about the elephant in the room, as we all have started to call it, COVID-19 is really kind of changing the landscape of the way that we do business, not just our industry and our businesses, but worldwide. In your opinion, how was the state of senior living advertising pre-COVID and how is it different today, overall?

Derek Dujardin: Well, okay. I’m going to break that apart into two parts. I think, overall, as an industry went, we were, of course, selling a lifestyle and there are lots of things that we’re doing. But, overall, I think there’s a lot of grayscape. I think there’s a lot of what I call lazy advertising out there where people think that the only way you can sell a senior living community is by showing pictures of seniors or showing pictures of buildings. Then maybe they’ll show a picture of seniors wearing funny glasses and they think that counts as being creative.

Mike: [Laughter]

Derek: We take an approach where – you know what I mean? If you look at the ads that are out there, Bill Maher did a really funny piece on this about a year and a half ago where he shows these ads side-by-side. One is a Viagra ad and one is a reverse mortgage and they’re using the same stock photography. He goes, “I don’t know which one I should be more excited about, Viagra or a reverse mortgage,” retirement living or absorbent diapers.

They use the exact same imagery and they always show people with gray hair when what we actually know is that most people will dye their hair and most people feel like they’re not really represented, their age group is not really being represented for older Americans I advertising. It’s really a disservice of what’s going on, I think, in the industry.

For us, we also use metaphors. Like I talked about earlier with the mermaid, there’s a way that you can use images like a mermaid or peacock or something like that that I call getting 100% of the eyeballs. You should really go for getting 100% of the eyeballs and then let the reader figure out if this ad is for them.

Do something that’s imaginative, that’s creative, that’s also relevant. You can’t do something that’s completely unrelated to what you’re selling, but you can find that thread that’s related to it and, with that said, you get 100% of the people to look at that ad. They’ll look at that mermaid and go, “Wow, that got my attention.” They read the ad. They go, “Oh, it’s for senior living, not for me.”

Well, if you got 100% of the eyeballs, you’re also going to get that 5% that is your target audience, so I think it works really well to shoot for that versus what the industry does now is they try to shoot to get just that 5%. They think that the people that are seniors are just looking to read their ads. The truth is, they’re looking to ignore that ad, right?

You want to basically, I call it, eyeball bait. Do things that are going to catch people’s attention. Have them engage with that ad. Then decide whether it is for them and self-select whether they’re going to follow up on it or not. Don’t start with the lowest common denominator and expect that that’s going to be successful.

Anyway, that’s how things are and will be again, in the industry. I’m a little bit on my soapbox here because I’m passionate about this stuff.

Mike: [Laughter]

Derek: The other thing, too, with COVID-19, we have to now talk more about security, I think. The message that we’re doing and we’re going out to the communities is that our community is the best place to be right now. That’s kind of like the core message, and there are lots of ways to say that but that’s kind of like the core message that you can build on.

People are a little freaked out. There are shortages of food. They’re afraid that if something happens and they twist their ankle, they go to the emergency room, they’re going to die from COVID-19, so a lot of people don’t have help any longer because maybe they aren’t getting home visits because those home visit people might be infected with COVID-19.

The idea of being in the community feels safe. They’re not going to run out of toilet paper. They’re going to have food. If something happens to you, if you get sick, not even with COVID but something else happens, there’s going to be somebody there to help you and you won’t necessarily have to go to the hospital. You could be treated onsite.

I think that’s where what’s going on with our pivot program, I guess that’s kind of like the big pillar of it that we want to talk about. Then the individual parts of that is, how do you get people to engage if they can’t come into a community? They can’t do an event, do a tour, or something like that.

We’re putting together a lot of webinar presentations that are interesting on their own that are really well crafted and well messaged that then salespeople can use that as an online virtual tour. They can do a virtual tour and then they can do informational content. We’re also doing gated content, which are ebooks that are related to that. They might be something like nine financial tips for moving into a Life Plan Community or they might be how to design your life, like life coaching in your later years.

We’re doing other ones that are like premium content such as an animal communicator, somebody that can come in and teach people how to communicate with their animals, like telepathically. It’s pretty cool. I actually know this woman and it seems to work. Anyway, so we’re doing some fun stuff like that.

We really recognize that there are fundamentals that need to be done for a website. There are a lot of things that people have assumed are okay. Maybe in the past, it was okay to lose 10%, 20%, 30% of your leads because you had enough volume and you were still able to make your numbers. Now, that’s unacceptable.

Every lead should be precious, and so we want to help them plug those holes. Where are those leaky buckets in their marketing? We go in there and do a site audit and make sure there’s nothing that’s leaking that we can plug up.

Then, of course, like I said, we want the gated content to draw leads in. Then once people become a lead, how to nurture those leads so they end up buying and leasing.

Mike: Yeah. That’s a lot. There is just so much happening. Clearly, the way that you and our company, of course, but you personally have really kind of taken your outside of the box thinking and applied that tenfold to say, “Okay, listen. This is where we are now. We have to focus now into a different set of areas because what was previously the focus doesn’t really apply to today’s times. We’ll get back to it but, right now, we need to figure out for everybody how we can make the most of the situations that are presenting themselves to us right now.”

Derek: Yeah, exactly. You said that exactly right.

It goes back to, I’ve been reading a lot of stoic philosophy from, like, the Romans. One of the things, they invented, “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with it.” That whole idea is that you can’t control anything in the world except for your reaction to that thing.

I think that’s where we need to be sitting as advertisers in the company. What can we have control over? We do have control over how well we funnel those leads through. We have control over our social media. We have control over certain things. We have control of whether we decide to continue marketing during this time or not.

I think a lot of these communities are making a mistake by stopping their marketing. They just decided, “Well, no one is buying, so we aren’t going to market.” The truth is, there are people that are buying right now. There are people that are moving into communities right now because they’re scared and they know that they need to sell their house. They better move so they can sell their house quicker. If you’re not marketing right now, you’re losing out on that.

At the same time, there will be a recovery. I don’t know if it’s going to be two years from now or two months from now. Something could happen. There could be a breakthrough tomorrow and we may be fine come the fall or this could go on for two years or three years.

Either way, the science is pretty strong on this if you market during a recession or even a depression. It goes back to the old Kellogg’s versus Post cereal battle. Post cereal led the market prior to 1929. Then Kellogg was kind of a nobody, right? But they continued to create products.

They continued to market and, during the depression, they grew like 30%. Their profitability was much higher than Post. Then when there is a recovery that happened, they just beat Post by leaps and bounds because they had already been taking that time to innovate and to keep marketing, so when people had money, they knew where to go.

I think if you wait until the economy recovers, it’s too late. I think by then other people are going to beat you to the punch and there’s going to be pent up demand. I think the ones that are continuing doing that, doing the marketing, doing the advertising, doing the outreach, sending direct mail, being in contact, that they’re softening the ground for that recovery time. Yeah.

Mike: Well, when people are ready, they will already have the solution in place. They’ll know right where to go.

Derek: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s where a lot of people talk about their branding. I tell them, “Hey, this is the time to get your brand ready. You don’t have to launch it until the recovery but get it all done and get it all in the can. You know what your ads are going to be, your direct mail, and what your logo is going to be,” all that. Then when the recovery happens and it’s the roaring ’20s again, you hit the airwaves, the Internet, and the newspaper with this brand new brand, it’s going to do a really great job for you. Don’t wait until the recovery and then go, “Oh, I need to put together a brand,” because it’s going to take you six months and then you might miss your window.

Mike: Do you think that senior living organizations still need both a digital and a traditional advertising campaign?

Derek: Not anymore. I think that might have been true like five years ago. It really was probably smart back then to have that specialty, but what’s happened in the industry is there’s been a real democratization of the tools. What used to be an individual agency’s repertoire, they had the kind of inside scoop on Google Analytics and they knew all the ins and outs. All that has been pretty much, as I said, flattened where anybody who is a Google partner who has been looking at the stock, who has the tools knows what to do. Before of that, there is not nearly that. You don’t need the expense of having both.

Also, if you still have a traditional advertising agency that doesn’t have a really good digital partner, they’re probably doing something wrong. The thing is that people should have adopted that by now. Now that they have adopted it, people are getting very good at it in both traditional and digital.

I think we’re going to see a real shrinking of the digital agencies in the future because digital agencies are really good at the digital stuff. They’re not very good at ideas. They’re not really good at creative. They’re not really good at branding.

They think that they can get by, by the technology, but once everybody has the same technology, it’s like the printing press. Okay. You’re the only guy in town with the printing press. All right, that’s great. Now, once we have two printing presses, it’s not about who has a better printing press. It’s about who has the better ideas in the printing. I think that’s where it kind of comes back to who is generating the best ideas that are going to work both for a digital platform as well as in traditional media.

Mike: That’s a pretty good perspective, pretty good insight. Only time will tell how we choose to continue on forward, but I am definitely optimistic that things will get back to normal at some point. Those that are prepared by the time that that time rolls around, they’re going to be the ones that come out ahead of the gate, so some good advice there.

Now, my friend, is the time that I’m going to ask you Cynthia’s favorite questions. Are you ready for this?

Derek: Is this what I’m wearing?


Mike: What are you wearing, Derek? I know what you’re wearing.

Derek: T-shirt.

Mike: Yeah, a stylish checkered suit that nobody else could ever get away with wearing but you.

Derek: You know it’s so funny. I bought a bunch of brand new clothes because we were going to be doing so much traveling and presenting this year—

Mike: Yeah.

Derek: –that I went all out and bought a whole new wardrobe. Then COVID-19 happened and it’s like, man, I’ve got all these great suits and everything I’ve been wanting to rock out to. My wife and I have started this thing where—we haven’t done it every week—the idea is, once a week, we dress up.

Mike: Yeah.

Derek: We dress up in our house. We have a dinner that we’ve made or we’ve ordered out and we have a nice dress-up dinner just so we can see each other in makeup and everything else. Yeah, it’s kind of fun, you know.

Mike: Yeah.

Derek: Anyhow, what was the question? [Laughter]

Mike: I could totally see you guys doing that.


Derek: Yeah.

Mike: What was the question? The question was – we hadn’t gotten there yet, sir. The question is, okay, so, what are three things that senior living providers can do starting today that will make a difference in the lives of their residents?

Derek: One of our clients had done this really cool thing. They’re doing Margarita Mondays.

Mike: Mm-hmm.

Derek: They’re basically delivering margaritas around to the different rooms. They’re doing really cool stuff like engaging them in ways that they call it distance socializing instead of social distancing.

I think that would be something because it’s kind of like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Once you get to the bottom of the pyramid taken care of like safety, security, and food, people need self-actualization, love, and connection. I think they’re really good at sort of the bottom part of the pyramid. How do they take care of the upper part of it?

The other thing I think, too, food is really important. My dad is at an independent living community, that will go nameless right now, in Seattle, that I’m not too happy with. They’re doing the delivery of the food to the rooms and the food was bad before but now it’s gotten even worse.

My dad is a diabetic. He needs to always be eating enough calories each day. I think just having better quality of food is really important.

Then, boy, the third thing, what would be the third thing? I think if there was a way to really kind of bring family in, in a way that was safe, I don’t know how that would work but kind of like the old cone of silence that they did at Maxwell Smart. Something where you could sit across from somebody and have a great conversation, kind of like when you go to a prison and you have the plexiglass.

Mike: [Laughter] I wasn’t going to say it but that’s what was popping up in my head.

Derek: Yeah! Yeah, yeah, that’s what I’m saying, but if there’s a way we can do it without making it feel like you’re in a prison. That idea that you can’t necessarily touch but you can really see each other would be really, really great if there’s a way that we could do that and bring the people back in and have that connection – I don’t know – where you can hug somebody.

Mike: A visiting room or something.

Derek: Yeah, and this is where I’m going to go crazy, you know, my mind goes, but I kind of think about when you have those incubators and those babies. You have a suit on and you can both put on a suit. You can hug each other with a suit on or something like that. You can at least touch. I think that that’s really missing for people right now is that physical touch.

Mike: Yeah.

Derek: I know I miss hugging people. I’m a big hugger, so I can’t wait to get back to that.

Mike: Yeah. Well, those are three awesome things, I think. I would love to see people in the huggy suit. Not going to lie. That’d be kind of cool.


Mike: If you could wave the magic wand, Derek, and create your own dream community, anything you want, nothing off limits, craziest concepts that come to your mind, what would your community look like? What would it consist of?

Derek: Yeah, I’ve actually thought about this because I thought about it for my dad. My dad is an artist and he’s a writer. He’s now 83 and a super creative, talented guy. I think I get a lot of my stuff from him.

What I would love to see is an artist colony. What I would like how that would look is you bring people in who are maybe younger. Maybe what I mean by younger, maybe they’re in their early 70s. Okay? But then they’ve had a career. They’ve had an artistic career of some kind.

Part of their room and board is that they teach classes. You have a faculty. You have somebody that does pottery, somebody that does textile, somebody that does poetry, writing, and video work, or just painting, you know, watercolors.

Everybody who wants to be in this community are into that art. They’re artistic people. They want to experiment with different artforms. Not just, “Oh, let’s do collage or let’s do coloring books,” but real art.

Then part of that would be people could take that art and then they could sell it. There would be kind of like a showroom or an art gallery and there’d be different exhibits. There’d be an area where different presenters would come in and talk about their form and their media.

Kind of almost like a mini art school, college that people would enroll, live there, and it would be really part of it. Then they would also have other groups that could come in. They could bring kids in that could teach and experience art.

That’s something that I would love to see created. I believe there might be something similar to that in San Francisco. There’s a group that does something like that. I’d like to see more of them.

I also have an idea, I mean I’m going to need two communities. That’s how creative I am. Not just one community, but two communities.

Mike: [Laughter]

Derek: The second community would be an animal kind of like a humane society thing where part of the community would just be like the humane society. The other part would be assisted living, independent living. But then if you move in, it’s like you can’t be allergic to cats and dogs because cats and dogs are going to be everywhere and you can then go to the kennel part of it and love on the animals, groom them, give them baths, help with the medications, and do all that, you know, help with the adoptions.

To me, communities that come together that have a central purpose to them beyond just, okay, we’re going to house people and make them comfortable. Okay, that’s fine, but I think communities that give people a purpose, that’s what’s going to define the next generation. That’s what people are really longing for and that’s what I want to live in, too.

I want to live in a place where there’s something that gets me up in the morning, that gets me excited, and I’m part of something bigger than myself. There’s a reason why I’m here. I’m not just taking up space.

Mike: Yeah. No, defining the purpose, I think, is crucial. It’s an element that I think doesn’t really get vocalized as articulately as you just did. I think people definitely want to feel like it’s more than just a place to live. I need to find something that gives my daily life a meaning, a purpose, something to look forward to besides just wake up, eat, go to bed. Yeah, cool stuff, dude. Appreciate that.

Derek: Hey, I want to add one more thing. This is something that I’ve been thinking about. There’s a doctor called Viktor Frankl. He lived through a Nazi concentration camp. He developed this philosophy of life. It’s called logotherapy, which means meaning therapy, if you break out those two words.

His whole thing is that you can survive any “how” if you have a big enough “why.” Happiness, you can’t pursue happiness. Happiness ensues from living a meaningful life.

I would really like to develop, I guess it would be, a curriculum that we could bring into senior living communities that talk about what is my meaning now that a lot of meaning has been stripped away from me because we used to have meaning from, well, I was meaningful because I was there for my kids. I was meaningful because of my grandkids. I was meaningful because of my job or my career or I had a hobby or I volunteered. But as you get older, a lot of pruning happens and there tends to be a hole left there.

What Viktor Frankl talks about is challenging us to find that meaning, that every life is asked to define that. It’s not just one meaning. It’s not like, what’s the meaning of life? It’s kind of like saying, what’s the best move in chess? There’s no such thing as a best move in chess. It depends on what’s going on with the pieces on the board, right?

I think having something like that, that people start to engage with as they find their meaning, I think would really help with later life for a lot of folks. I want to develop some sort of curriculum like that. I don’t know when I’ll have time to do it, but it’s a passion of mine.

Mike: Yeah. Well, I support you in that endeavor. That sounds absolutely epic.

Speaking of epic, it has been absolutely epic having you on the show today, sir. Thank you for stopping by, virtually anyway, and letting me pick your brain for a little bit.

Derek: Oh, it’s been a pleasure, my brother. Yeah, I really enjoyed this. Thanks again and I don’t know how long we’ve gone. This has been, what, a four-hour interview? [Laughter]


Mike: Even if it was a four-hour interview, that’s not nearly enough time to absorb all of those amazing tidbits of awesomeness that Derek provides to the universe.

Speaking of awesomeness, you—that’s right, you, the listeners—are also so full of awesomeness, I am almost at a loss for words. Well, almost. You know what would be super awesome? If you sent an email to and left us some feedback, some questions, and/or some comments.

Don’t forget to follow 3rdThird Marketing on social media as well. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, @3rdThirdMarketing, and on Twitter, @3rdThird_Mktg. Thanks again for listening and we’ll talk to you soon on Cosmic Soup.


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