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No Place Like M!ne (Rent to Buy scheme)

County Durham Housing Group (CDHG) were launching a new product in 2019: a series of Rent to Buy homes in plots across County Durham. They were diversifying their portfolio: entering a new market with a new product.

We partnered with the Group to develop the brand, website and launch strategy for the new product.

The key challenge for the launch would be attracting the right target audience, challenging the old perceptions of social housing providers and differentiating the brand in a crowded market.

The target audience was very different to the usual audience for the housing association’s marketing. The products had to appeal to people under 40, in work who could be: single, newlyweds, families, divorcees or separated parents. The research stated that the new homeowners would be highly likely to already live in the North East – and County Durham specifically.

The client wanted a sub-brand which was professional, distinctive, aspirational and different from existing providers.

With this in mind, a program of research was undertaken, starting with primary research amongst the new market. We asked 100 people in the North East who were renting or living with family or friends their perception of Rent to Buy schemes:

The most important factors when choosing a Rent to Buy Scheme were:

  • Cost of rent
  • Location of property
  • Reputation of housing developer/associations
  • Time period before option to buy becomes available
  • Private housing developer versus housing association
  • Ease of contacting landlord
  • Housing provider’s affiliation with region
  • Extra service available to the tenants/buyers e.g. financial advice


We asked them where they would look for a Rent to Buy Scheme and a large majority (73%) said they would start with an online search. Asking friends and family was next (10%) followed by those who already knew their local providers (10%) and would go straight to them. Newspapers and social media were the least likely places to discover a Rent to Buy scheme.


We also asked what the perception of Rent to Buy schemes was – answers below:

  • “Fair and easy”
  • “It helps those who currently cannot afford to buy outright due to their current financial circumstances. It is a good idea.”
  • “Not available to everyone.”
  • “The rent is deducted from the total price.”
  • “Sounds good but I haven’t seen many schemes like that.”
  • “I have no idea but I’m going to google it now.”
  • “More expensive and risky overall than getting a mortgage but a good way to get in the property market on lower income.”

The competitive landscape was analysed to ensure the new brand would be distinctive whilst still appealing to the market.

We created an aspirational positioning in the market. We wanted to energise and enthuse potential tenants to “dream big”; to understand that they can have the life they want, and CDHG could help them.

The final concept, ‘M!ne’, is a combination of the past and the present; the history of County Durham combined with the futures CDHG are providing for its new residents. The concept links with the mining legacy of the region whilst providing the aspirational messaging opportunities such as ‘This home is m!ne’, ‘No place like m!ne’ and ‘This community is m!ne’.

The main colour scheme is bright, fun and appealing, and each Rent to Buy site has its own colour, allowing tenants/buyers to ‘own’ their site colour. It is also flexible enough to easily add in another colour when a new site is added to the offer. The flat illustrations give the brand personality and flexibility so that photography of each demographic, site and house was not needed to be constantly refreshed throughout the campaign as it progressed over the following three years.

Full brand guidelines were created so that both agency and internal team could collaborate on the roll-out of the new brand.

The marketing plan focused on educating the target market about Rent to Buy. As “Help to Buy” is an umbrella phrase which covers Help to Buy loans, Shared ownership and Rent to Buy Schemes, it was important that potential tenants could see why a CDHG Rent to Buy scheme would help them compared to alternatives.

Alongside the usual branded stationery and collateral, a series of infographics was created including key statistics on the local area for each site which would be interesting to potential homeowners. These were distributed via email marketing, advertising, social media and the website blog.

A full content plan was created to educate and inform the market about the new Rent to Buy sites, and gained coverage in regional and trade target publications. Social media advertising was used heavily to share branded content, case studies and build up the client’s database. We also introduced the client to Spotify advertising which drove 10% of all website conversions.


We asked 100 people in the target market their perception of ‘m!ne’, and benchmarked these against the requirements of the client’s brief (“The logo should: Be professional, Be distinctive, Be aspirational and Be different from the existing providers”). 50% of respondents described the logo as fun, vibrant and distinctive. 1 in 4 people described it as professional.

We have conducted a brand awareness survey each quarter since the launch, with increasing brand awareness quarter on quarter, from 10% initially to 20%, 12 months on.

Following the success of the ‘m!ne’ brand launch, Narrative was invited to pitch for a full rebrand of County Durham Housing Group. We were delighted to win this pitch and developed Believe Housing in collaboration with the internal team. This brand won the North East Marketing Award for Brand Creation in 2019.

Jill Ancrum, Head of Communications at Believe Housing said:

“I have worked with Narrative on two substantial strategic and creative projects for the organisation. Not only are their design offerings second to none in terms of their modernity and originality, the team really do know how to take your brand to the next level. Narrative not only find solutions to problems, they beat expectations that you didn’t even know you had.”


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