Marketing of 2220 Kingsway

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Looks Like a … Fail

Lead-Up Hype

On 8 February 2014 the marketing campaign for Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway development project held a “South Tower Release Event.” A 6 by 12 inch glossy marketing announcement was mailed out to the surrounding area. The event was timed to fall in the middle of the surrounding two weeks of Chinese New Year festivities. The card design drew the eye to a coupon-like box that proclaimed:

              New Year Special Savings          Save Up to $20,000

Here is what the card looked like:


The lead-up to this “event” also featured three full-page advertisements in the Georgia Straight for three weeks running: p. 8 for Jan 23-30, p. 6 for Jan 30-Feb 6, p. 10 for Feb 6-13.

On the Day

The Kensington Gardens sales center has enveloped the old Canadian Tire big box store building on the site. Here is what the event looked like from outside on that sunny day at noon, when the marketing machine hoped to stampede anxious buyers into grabbing a New Year discount:

     Parking Lot — Mostly Sales Staff and Dollarama Shoppers?

Around front at the grand entrance, no people are lined up to elbow their way toward lucky bargains. There is nothing but one wistful batch of balloons and a point-the-way signboard:

     Not Here, Not Saying Yes

Wait. Maybe this special “event” is like a yard sale, where shoppers in-the-know have shown up ahead of time to snatch the goodies. Let’s check inside:

     Cavern of the Walking Dead

First Release?

The promo advertising for this “South Tower Release Event” boasted

              First Release an Overwhelming Success

What was this purported “first release”? On 23 November 2012 marketer George Wong, principal of Magnum Projects, put on what he called a carnival in the display center. Three days in advance, an infomercial appeared in the Vancouver Courier to promise attenders:

a circus performance by Blink Acro, a magician, Miss Chinese pageant girls, musical performances by Famous Players and Kuba Oms, a food truck festival, children’s activities and an appearance by former Vancouver Canuck Kirk McLean. [1]

The “first release” seemed designed to release good feelings and nothing else. After all, in late November everybody is thinking mainly about the money they need for Christmas. Nowhere in sight was anyone sitting down with buyers to nail down contracts for units that exist only as pied-in-the-sky sketches.

By way of contrast with February 2014, here are four glimpses of the December 2013 faux-release:

     Line-Up Outside Main Entrance

     “Miss Chinese Pageant Girls” [their words]

     Aerial Acrobat

     George Wong Promoting the Project

If someone puts on a no-cost event with music, entertainment, fun for children, and food trucks (free only until 2:00 pm, many were disappointed to discover), it isn’t surprising if they manage to draw a crowd. To call the attendance 5,000 seems quite a stretch. But to call whatever happened first release looks more like outright prevarication than any kind of stretch.

Contrast with Marketing of 2300 Kingsway

Anyone who was present at the 2010 opening sales day of the Wall project at Kingsway and Nanaimo knows what successful release marketing looks like — people crowding in to sign contracts for units that do not exist, exuding anxiety to buy. Rennie Marketing Systems reposts this Vancouver Sun article about the result.

Phase 1 of the development is comprised of a 22-storey high-rise and a mid rise, and went on sale on May 29. Approximately 95 per cent of those units have been snapped up and demand is also expected to be high for the 96 homes in phase two. [2]

In this context it is amusing to sneak a peek into a relationship that once existed between marketer Bob Rennie and Westbank principal Ian Gillespie, the developer who stands behind the 2220 Kingsway project:

Gillespie, Cheng, and up-and-coming condo salesman Bob Rennie exploded onto the Vancouver development scene together in the mid-’90s; the three represented development savvy, distinctive architecture, and a new kind of lifestyle marketing. But the great partnership evaporated. Rennie and Gillespie had a famous falling-out six years ago. [3]

Has Bob Rennie ever decided to put on a carnival? Do Ian Gillespie and his marketer George Wong have any grasp of the location where they seek to plunk down a fortress compound?

Bob Rennie had first-hand acquaintance with the Norquay neighborhood through his mother. This connection showed up in the naming of a part of the project that he marketed.

Phase two has been dubbed Eldorado in honour of the hotel on the site, which was originally oriented primarily toward business travellers. Rennie’s mother worked for years as a waitress in the dining room. [2]

Gillespie’s concept of a fortress compound at 2220 Kingsway, a form never intended by the Norquay Plan, has made the 2300 Kingway towers look better than they ever did before (despite lack of setback and excessive height).

Holborn bogged down with “The Hills” and then handed its project off to Wall for salvage as 2300 Kingsway. Westbank probably has too much ego invested to even consider a parallel maneuver.

It will be interesting to watch how Westbank copes with the trials of trying to do its upscale thing in the wrong location … location … location.

[1]  Naiobh O’Connor. Developing story: Carnival planned to help sell Kingsway condos. Vancouver Courier (19 Nov 2013)

[2]  Claudia Kwan. Daughter know best, Kingsway buyer reports. Vancouver Sun (17 July 2010)

[3]  Frances Bula. The new skyline: Ian Gillespie’s vision. Vancouver magazine (1 Mar 2014)


Written by eyeonnorquay

23 February 2014 at 9:16 pm

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