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Monique Woodward from the delightful North Carlton-based WOWOWA Architecture & Interiors, generously shares her experience with video: why she made them, how much she poured into them, and how effective they are at promoting her practice.

Hi Monique. We wanted to ask you about your approach to marketing your practice and particularly your #IfYouWereMine videos. Why did you decide to do them and how are they working for you?

Monique: I started with a question: How do you make people fall in love with architecture? How do you bridge the divide between someone who has studied design and someone who just loves houses intuitively, or is passionate about their family and the space that the family lives in? I figured, it’s by making architecture accessible, writing and speaking in a new way that gives people insight into the wonderful and passionate world of architecture that we all know and exist in.

Many of my friends are entrepreneurs and in advertising. I think I realised quite early on that you don’t reach people with big words, but by communicating complex ideas in simple ways you’re understood by more people. I try and write the way I talk.

With the #IfYouWereMine videos, I’m trying to educate and inspire people. Early on before we had any many projects, I would mentally do little sketch designs for realestate.com houses. “If I lived there, this is what I would do.” By being generous and giving away my good ideas I hoped that people would see our approach and want to work with us. After all, there are always more good ideas where that came from and at the very least maybe someone somewhere decided not to render over their beautiful bricks. Quantifying the influence is hard – it’s acknowledging that people won’t always want your service but maybe they’ll be inspired by your ideas. This was the basis for the #IfYouWereMine videos.

How does this approach affect the type of design you get to do, and the type of people you get to work with?

Monique: Over the years I have had various killer ideas for projects. I’ll meet a new client and be thinking: “Are you the clients that are going to be into this brown marsupial brick thing that I want to do?” Is this a wine match? We are now working on some incredible projects, many not even on our website where the right client has come along and we have been able to test these ripper concepts.

I guess as a young practice I feel like we’re bursting at the seams with all these amazing ideas, and it’s almost like we’re trying to find clients that want to do these ideas. At some point I just got so frustrated that no one would be into these weird things, and so I thought I’d just put them out there. The best day ever will be when someone says: “Hey I saw your #IfYouWereMine video. You really like orange bricks, I have an orange brick house, let’s collaborate.”

I guess it was a fishing exercise as well. I hoped that even if someone saw the video and was like, “Oh, my friend has a Californian bungalow,” they would send it to their friend, and then their friend might say: “Yes, my house does have a moustache. Maybe I will call up this crazy person.” I guess that was another thing: we were waiting. I didn’t want to be sitting on my hands waiting for clients to come.

Instead of waiting for people to come to you, you go to them in the space that they are, and you speak the way they speak. Maybe they might like the way I talk about architecture, or that I get excited about heritage features, because I’m sure that there’s someone else out there that does as well. It’s like architectural online dating. Is that fair to say, Scott? [Monique invites Scott Woodward’s opinion – he’s busily working at his desk nearby…]

Scott: Sure. We’ll go there.

Would you describe the process of how people find you?

Monique: It’s always different: word of mouth, instagram, people walk by our shop! Now we have street presence (cred) we get a lot of walk-ins, all about big jobs in fact – I’ll have a six pack of architecture thanks.

It hasn’t yet worked that someone has watched the #IfYouWereMine videos and called … actually that’s not true. One fabulous lady had seen the videos already and then we met by coincidence at a morning tea and hit it off. But it’s almost more like brand reinforcement, someone walks past then goes to the website, checks us out, watches the vids, decides we are from the same creative tribe then calls to meet.

We all do it – when you find a brand you like, it’s as if all their content reinforces your decision to buy. It’s not just one interaction that makes someone move forward with an architect it’s the whole package.

In terms of the videos as one of those tools, how many resources went into them?

Monique: I was really lucky to have an amazing team of people who helped put the vids together: a student of mine who was interested in film (Shing Hei Ho), a friend of mine who’s in advertising (Emily Somers), and a marketing intern (Rachel Purdie).

But it was me having to write and review the text that took the time. The time spent thinking about describing various features in a memorable and fun way was the killer. Each video took about a week. There are five videos.

Will you be doing more?

Monique: My hope was to do about five or six, to generate the content and try to push it out. I feel like it’s not necessarily about producing more content. It’s about getting people to read and watch the content that you have made.

It was also stressful filming – people would come up to you on the street and ask what was happening, or would just stare at you intimidatingly. The police even stopped us once!

One of my favourite stories is about how a marketer at Pal dog food worked out they could only have 70% market share. So they launched an ‘adopt-a-dog’ campaign to grow the pie, so there were more dogs as pets, so that 70% would increase.

Only 5-7% of houses built in Victoria are designed by architects each year. There’s a whole lot of people who potentially would love to buy in and use our services but they don’t know enough about it or feel that they couldn’t afford it or some reason don’t take the leap of faith and engage architects. That’s our fault we haven’t communicated our worth or communicated the benefits that we could bring to someone’s life. These videos are a way to educate people about the architectural process, passion and purpose. To help increase the pie for everyone.

Thanks so much to Monique for sharing her insights. Make sure you pop over to the #IfYouWereMine vids on the website to see her work.

Ed note: This interview was originally published in 2016.

"I think I realised quite early on that you don’t reach people with big words, but by communicating complex ideas in simple ways you’re understood by more people."


Monique Woodward, architect