Like a person, you can respect, like, and even love a brand. You can think of it like a close personal friend, or merely an acquaintance. You can view it as dependable or undependable, principled or opportunistic, caring or capricious. Just as you like to be around certain people and not others, similarly, you like to be around certain brands and not others.

People have character, and so do brands. A person’s character is determined by their actions, integrity, and their ability to do what is right rather than what is easy. You also judge a person’s character by their past performance, and how they think and act in good times, and, even more importantly, bad. The same holds true for brands.

This is of great significance in the real estate industry as most real estate brands are associated with the person who started the company. It is almost natural to imagine that if you own the company then you are the brand – and the brand is you.

The major dilemma in this industry is that we have a surplus of companies, employing similar people, offering similar services, coming up with similar ideas, creating similar brands and offering similar pricing. On top of that we have a surplus of similar brands, having similar attributes, with similar marketing messages and slogans. There is too much noise.

Welcome to the surplus economy. In this playing field if you’re not a superior, precisely positioned, and consistent brand, you are just a commodity and now price is the differentiator. At this point, the Realtor with the lowest commission wins.

The Danger of Reactive Marketing. 

I’ve visited many real estate offices. From complex international brokerages to the local area expert. We work with real estate brands of all sizes, globally. One thing they all have in common is that their in-house marketing person’s desk is stacked sky high with marketing pieces collected by the business owner belonging to their competitors. The marketing person is almost always confused and overwhelmed. We get to the boardroom and the table is covered in examples of what everyone else is doing and the conversation almost always begins with – we have to do something like this because everyone else is doing it.

This is one of the key reasons their marketing is not working and why they called us, but they don’t know this yet.

Realtors believe that they, “Have to get something out there” whether it makes sense or is on brand or not. They believe something, anything is better than nothing. So, every week or month like clockwork, dozens of real estate post cards, newsletters and other materials arrive in the mail. To the consumer they all look and sound the same, and therefore end up in the recycling bin leaving Realtors wondering why their marketing is not working.

This is now shifting from print to social with over posting, oversharing of client scenarios, and commenting on topics outside the realm of expertise. Realtors are marketing and speaking to each other. It’s a race to keep up with who gets the most attention. If you are primarily engaged in Reactive Marketing, you will always be behind your competition rather than beating it.

The average consumer is exposed to as many as 800 to 3,000 branded messages per day. Multiple studies indicate that less than 10 percent of ads have clear positioning.

The number of licensed real estate agents in the GTA alone hit an astonishing high of 70,000. While the agent or the team may be reputable, most of these companies launch an uninspired brand marketing campaign destined to be lost in the crowd reducing the industry to commodity standard.

With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets resulting in the explosion of video consumption, endless social scrolling, and having instant access to all things at all times, the opportunity to tell stories and make real connections is boundless. We live in an era of more screens in more places and more interactions between viewers and brands. And, yes, this is good news; but it is also a challenge to be better and do better when it comes to brand messaging.

In a world where brands abound, competition is intense, and the race is on to capture attention and maintain relevance. But all too often, companies fall in the trap of short term thinking becoming overly ambitious for instant results which results in a lack of brand strategy. The end result is a market that is over saturated with marketing messages that mean nothing to the consumer. Worse than having checked out, the consumer never even checked in.

In the surplus economy, where the options are endless and everyone appears to be making the same claims – the marketing battle is a battle of the brands, a competition for brand dominance. The only way to own markets is to become a market dominant brand. In previous decades this battle used to be confined to the kitchen table during listing presentations, today it’s fought on new ground, publicly, with ever evolving parameters.

Social has opened new doors and created access like never before. Yet at the same time consumers have grown wary of advertising because the vast majority has lost its credibility and authenticity.

So, what’s the bridge? Enter customer relationships. Step back for a moment and think about your clients. Most real estate companies have a relationship with their customers built on the sale of a home and its price.

The goal is to extend these transaction-based relationships into emotion-based relationships. In order to do so a company has to evolve and become emotive; have a story that will transform it into a brand.

A brand is an intangible asset that resides in people’s hearts and minds. It is defined by the expectations people have about tangible and intangible outcomes they can expect if they choose to associate with this brand. To build a successful brand, we recommend:

  1. Make a promise
  2. Communicate your promise
  3. Keep your promise
  4. Strengthen your promise

The tangible aspect of your brand is the promise. What are you known for? What do you do best? What can your client count on? The answers to these questions become your promise and an intrinsic part of your market message. In order for you to own it, you must communicate strategically and creatively across a broad media mix. The only way to make your audience believe your promise is to be genuine about your promise, this is also true for your internal audiences (staff, partners, etc.).

Today you may have a name and a website; however, it will take years to deliver on the promise and more years to strengthen your promise before you have a brand that has any significant equity.

Part art, part science, part je ne sais quoi, brand is the difference between a cup of coffee and Starbucks, a car and a BMW, a handbag and a Birkin.