By Accommodation Times Archives
“A real estate brand is not merely a function of advertising and communication – it’s also a function of the buildings that come up” says G Pandrang Row, Partner, Vertebrand Management Consulting
“Real estate prices down 20%.” “Real estate players forced to release stockpiled property due to funds crunch.”
Headlines like these just about summarize the reason why real estate players need genuine branding and genuine brands – instead of advertising-based logos and promotional gimmickry.
The reality is that, up to now, most real estate players have been living in a cloud-cuckoo land of endless lines of buyers. They’ve been happily reaping the benefits of living in a seller’s market and ignored branding almost totally – replacing it with advertising.
Until a few months ago, all a promoter had to do is buy land, design a building, release an advertisement in the newspapers concerning an upcoming project and there would be takers. The next step would be to release yet another advertisement saying ‘project overbooked’ and then go on to build the structure.
There was no thought behind the design of the apartments or the building complex.
A mall would be built because it sounded like a good idea.
Who was going to stay in the apartment complex? Who was going to use the mall? The target audience was ill-defined or not defined at all.
As a result, it wasn’t clear whom you should target, it wasn’t clear where advertising should be placed and it wasn’t clear what kinds of shops would be in the mall.
With the near-collapse of the US economy – and therefore the world’s economy – this situation has changed. And real estate players must acknowledge the fact.
The selling of real estate must become more brand-oriented.
It’s as simple or as complicated as that.
In sum real estate players – from large to small – have to complete a four-step program to make sure they can sell their product, even in these hard times.
The four steps are seemingly simple:
1. They need to find out who their best customers are, why they buy real estate and what makes them tick
2. Put together a way to talk to them in a language they understand with a promise they’ll buy
3. Communicate that promise to them through brand activation and communication
4. Measure how the branding strategy is working
The first step is to understand that a brand in the real estate area is a lot more than just the name. (Although it’s interesting to see how real estate barons are undoing what our politicians did and giving their projects names like Dorchester, Windsor, Picadilly and so on.)
Defining the target audience will begin with why they buy. Is it an investment? Is it to stay in? To work in? Why?
That knowledge will lead to calculated decisions as to which facilities are important to which target audience and which are not. Is a swimming pool really necessary in a city like Bangalore where the water is arctic most of the year? Does the complex need wireless connectivity? How much parking will it need for guests and visitors?
Do people like openness? Or do they want more light? Do they like small windows or big ones?
Currently all this is left to the architect’s whims and fancies.
I was at a meeting recently where the architect was waxing eloquent about how his building was going to ‘promote communal living’ by making the common areas more inviting. He felt that people wanted to go back to the ‘old times’ when neighbors were all your friends.
I asked him whether he had bothered to check whether consumers actually wanted ‘communal living’ or a return to the ‘old times’. In my experience most young people want to move out of the ghettos of religion and caste where their parents stayed.
The answer was no, but he felt that this was a good idea.
Whoops. Maybe, maybe not – I don’t know; and I wouldn’t venture an opinion until I’ve checked it with a large enough sample of consumers.
And that’s the point – nobody in the real estate industry has really spoken to consumers. And it’s definitely time they did.
Once they have, they’ll know whether consumers actually want a flat in a complex built to ‘imitate the waterways of Venice’. Or if they would they simply see it as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Once they’ve done their research, they will come to conclusions which will undoubtedly influence the design of the buildings they construct.
This is important because a real estate brand is not merely a function of advertising and communication – it’s also a function of the buildings that come up.
So if your buildings have to reflect your brand, it is essential that you understand what kind of brand and product consumers will buy in bad times.
In recessionary times, to sell apartments like potatoes and onions is to ask for trouble.
The next step in brand activation must take into account the fact that there is more to be done than just the basics.
It is no longer enough to be good and well-priced – every product needs the ‘wow’ factor. And since it is really no longer possible to wow people with your product you have to wow people with your service.
Apollo Hospitals has been wondering why, since all patients rate them as the best in clinical care and as the go-to place in an emergency, patients still rate them needing improvement. The answer can be summed up in one word: service.
And that’s the reality of every product in every product category – brand activation must include improvement of service standards.
Where do consumers go to book an apartment? Who takes them across to see the model flat? How will they be transported there? Can they trust the company to deliver on time, with all the amenities promised?
It’s all going to be very important. In today’s climate, the brand’s behavior is going to sell real estate – not mere availability.
Finally, the real estate giants need to find out how consumers view their brands on an ongoing basis. If they’re seen as rapacious, greedy companies set up to make a few people rich they’re bound to find the going tough in hard times. On the other hand, if they’re seen as friendly people who actually bring people affordable and desirable dwelling places, they’ll find the going easier.
And that’s what a brand does – make people your friends.
Photo Courtesy : Webgreeter