Realty Brand Guide

This is something that would have happened to most of you.

You get a SMS in middle of the night, you wake up wondering, who is sending you a message so late, is everything ok? You discover that the message is from your local real estate developer who is offering you your dream home in some yet to be developed suburb of city at some ‘exciting’ prices. You curse, and try and go back to sleep, promising never to even consider buying a property from such unscrupulous developers.

This is the real issue with the real estate market in India.

Home is the biggest investment you will ever make. It is the single biggest transaction one does in a lifetime.  It is carefully considered, evaluated, mulled over and the whole family gets involved in it. And the real deal is that the transaction is not over after you have paid the money. This is a really long purchase cycle.

This makes the segment a unique blend of product and service. The hard factors that are on offer are evaluated very carefully, but the softer aspects like service, sensibility, adaptability, and reflection of local culture starts to become the differentiator.

Yet, this is the segment that has commoditized the fastest. The real estate ads are standard, the real estate offers are standard and the real estate pitch is standard. This fails to create a bond with the potential buyers, and the relationship remains transactional.

The current communication and the brand architecture have fuelled this increasing commoditization of the category. Brands want to have a unique vocabulary for themselves. They want to own idioms that help them create the right impression. For some unexplainable reasons the real estate brands have abandoned this. They speak the same language, leverage the same idioms, and create the same connections. Here are some rules that most brands adhere by

  • The name of property should always be in English. A Hindi/vernacular name instantly means a drop in possible prices. We will never know Spain from Turkey as they all are in a suburb near you.
  • Mention possible rise in property value. What this means is that we are overpriced, but we hope you will not bargain and instead get lured by the promise of future
  • Mention fixed returns in large point size. What it means is that we don’t sell real estate anymore, but we need to raise some serious money. Banks ask a lot of questions, consumers are not likely to do so
  • No EMI till possession means that as a brand we have large amount of inventory left, and we need to sell it off quickly. This is really clever as what looks like a discount is actually a price rise in disguise. And we evaluative money wise Indians never figure this out
  • Never mention the fact that you are far away from civilization. Add the word extension, or new to a relatively well known locality. The consumer will never be able to figure out where the new development comes up with
  • Always mention a host of amenities and features. This will ensure that consumers get lost in unnecessary details and do not evaluate the flat. This will ensue that people talk more about packaging and less about the product.

And these are not all the things people do. To add a bit of zing first the brands used voices of actors and now use celebrities. With a plethora of celebrities who just act as wallpapers in ads, even that is not working.

May be the real estate sector needs to see its brand beyond brick and mortar, and start to reflect aspirations and dreams. Homes are not about money appreciation, homes are about relationship appreciation.  May be the brands need to explore these dimensions far more than features and sizes. Even the high technology categories have moved beyond feeds and speed.

Till then, the brands should be losing sleep and stop waking people up in middle of the night.


Your home comes with a famous face

Celebrities are an enduring theme of advertising. More and more celebrities of every kind are being used by marketers to push their brand messages. Let’s be honest, we know celebrity advertising works. We all fall to the charms of celebrity that is being used in advertising. The astronomical sums that the celebs command as fees are proof that their charm engulfs everyone.

The interesting part of the usage of celebrity is that we all know that the products will not make us more beautiful, or fairer, or smarter or sexy. Yet we as consumers connect with the brand because we like the values that the brand represents. Our feelings of self identity, affirmation and insecurity have made celebrities into mainstream culture.

We know brands carefully spend time choosing the right celebrity. These are a few principles that the brand may follow in order to choose the right celebrity for its branding activities

Compatibility: The brand and the celebrity have to work in tandem. The celebrity has to transfer his or her own value system on to the brand and vice versa. Compatibility is one factor in determining the eventual success of any campaign

Credibility: Both the brand and the brand have to be high on personal credibility. If either of the subjects is low on credibility it will impact the overall outcome in a negative way. From Tiger Woods to Maruti Versa, examples of both are abound

Collaboration: The brand and the celebrity have to have a collaborative effect on each others’ identity, personality, values, market standing and brand positioning. This will define the efficacy of the use of celebrity and the eventual impact.

If done the right way, it helps the brand to gain attention, add to its credibility and even ensure that the celebrity does not overshadow the brand.

So why is it that suddenly the real estate brands have started to use celebrities in a big way? From MS Dhoni to Yuvraj Singh, to Sushmita Sen, to even an IPL team, real estate brands are hiring them to lure potential home owners.

One possible reason for this may be the increasing commoditization of the real estate brands. They all seem to follow (at least most of them) one formula, and the consumer eventually may be left confused. The celebrity at least at one level ensures attention. However does it add to credibility?

Buying a home remains one of the most cherished dreams of every Indian. Purchase of a home is a very long drawn process with many layers and many players. Everyone looks for a different pay off from the purchase. From pride to security, buying a home evokes a complex bouquet of emotions.

Do celebrities add to the process? Does the use of celebrity ease some of the anxiety? Does the use of celebrity add to the trust factor? Does the use of celebrity create a buying short cut? The consumers know that the celebrities they are seeing in the advertising are not the potential consumers.

May be the real estate brands need to put the power of idea back in their communication and not replace it with a celebrity. Or else even the celebrities will become blind spots in the increasing commoditization of the category.