By: Ibrahim Lahoud

When the primary target audience of the real estate industry becomes the investor rather than the occupier, one wonders how real is real estate?

The more important reality lies in the way real estate organizations and projects are branding themselves, reminding us of the emergence of the finance industry back in the 1800’s when banks used to be called simply “Bank”. And then, suddenly the term “competition” was discovered. Banks were called names aimed not at making the client feel safe, but at making competition survive in constant fear.

Real estate companies carried almost always – and proudly – “Real Estate” in their name, solidly rooting themselves in the core of their business. Then suddenly, it faded away giving place to allegories and metaphors, the aim of which is putting the prospect in a trance and whisking him away to lands of honey and dreams. Remains a small detail; to deliver.

Now, real estate providers that pride themselves at being customer-centric, have to become competition-driven. So what? One must ask. Here’s why:

1- It’s not about the customer anymore. It’s about competition; competition against other players, other countries, the Guinness Book of World Records and earning titles of tallest and largest. So really, where is the customer benefit in all of this?

2- Brands are not branding anymore. Branding became generic because it’s salient aim metamorphosed from an emotional value offered to customers into a weapon aimed at competition. In this war, everyone’s brand looks like everyone else’s. Close your eyes and try to figure out who owns which project? Quite a challenge. Ironically, brands were created initially to make you remember the products they sell, moreover, make you love those products. So what’s the purpose of creating a brand if your prospect can’t even remember what it sells?

3- Communication is not communicating anymore either. Same drill; close your eyes and try to remember which advert sells which brand. Of course, choosing powerful brand values and attributes and featuring them in your advertising works, and yes, people do remember you. But when everyone else in the industry starts using those very same values and attributes, changing their order of enumeration and the visual of the advert, then we have a problem; a serious one.

No, this is not a destructive trend, but it could become one. It depends on where the real estate industry’s heart is. This is the kind of business where “long term” is not just a marketing stunt. After all, being the occupier or the investor, long term is the only way the customer thinks.

So let’s speak long term.

Branding is to real estate what a skeleton is to the human body. It is what holds the organization and its products together in the mind of the customer; it’s engineered to take hard hits and come out unscathed. But it also is what stays after everything else is gone. Since real estate is also about buildings and buildings are made to last, really last, brands have to start thinking on the same scale of longevity.

What makes a brand last?

There is absolutely no secret potion. A brand lives longer when it strives to appeal to customers rather than obsess to repel competition. The new age of real estate branding should shift the competition war to the customer level. In other terms, let your customer become your soldier. You work on getting customers to love you, invest in your projects, live in, and enjoy them, and use your brand as an added value to their own image. Then, let them eradicate your competition by simply becoming loyal.

It would be really unfortunate to indulge in a branding exercise when the answer to “Why are you branding?” is “because competition is growing”! The prospective market is also growing, and looking this way will surely make more sense. After all, the definition of prospect is not something we should be proud of; prospects are actually clients we should have but don’t… Something to ponder upon.

One last word that should really summarize it. However paramount branding is, remember that finally brands are not that essential to customers, but customers are essential to brands. Despite the positive effect they have on our lives and image, brands are finally a part of the decision process, and not the decision process itself. Understanding this process and creating brands that integrate within, will turn that process into a seamless exercise, extending the honeymoon phase once the choice is made and thus providing longevity to the brand itself.


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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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