Archive for the 'Real Estate' Category


Real Estate Advertising and Advertising Real Estate

Real Estate advertising is mushrooming faster than buildings. But the corny ads that stand in ovation to the utter lack of creativity are not the problem.

The problem is that most, if not all the campaigns speak to a microscopic elite in a country where over the two third of the population can barely afford a loaf of bread.
The problem is that clients lack so much marketing acumen that taking them for a ride and making them to spend an arm and a leg becomes child play. Besides lacking originality, their advertising speaks to an audience that reads the newspaper in the back of their limousines while being chauffeured to destination. An audience that does not even look outside the dark tinted glass of their cars.
I got news for those Real Estate companies: Your “target audience” as your agencies taught you to call them, will never look for a 2 million Dollars apartment on a billboard on the Zalka highway! This audience does not need advertising claiming “Paradise on Earth” (in Lebanon…) to trigger their purchase behavior!
Having said that, some potential buyers might shop for a flat on outdoor media, but then, who might those prospects be? Did you ever worry about dissecting your audience, not by how much money they carry in their mattresses, but by their propensity to fill your flats?
Because, in Lebanon, the short-term fast buck over-rules the long-term brand-investment, advertisers always choose to go for the easy route; note that it is the smartest one, or the actual golden goose.
If we want to build the country on mob money, and Gulf tycoons, then be it. But for heaven’s sake, stop bragging about patriotism, and stop using nationalistic and outdated slogans. Lebanon does not, and will not get any better with your tall buildings. The way it’s going right now, it only will get uglier.
The fact is that, by playing the ostrich, we are as morally corrupt as the mafiosi who buys the 2 million Dollars flat.
My dear real estate developers, here’s an idea to make money and sleep restfully at night. We need condos, we need thousands of flats for the average Lebanese, the honest one. We need small town houses for the thousands of daily commuters who, for a change, work honestly and hard to earn their buck. Now you do the math. But before doing so, use (what’s left) of your marketing understanding to admit that, since the late eighties, economies have undergone a paradigm shift, from a margin to a volume market. Hell! Even Apple realised it! You can make more money by selling more and cheaper, rather than selling less but more expensive. You can make more money by selling to the poor!
Here’s another insight: The rich buy your flats in good times, when economy is flourishing and the cash is safe. But when hard times hit – and they do often lately – the rich are the first to hold their horses back. The average consumers on the other hand, buy an apartment because they “need” one. Their decision to buy is not investment-based, it is need-based. And here once more I implore (what’s left) of your marketing understanding to answer the 101 question: what does marketing address? Yes, yes, “needs”.
By doing so, you win a favorable reputation, you build a better brand, you will be respected and loved by the society, your product will spread to cover the nation, and you will be one of the rare businesses where the very nature of your product is intrinsically a CSR program. You will need to advertise less, thus use your marketing cash on smarter programs, or simply stash it if you wish to do so.
No, I am not a communist! And no, I am not asking you to refrain from erecting those beautiful skyscrapers that adorn our capital. All I’m saying is that , in a country of endless paradoxes, it would be a stimulating change to see someone “think smart” about creating an equilibrium. But that’s just me.

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Real Estate Advertising and Advertising Real Estate by Ibrahim Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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When the economy goes south, brands can rise above the recession

At the height of an unprecedented economic downturn – the worst in recent memory – what is the best strategy for companies to maintain market share and revenues? The answer, says one expert, may be the key to salvation for companies facing the toughest of challenges.

True, cost-cutting and downsizing, quick-fix tools often reserved for exceptionally trying times, can potentially help companies sustain and survive the downturn. But while these measures are often necessary, they do not necessarily hit the target.

“In an economic depression, downsizing, streamlining and other cost-cutting measures are certainly important steps to prevent further damage. These are primarily reactive actions that help organisations sustain operations and even survive the most challenging period of a business cycle. But I believe that such conventional measures can often damage the core elements that are most important to businesses during an economic downturn: customers and prospects. Without customers and prospects, the world would be a very lonely place for companies facing tough times,” points out Ibrahim Lahoud, Director of Strategy and Brand Communication, BrandCentral.

“This is where branding plays a brilliant and important role. A successful branding strategy helps ensure that customers and business prospects are not alienated or affected by the damage-control initiatives being implemented by companies. In simple terms, branding makes prospects fall in love with you in bad times, and makes them invest in you in good times. As such, branding is by far the smartest and one of the most cost-effective strategies to adopt during an economic downturn,” added Lahoud.

Lahoud brings the subject home when he describes the realities of the UAE’s real estate sector. He says that of the biggest challenges faced by developers in the country, focusing on the tangibles, such as, project design, size and cost, may not be high up on the priority list. Competing with the intangibles, that is, emotional and rational aspect of the purchase decision is now paramount.

“The competition today, particularly in the Arab World, is played inside the consumer’s mind,” notes Lahoud. “Describing to your prospective customers what your project is all about takes a huge amount of time, energy, money and other resources. A powerful brand achieves the same results and does a lot more. If we analyse the principal factors why people buy or rent properties, it all boils down to peace of mind and quality of life. Peace of mind is the rational aspect of the purchase decision, while quality of life lies on the emotional side. This means that a purchase decision is made not based on the project itself, but rather the projection of the client’s dreams, needs and wants into the project.”

Communicating the right brand message can be a tricky and delicate process; one false move may result in ambiguity or generate the wrong impression about the property or developer. On the other hand, companies also often have misconceptions about how to create the right brand identity for their projects or for their own organisations. These issues, Lahoud says, highlight the need to acquire professional expertise to develop and implement a productive and consistent branding strategy.

“When a property development project is born, it is never about buildings and roads. It is always about ‘a beach community,’ a ‘paradise island’ or a ‘leisure haven’ – these represent the inherent brand identity of a project, which need to be instilled inside the prospective buyer’s mind and heart. In this regard, it is crucially important to acquire the services of branding consultants at the earliest stages of the project development, to ensure consistency and proper delivery of the brand message to the right audiences,” said Lahoud.

“Moreover, it is equally important that the branding specialist is not just technically adept, but also has deep understanding of the local market dynamics. This is particularly true in the Arab World, in light of the region’s peculiarities and sensitivities. In this case, branding essentially becomes a matter of combining international expertise with utmost concern and knowledge of local culture, heritage, language and traditions,” added Lahoud.

In addition, Lahoud emphasised the benefits of participating in key industry events, which are excellent avenues to enhance brand awareness. Such events provide extensive market mileage and offers strong brand positioning opportunities, which any developer should not take for granted.

“Cityscape is a perfect illustration,” Lahoud said of the upcoming international real estate exhibition, which takes place from October 5 to 8, 2009 in Dubai. “Cityscape has itself evolved to become a mega brand in the real estate sector, and is definitely the place to be for any aspiring real estate company. Such events allow companies to network, show off special expertise, promote, sell, publicise and do a lot more. But more than anything else, it is a venue where one can boost brand awareness, considering the quantity and quality of its participants. For property developers that value the importance of marketing and communication, it should be crystal clear that their presence at events such as Cityscape is not just an option; it is the rule.”

BrandCentral is a leading provider of turnkey solutions for brand development, corporate identity, and strategic design in the Middle East. Its mission is to provide a thoroughly positive impression of a company or product to existing and potential customers.





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.


January 2020
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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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