Is property marketing still stuck in the 90s?

Property marketing may be stuck in the 1890s in fact, but I think it’s insulting to all other sectors to say it’s stuck in the 1990s. During the 1990s I worked with some amazing brands creating brilliant ideas which made discernible differences to the business.

OK, maybe when it comes to importance placed on certain media channels, yes, I’m talking about the holy grail that is the brochure to developers and agents, things are starting to change, but only at snail’s pace.

Why does the property sector have to invent a category for technology (which you can hear covered at RESI): proptech? Automotive doesn’t have ‘Autotech’, Fashion doesn’t have ‘Fashiontech’. Why? Because it’s seamlessly embedded into the marketing function, it’s not separate and nor should it be in property.

We believe the majority of property related brand experiences are bland. Commodified products, digital templates and generic customer service combining in a sea of sameness. Where’s the love, where’s the passion and most importantly where’s the idea?

We don’t say this lightly. We’ve immersed ourselves in the category, have talked to many developers, agents, planners, architects and most importantly, customers and believe the time has come to make a difference.

Standing for something

Gone is the day when you could simply knock out a brochure and get on a plane to Asia and sell the lot. Brexit, stamp duty, and a fall in overseas sales have bought the need for quality marketing into focus, and more importantly the value it can bring to a developer or house builder.

To stand out in this sea of sameness you have to stand for something. You have to have an idea for your development so people can latch onto it and then you need to communicate it in an original, compelling and most importantly commercial manner. 

The first property project I worked on was for a development called Fitzroy Place in central London. At the time, it was hailed as a new force in property marketing and won every property marketing award it was entered into.

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I got carried away and tried to enter it into some ‘proper marketing awards’ and quickly realised that whilst it stood out in the world of property, when you put it against campaigns for the likes of Audi, Nike, First Direct, Virgin Atlantic it wasn’t even close. The idea was there, but not strong enough and the media channels used were ‘stuck in the 90s’. Content strategy, what’s that?

Think about the brands you love and I can assure you they stand for something and have an idea behind them. Think of a property brand that’s memorable? Difficult isn’t it.

If you don’t believe me check out the adverts in any property paper. Here’s a snapshot of adverts from an edition of the Sunday Times Homes & Gardens. If you can find one ad in here with an idea in it you’ve got better eyes than I have.

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So, how we do haul property marketing up to the present day and ensure it sits comfortably alongside the great brands our customers already love?

  1. Get the brand strategy sorted from the outset. Who is the target audience? Don’t be lazy and put down everyone.
    • What are the key insights? Without speaking to potential customers you’ll never know the answer.
    • What are the main barriers?
    • What’s the tone for the development?
    • What does the development stand for? etc
  2. A brand is based on an idea, an opinion. Not a black and gold logo in the shape of the building. What’s the brand idea for your development? What’s the story?
  3. Look to other sectors for inspiration as you’re sure not going to find it in property. Remember the customers you’re trying to snare are walking into the likes of Audi, Louis Vuitton etc, this is where their expectations are set. These need to be met and exceeded as we’re selling the most expensive purchase of all. We set up www.visitidearoom.com just for this reason.
  4. How can you best market the development to your selected audience/s? Let’s move briefs from always saying a brochure, website, EDM and hoarding. In today’s multi-media age there are far more cost effective and impactful channels to market.
  5. Measure its impact and adjust accordingly. A marketing campaign needs constant fine tuning to be successful.
  6. Let’s treat customers like we actually care. Here’s a thought, treat them well and they’ll buy again from you.

Simples as a Meerkat would say.

James Fenner, founder, Silk Road Marketing

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