According to Arello, there are over two million active real estate licenses in the United States alone. Despite the obviously crowded field, real estate has been slow to prioritize branding. Other competitive industries know that marketing and branding are some of the most important aspects of their value and are willing to spend real money on branding. But just pushing money towards marketing is not enough, there is too much that can be lost by unsuccessful campaigns and unnecessary technologies.
When you think about the best known brands in real estate, WeWork and Trump probably come to mind. Both of these brands are also known for things far outside of the real estate services they provide (beleaguered IPO, beleaguered presidency). This just goes to show that there is a lack of effective branding in the space, despite all of the technological tools at every modern marketer’s fingertips.
Only by examining how technology can fit into a real estate company’s overall branding strategy can the true halo that surrounds a good brand arise. Here are some specific examples of how technology has already provided opportunities for innovation when it comes to building and maintaining a real estate brand.
Visuals are often the first thing thought of when it comes to branding, and that’s no surprise. We often equate logos with brands, even though “branding” is about much more than just the “face” of a company. However, there are more than visuals at work in a brand.
A textbook example of how visuals and technology are co-existing and influencing each other is the adaptation and leveling-up of the traditional front-lawn “For Sale” sign by real estate brokerage Compass. This example is particularly interesting because the traditional sign has been so, well, traditional for so long: a one or two-pronged wire holding up a plastic sign. “For sale,” a realtor phone number, maybe another detail or two. Pretty basic.
The innovation by Compass, however, includes the same basic information, but with several differences. The sign is lit, for one thing, making the info readable even at night. It also uses beacon technology to reach out to interested parties when they come close to the sign, sending them a notification that directs them to the app page for that particular listing. If the visitor doesn’t have the app already downloaded, the sign includes a QR code that can be scanned for that purpose.
The interactions, as well as customizations such as content and lighting, are all tracked by the agent via smartphone. And a partnership with Waze gives interested buyers the opportunity to see all available participating listings on the app. Considering that the For Sale sign has long been a staple of real estate branding, watching this technology open up means a huge potential impact on branding visuals.
Another aspect of branding for coherency is coordinating marketing efforts with the brand personality. And if that brand personality is being affected by technology, then it makes sense that the marketing will reflect that as well.
This could be done in a number of ways, but one hotspot for tech-ready marketing is the growing use of virtual tours. It’s more and more common for companies to advertise the ability to deliver a virtual tour, often simply through their website, which makes it possible for the viewer to take part from the comfort of their home. “Take a virtual tour!” is such a common phrase on realty websites that it practically counts as clickbait.
While this is a straightforward example, at times this type of marketing can be done a little more slyly. One of the real estate companies in my part-time home area of Esterones, Costa Rica has taken out a billboard advertising that visitors can see “every listing in Nosara and Guiones in 15 minutes!” This is impossible to do by driving to each property. Nowhere on the billboard does it mention that this is done virtually, but that’s the only possible way that it could be true.
Is this more or less appealing to the viewer? Theoretically, the lack of “virtual tour” disclaimer could be more appealing, as it sounds like the visitor could see each property in person, which is almost always more intriguing than simply looking at properties online. So this might be a decent marketing strategy, although anyone who knows anything about the area would know that it must be a virtual tour, whether it’s noted or not.
Again, the availability of a virtual tour can be appealing to some, but it really depends on the client. Nevertheless, it is definitely a way in which emerging technology is affecting how real estate brands market themselves.
Social Media And Web Representation
Real estate companies have long been making good use of the internet. This is especially seen with the popularity of sites like Zillow and Trulia in residential and LoopNet in commercial. I’ve only actually searched for a potential home a few times in my life, but I’ve indulged my curiosity about plenty of houses regardless. With real estate websites, it’s just so easy and convenient for the average person to find a property. “Easy and convenient” are great qualities to build a brand on.
But apart from official websites, real estate brands, like other brands, are increasingly turning to social media to find new clients and build relationships. Since branding is all about how a company interacts with its audience, and social media is founded on facilitating conversations, this is a great tool for building a brand.
Of course, social media isn’t exactly a new technology. But it does keep expanding, adapting, and changing (for example how many real estate brands are thinking about the new social media upstart Tik Toc right now?), which means that if a company is going to use it to its best effect, they need to keep up on those changes as well.
On the face of it, real estate is just like any other type of company in that branding will continue to change as new products and services become available. Branding is only successful when it is thoughtful, holistic and responsive. It should reflect what a company has to offer, in order to give the best representation of that brand. This can be done with all aspects of a brand, from the physical and the visual, to marketing, to how it interacts with its audience. Tech can help almost every aspect of the branding process but it is useless unless it is tied to resonant messaging and a nimble strategy.
Maybe one day when we are discussing some of the most powerful brands, one of them will be a real estate company.