Let’s start with a definition. According to the American Marketing Association a brand is a "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers."
While most people associate a brand with a logo that’s not exactly the case. Coca cola probably has the most widely recognized trademark in the world and that’s definitely part of their brand. There is however so much more than that. Think of your feelings when you think "Coca Cola". These feelings, positive AND negative, are the Coca Cola brand. Not the logo.
Is branding a listing a good idea?
Branding is there. A brand is the result of all the messages the customer receives when interacting with our listing. Once a property is put on the market messages are radiated and the branding process is afoot. All the information we put in MLS, every picture, the colors, the wording, the fonts in the "just listed" postcard, everything is a brand shaping element. The question is: Are we managing our brand or is it left to chance? It appears that some marketers have the notion that branding is a long term process and it do
esn’t make sense to spend precious resources on a product, such is a home for sale, that will only stay on the market for just a few months. Indeed, branding is a long term investment for companies like Coca Cola or Toyota. But it can also be invaluable in the short term. We need to remember that our competition – other listings- also have limited time and they are also developing their brand within this limited timeframe. We don’t need to build an everlasting brand: We just need to out-brand our competition.
How to do it: Brand Elements
In constructing our brand we use building blocks that we call "Brand Elements". These devices will help differentiate our brand and create likability and relevance the basic qualities of a good brand. There is a wide array of brand elements the marketer-Realtor can choose from: Images and photographs, names, slogans, even sounds can be used as primary or secondary elements to promote a brand. It is my belief however that in the promotion of a home for sale the primary brand element should be visual and more specifically a photograph. What kind of photograph? There are three main criteria in the choice of a primary brand element: It must be memorable, meaningful and likeable.
When presented with the limitation of using a single marketing element for a listing (which is the case with many online venues) almost all realtors will choose a picture of the front of the house. By making this choice they effectively decide on the Main Brand Element for their marketing. This is the ID picture of the property in many ways. The front of the house is more recognizable and therefore more memorable, it is meaningful since it’s a good representation of the whole and it’s likeable in the familiarity of a well known architectural style. It is also easier for an average photographer with an average camera (the Realtor) to produce an acceptable picture outside than inside. Sometimes, however, we are presented with a unique branding opportunity where the best choice is not the front but, perhaps, a different side of the house. A good example is an otherwise average colonial that backs to a lake with beautiful views and a nice dock. The Realtor should not hesitate to use that aspect maybe with a picture that will include the back of the house with the dock and the lakefront (a boat may come handy in taking that picture).
This can be a very memorable picture in its unusual angle, It is meaningful as it efficiently conveys the added value of a waterfront property and it’s definitely likeable particularly within the target group of a property like this. This picture will be a great main branding element that can be supplemented and augmented with secondary elements like a slogan in the lines of "Lakefront Paradise" and even some staging elements in a nautical, fishing or water sports theme.
The purpose of managing the brand of our listing is to add value to it. We do that by conveying the good qualities of the property and influencing how the prospective buyer thinks, feels and acts in respect to it. A brand however is not defined by our messages alone. Every contact a customer has with our product/listing or even the area where it is located will contribute to the brand of the product. For instance a favorable article in a local newspaper about the park nearby will add to our brand equity if we have associated the property with that park in our copy or even including a photo of the park in our listing. Some of these occurrences can be influenced by us, the marketers, but many lie beyond our control. The better a marketer we are and the more the resources we have in our disposal, the more control we have. As always we need to focus on what we can control and forget the rest.