A rally to protect the Realtor brand

“Owning a home also provides many social benefits. Homeowners are healthier and happier. They are more involved in their communities, volunteer more and vote more often. Their children stay in school longer, get better grades and get better jobs after school.”

-Scott Louser, 2012 V.P. & Liaison to Government Affairs, National Association of REALTORS®

This statement appeared in a “Rally To Save The American Dream” blog post this past spring. A variation on the claims contained within it surfaced recently in this television spot:


For my own edification, I searched for documentation to support NAR’s findings. Instead I found a report from the Wharton School of Business supporting a contrary viewpoint.

Oh well.

My goal is not to refute NAR’s findings. As a brand guy, I am more concerned with why NAR chose (by simple deduction) to profile renters as having lower self-esteem, leading unhealthy and unhappy lives, being civically apathetic and bearing children who don’t perform well on the SAT. 

I’m not overreacting.

Prior to writing this, I played the commercial for my wife and asked to give me her first impression. I pressed play. She was quick to respond.

“Gross,” she said when it concluded. “Better test scores? Please.” Our discussion about it concluded with “I would hate for people to think this is something Ryan (our Realtor son) believes in.”

Typical mom.

I’m worried more by the reaction of the wider audience and their impressions of the Realtors branded by the implications of NAR’s message here. I think of the altar upon which scores of Realtor and broker lambs will place themselves if they use this line in their own marketing.


It’s kind of a market recovery buzz-kill.

Welcome to NAR’s marketing centrifuge

Right now, buyers are buying. Sellers are selling. Lenders are lending. Even the media is bullish on housing.

The weeding out of sub-professional agents, now just beginning, is moving the industry toward a point where the Realtor brand could possibly be elevated from the lower depths of consumer regard.

It’s a great moment for our industry.

Since I don’t know the first thing about NAR’s advertising process, I can only comment on the results. And for me, this ad, and this message, raises ire rather than goose bumps.

A step in the wrong direction.

Fresh in my mind is the “Now is the right time to buy” mantra repeated right until the crash that drove millions of homeowners into the rental market.

This new ad feels like salt on the wound. NAR should be embracing renters, not insulting them.

Charging through America’s china shop 

Americans aspire to own homes.

Brands that successfully sell around aspirations do so with finesse and sensitivity.

Watch this commercial from Zales. You will get goose bumps. Some of you will shudder. A few of you might have to reach for a Kleenex.

It made me want to get engaged all over again.

Zales sells marriage. NAR sells home ownership. But Zales sells softly. With a gentle, emotional caress. Without insulting people who prefer to do something else.

NAR sells with bull-like clumsiness. Charging through America’s china shop. Leaving Realtors to pick up the shattered pieces of an otherwise wonderful story.


Rallying to protect the Realtor brand

Imagine a commercial spot that speaks to a homeowner’s aspiration. A soft approach that makes everyone tingle at the thought of crossing the threshold.

It wouldn’t matter if the dreamer is a renter or a past owner. The rush of homeownership knows no boundaries. It belongs to everyone.

The Realtor brand is special. NAR knows this. They stumble trying to articulate it. This current ad, playing across America, interrupts my nightly reruns of King of Queens and paints a portrait of Realtors from which many recoil.

While some may not catch the implications within the copy, a good brand guardian would. And that guardian would do everything in their power to prevent the brand from inserting foot in mouth. After all, managing the way Realtors are perceived should be a dream realized as well.

This is a bungled ad. It speaks only to be heard.

A smart brand whispers. 
And knows when it’s time to speak not a word.
This is one of those times.