Brushing the sands off a brand

This was one of my last posts of 07. It’s one of the many posts I wrote last year about branding, a subject I have a particular expertise in having worked for 20+ years in show business building personal celebrity brands. I often find myself struggling to understand how real estate people set out to build their brands just posting away, blogging away, Twittering away with no set plan in mind. They may achieve a certain degree of name recognition but they are not building a brand. I think this had a few novel ideas in here brokers might benefit from as they seek to build their brand in 09 …Marc

I’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist. Ever since I was a kid. My first discoveries were found beneath the cushions of my grandparent’s sofa. Candy wrappers, hardened tissues, playing cards. The occasional utensil was a treat. For a 6 year-old these things were a real find.

At an early age I learned that a superficial examination of anything reveals little of real value.

Nothing is at it seems. A landscape might hold natural beauty, but it’s underneath, sometimes mere inches below the surface, where the real treasure is found.

Today, I like to excavate great companies. I’m fascinated by extremes. I want to know why some companies leave their customers feeling pained, sickened, stressed or empty (AT&T comes to mind) while other companies elicit a feeling something like euphoria (say Katz’s Deli in NYC).

Today, I’m standing at the site of Starbucks. My latest dig. I’m trying to figure out why I and millions of others remain loyal despite the abundance of competing cafe’s. The coffee is not the best. Their retail shops are starting to look like department stores. Yet something draws us back each day, sometimes more than once.

This morning my pickax hit paydirt. I leaned in and brushed away the sand. Here’s what I discovered: The Starbucks Job Application.

Allow me to draw your attention to some of the questions on this application:

Have you ever visited a Starbucks Coffee Location? Describe your experience.
What do you like about coffee? 
Why would you like to work for the Starbucks Company?
Describe a specific situation where you have provided excellent customer service in your current position. 

Brokers: When you recruit an agent, do you ever ask these questions? Do you ever ask a recruit if they have used your company, and, if they have, to describe that experience? Do you ever ask what they truly love about real estate? Do you ever require them to scroll back into their past to reveal something special they did that could help you determine if they are suited to extend your brand experience?

Or are you just recruiting for the sake of growing? Are you just recruiting for the sake of saturating a marketplace? Are you just recruiting for the chance to get one deal from anyone with a pulse? Or are you trying to landscape the marketplace with an experience that is bankable?

Agents: Have you ever really sat down and wrote out why you’re attracted to the broker or the brand you’re looking to call home? Or are you joining a firm just for the split? Or because you get a corner office? Or so you can have the freedom to do whatever you please? Or is there a deeper desire based on something intangible but ripe with meaning?

As my archeologist fingers sift through the chalky soil of wayward brands, I have found that their cultures are built on chaos. They have been bled of meaning in an entropic mercenary swirl.

Starbucks employees start out at less than $10.00 an hour. The work is hard. The hours are hard. Yet they are drawn there and picked based on certain virtues. This is what built their brand — passion. Passion to serve. Passion to push the Starbucks experience. It’s a passion that begins at the top and extends to the newest recruit. Everyone in Starbucks knows why they are there. Interview them as I have. Dig deep and gain an understanding that the foundation of any great company is a solid culture, experience and brand.

Those in real estate who have neglected to create such a foundation should take notice. Stick to what you’re doing now, allow yourself to be run by fear and complacency, and in years to come, I and others like me might uncover your artifacts and find little by which to identify you. You will have been lost. Unknown.

Don’t let that happen.

Twitter: 1000wattmarc