While viewing video footage of a customer appreciation event thrown by one of our broker clients, I was alarmed by the soundtrack the videographer chose: It was “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.
This song, replete with sexually charged lyrics and anti-commercial messaging, played over two minutes of families and friends sharing in the day’s events.
I e-mailed my concerns to the videographer. His return e-mail suggested I might be reading too much into it. “The song”, he wrote, “is meant to be fun and serve up a bit of irony”.
Was I reading too much into it? Is it not the job of a marketer to read into everything and insure consistency across all communication channels? Is this not what building and maintaining a brand is all about?
I drafted a response suggesting we consider whether being ironic is consistent with the straightforward, wholesome, nature of the company. I understand that while I might be “reading too much into it” the consequences of not reading into things are considerable.
While drafting my response, an email arrived from the owners of the brokerage who echoed similar concerns. I was not surprised. These guys are on it. They ask the right questions — the one’s every broker should be asking which is: how does every single thing we do support our brand?
How often do you ask that question?
What happens when you don’t ask? When you get careless? When you don’t even bother? When you fail to tie everything you do to your core brand ideals?
Let’s step outside of real estate and take a look.
Jamba Juice built its brand around healthy fruit smoothies. Their rapid growth, being early to mass-market fruit smoothies, was evident in cities across the country.
But the issues run deeper. The Jamba Juice brand is tightly wound up around a product that has become seemingly ubiquitous.
Cafes, grocery stores, delis and fast food franchises have all taken to pulverizing fruit, sherbet and protein powder to create Jamba Juice-like products.
Where I live, which happens to be where Jamba Juice opened its first store, there are at least a dozen alternatives between my house and the company’s nearest location.
As a fruit smoothie lover, I can’t think of one compelling reason to inconvenience myself for the sake of patronizing Jamba Juice, other than maybe subjecting myself to the deafening cacophony of blazing blenders.
Real estate brokerage brands suffer from a similar problem. Their brands have become distant outposts that no one will go out of their way to attain.
In the best cases, brands transcend the thing they sell. Britax doesn’t sell baby car seats. They sell safety.
Apple doesn’t sell consumer electronics. They went all the way to brand nirvana: People buy Apple products because the brand makes them feel good about themselves for using the product.
Jamba Juice will have to lay claim to those deeper associations if it is to reclaim its brand mojo.
Branding is about meaning, but also requires consistency. Great brand managers measure every decision against principles. Successful brands no longer need to sell. That’s why you don’t need salespeople manning the aisles of your local supermarket. The brands they offer sell themselves.
What happens when a brand lets its guard down?
U2 is a brand that has been militantly consistent and wildly successful. Lately, however, brand U2 has taken serious hits due to some significant inconsistencies.
The band — and the brand — is known for music, but also altruism, activism and public stances on such things as world hunger and relieving Third World debt.
This comes on the heels of a recent controversy ignited by the band’s guitarist, The Edge, who shook up Malibu residents when he attempted to develop luxury homes in an environmentally sensitive area.
Defending these cracks in U2’s brand bedrock will take more than PR. If left unattended, the damage could become irreparable.
If a small Midwestern Brokerage can do it…
Absence of meaning and inconsistency are termites that eat away at your brand. Within real estate, they have munched right through the studs holding yours together.
Sure, locals may recognize your name. But if that name means the same thing for all the other brokerages in the market, you are not brand. You’re just another fruit smoothie.
Brokers serious about fixing their brand must answer one important question: “Why did I start this company in the first place?“
If you can remember what that was, go back to it, rebuild upon it, and breathe new life into it.
And then, this time, make sure you guard it fiercely. If a little Midwestern-based brokerage can do it, you can, too.