Put your dreams away

I keep coming back to a parody video that made the rounds last week. It’s aptly named, “This Is a Generic Brand Video,” and strings together the lines of a poignant poem published by McSweeney’s with stock video footage.

Why is this so funny?

Well, for starters it’s true. The narration, calculated ethnic diversity, and perfectly pitched grand statements are familiar to anyone who’s watched a major brand advertisement in the last 10 years.

Breaking out of the can

Let’s first acknowledge this: It’s extremely difficult to convey a brand message in a video or ad of any kind, whether you’re selling a badass 3D video game or annual tax services.

But yet, the exercise more often than not is treated like an assembly line. This is especially true in real estate, where, as Marc has pointed out, ads and videos tend to consist of the same average menu of babies, pets, parents and warm memories over and over again.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

You rarely see real estate companies experiment with some of the things that truly define homeownership – the washing machine that breaks right after you’ve drained your savings account on a new roof; the army of ants that takes over your kitchen while you’re on summer vacation; your kid’s grand idea to flush a wallet full of credit cards down the toilet.

When I think of my home, I think of these things.

I also think of that feeling of relief putting my suitcase down in the living room after a long flight home. Whether my neighbors have heard every marital spat since we moved in or just a few. The fact that space just seems to keep running out. And of course, the bag of gardening soil that’s been on my front porch since last fall – a symbol of my ability to keep de-prioritizing that project in lieu of putting my feet up and reading a book.

This stuff is real. It’s all part of being a homeowner. You know it. I know it. First-time home buyers know it.

It may sound like the ugly side of the coin, but it still gives me a warm feeling and pride of owning my home. I was aware of these realities when I set foot in my first open house and it never deterred me.

Yet most real estate ads only focus on the dreamy stuff. The stock footage.

I have to believe that herein lies an opportunity to take a chance and stand out. Dare to dream outside the stock footage. Use real people. Real families. Real Realtors. Real homes.

Homeownership isn’t really a dream anyway. It’s a goal realized. And most people have to work extremely hard to get there. Where’s the acknowledgement of that? Where’s the empathy for the consumer who’s scared of not only the financial commitment but also the day-to-day stuff he knows will go wrong?

That would certainly catch my eye because it carries truth. And it’s something you won’t find at the end of a brand video assembly line.

You may say, isn’t that taking a negative approach to a transaction that is very aspirational? Doesn’t it sort of need to be dreamy? There’s no doubt that owning a home is a highly aspirational endeavor. But acknowledging the entire reality that comes with it is a different approach we’ve never seen in real estate marketing. I don’t believe it demeans the end prize at all.

The cue

Back to our parody brand video – what’s perhaps most interesting about it is the fact that it was created by the very folks who create stock video footage. In a way, they’ve made fun of their own industry. They’ve acknowledged its imperfections.

They did something different. And I can’t stop thinking about it.