Restyling the Realtor image

The National Association of Realtors needs a new consumer brand campaign.

It’s time to move past bureaucratic labeling and tired messaging built around intangible ideals of Realtor professionalism, merit and ethics – things the NAR can’t (or won’t) guarantee.

This has been a topic of heated discussions in conference hallways, on industry podcasts and in online forums. Most notably, the topic was discussed in a recent interview with RealScout CEO Andrew Flachner and NAR CEO Bob Goldberg.

The righteous Realtor image is a beautiful concept consumers arguably don’t care about, and certainly don’t experience as a brand. After 109 years most people still have no idea that the word Realtor is supposed to mean something different than “agent”.

NAR members know this. What they desperately need from their professional trade organization is a campaign with a message that clearly articulates the Realtor’s difference and appeals to people’s hearts and minds.

To accomplish this, NAR must leverage the things only it owns, and think of ways to humanize Realtors in the minds of consumers.

New light

Trade groups rarely market to consumers. But NAR is different. It has advocated for consumers and the housing issues that impact them for decades, with many wins to show for it, yet few people even know about these massive efforts.

Consider the mortgage interest tax deduction. This is a huge benefit to homeowners that would have disappeared years ago had it not been for NAR’s organizing, fundraising and lobbying. Most people aren’t aware of NAR’s critical role in keeping the tax deduction in place, or that it has even been close to going away several times.

The brand campaign and storytelling possibilities around the advocacy theme are inspiring:

Campaign 1.

Think of all the things the mortgage interest deduction makes possible for families throughout the country. It saves many people thousands on their tax bill every year. Without Realtors’ vigilance, there would be less money available to spend on the things and people they love, and less available cash to pay off debt or contribute to retirement.

For others, the MID makes it possible to afford a nicer car, longer vacation or new pair of Yeezy’s.

A campaign that clarifies and amplifies acts of advocacy and protection is easily tied to local Realtors  – the people who look out for homeowners and protect them from clueless politicians.

Campaign 2.

The American Dream of homeownership is becoming – and has already become –  unattainable to a lot of people.

Millennials struggle to raise a down payment. Boomers can’t sell because they’d dump all their profits into a similar home and incur a much higher tax burden. The mortgage process has become more frustrating and difficult.

These are real issues that NAR doesn’t message around to the public, yet people talk about these things all the time. Realtors guide consumers toward homeownership, even when headwinds are strong.

Campaign 3.

Another strategy would be to humanize the NAR and the Realtor image much more than they have in the past. I realize this was attempted with the Phil Dunphy character a few years back, but he was poorly cast and isn’t someone the general public respected.

Phil was too far off brand, and mocked the ideals of ethics and professionalism. The campaign raised concern among many members who still talk about how much they disliked the image this character created for them.

The Realtor must develop a relatable face and voice that people like – someone people will respect, admire and trust. They need someone with attributes NAR members and the general public might see in themselves.

NAR could start right with its own CEO and other leaders, who are dedicated to housing and its complexities, and give them a stronger, more defined voice and face. This campaign could convey the humanity and focus that the people who run the organization share with consumers.

New day

NAR needs a win. The Realtor population needs a win. A creative campaign that shows true understanding of the consumer and a sensitivity to their challenges and aspirations would be a good place to start.

With a new day beginning under a new CEO, I am optimistic.