Sacrificing the few for the good of the many

I have no doubt this video will stir your emotions.

You will be shocked by the possible and blatant transgression of copyright violation displayed by the makers of this video who may not have obtained permission to create derivative work or the license required to synchronize their composition to video.

You will shudder at the realization that a member of an industry so consumed with protecting its own copyrighted content could so casually transgress others.

You will be taken by the flippant approach to making a spoof video about real estate dreams during a time when nightmares prevail across Elm Street, USA.

As a marketer, I’m gripped by the things that continually suspend me into a coma. Namely: the platitude-filled world of real estate marketing replete with the happy go lucky disregard for conventional wisdom offered by whirling, twirling dream-maker agents. In my opinion, this so completely misses the mark given the serious nature of the most important transaction of our lives.

On what level can this be considered good, creative marketing?

Picture a team of surgeons prancing across the linoleum floor of an operating room, chanting about lymphoma and the testing, cutting, and suturing they do as they harmonize a chorus about granting the dreams of a cure through that medical nightmare.

Apple and oranges? Not to me.

I understand this video was not meant to be more than some lighthearted self promotion. But if that’s the intent, why settle for something that jeopardizes self respect, alienates an audience and rips off a group of songwriters in the process?

Of course that wasn’t their intention. But often, good intentions go south when they aren’t thought through. And this brings me to what I think about all day. The critical aspects of brand management, positioning and the marketing that must take place before you ever release anything to the public.

As I’ve stated in the past, good marketing, might have prevented this. It could have assisted the makers of the video in better understanding their value proposition. And helped them gain a better awareness of their audience, their needs and desires. It could have helped focus them on where the triggers are that would excite their audience, or possibly even fatigue them. Or infuriate them.

But a good campaign does not begin and end there.

With that information in tow, had they possessed some iota of brand standards, they would have held the results of their marketing up against those standards to best determine if their ideas are even sound and consistent with who they are and what their audience believes they are.

And then the hardest part of all: Not casting everything they learn aside in favor of whimsical fancy. Which is what I believe occurred here. They got so caught up in their own internal need to showcase their creativity they not only ran their brand off the road, they ran the risk of facing off with ASCAP’s S.W.A.T. team of lawyers seeking damages.

Marketing is your best friend.

It prevents you from looking foolish. It gets you closer to crafting that perfect message. Perfect advertisement. Perfect campaign.

Had they researched their audience, they might have learned how deeply mired in fear and confusion the American consumer is regarding real estate along with the rampant distrust consumers have regarding its practitioners.

It might have helped them rethink how they should present themselves to that audience.

Had they performed a simple gut check, they might have considered the specific dreams people have and the sheer delusion of pretending they can make the most pressing ones come true.

Had they assembled a little focus group, someone might have suggested that stuffing a stack of flyers into a Lucite box instead of affixing a sign rider with a URL where that home can be viewed online, does little to offer sellers any vestige of hope that they are the marketing dream team they claim to be.

Had they taken an objective listen to the lyrics, they might have heard the narcissistic undertones of doing everything their way. Besides, haven’t we all gotten the missive about how we ought to put the consumer first?

Perchance to dream

I’m not saying there are no dreams to be had in real estate. I myself perchance to have a few. Can these agents make these come true?

I dream the value of my investment properties will one day climb back up to what I paid for them.

I dream that one day, every agent will stop pretending to know what the market will be like in the future. Mine certainly had no idea back in 2005. But you never would have known that from listening to her. And I foolishly bought into her bravado.

I dream of the day when real estate reaches real transparency. Revealing a total lack of marketing savvy on a YouTube video is not the sort of transparency I’m envisioning.

I dream that the real estate industry stops treating this thing as game and start taking everything seriously. It might help raise it up (at least) a few notches in respectability.

I dream that there were more agents like you.

Sacrificing the few for the good of the many

Realtors are not gods. They are not genies. The fact that some claim supernatural abilities is part of an exhausted marketing paradigm that should be blasted to smithereens.

These days, the consumer is dealing with seriously pressing realities, needs, issues, concerns and fears.

And of course desires too. Like getting approved for a mortgage. Or finding an agent who is truly trustworthy.

If you have your clients back, can solve their problems, provide balanced advice and bring them closer to the promises you make, don’t hesitate and make that great video. But consider taking a different approach. Instead of playing the role of Court Jester, consider:

  • Listing the concerns you know haunt the consumer
  • List the things you’ve discovered they desire & recite them to the viewer
  • Explain what you’d do to assuage those concerns and come through in the clutch
  • Illustrate the tools you use and/or methods you employ
  • Place guarantees on the promises you make
  • Conduct yourself with an air of humility. And a demeanor that drips with professional acumen.

And then run it through enough people to make sure it’s dead on target.

The folks that made this video might be great agents. But you would never know it from this video. And what you can tell about them, are arguably nowhere in the vicinity of what their intended audience might be looking for. So in the end, what did this campaign accomplish?

Well, it became a sore topic on a blog and the focus of everything I believe is wrong in real estate marketing.

I’d like to see our industry do better than this.

– Davison

Twitter: @1000wattmarc

Postscript: There is a common practice to assume articles like this are written to make fun of people or invite and flurry of disparaging comments about the industry. That is not the intention here at all.

I deliberated on posting this for days questioning my values, my intentions, my brand ideals. In the end, by exposing the video and the people who made it, I realize I have sacrificed them for the good of the many in real estate who are not attending to their marketing, their advertising, their self image and self promotion – and thus their brand in the best way possible. This is consistent with what we are about. Constructive criticism for the sake of ascending us all to a higher place.

If there is any tinge of angst in this post, as the owner of a music publishing company, and someone who has worked in the music business for 20 years managing talent, I am genuinely sensitive to copyright violation. When the perpetrator of that violation is a Realtor sworn to uphold ethics, the damage this does to the entire industry is considerable. As a member of this industry, I take that seriously. We are all only as good as our weakest link.

I have no reason to believe the subjects in this video are anything but good people who acted out of innocence (ignorance) rather than maliciousness. I know, that’s no excuse. But if I can encourage a more positive approach to the comments that might include a focus on ideas, opinions and advice that could keep agents from making mistakes like this and create a list of tips on how to create a better campaign, this all of this will have been worth it.