See how marketing is done now

Airbnb, a company anyone running a real estate brokerage or franchise should pay attention to, ran its first TV ad last week. If you guessed they’d run a quirky 30-second spot featuring their best looking users with some hipster-esque tunes layered on top, you’d be wrong.

No. Airbnb, of course, went deeper.

The ad, titled “Hollywood & Vines,” is a 4-minute long short film composed entirely of six-second, user-contributed Vines. It tells a story without using any dialogue. It doesn’t mention Airbnb in dialogue or narration, and doesn’t utter the word travel or the vernacular that’s embedded in that industry.

Yet it’s entirely relevant.

The plot is an important one for the Airbnb brand: experiencing the wonder and excitement of the world and life through travel. And while the travel in this ad is acted out by paper airplanes, it creates an emotional connection.

The plot thickens

By now, you’ve likely been hit over the head more than a few times with the phrase “content marketing”. People today have a low tolerance for the spray of mass advertising. But tell them a story that sits where your brand values and their personal values connect, and they’ll listen.

Marketing today needs a believable plot. Seems simple, yet few take the care needed to fully develop one. Instead they are forced into a system of creating content for the sake of “being social” or ranking on Google.

The most striking thing about Airbnb’s short film is that it was created entirely by regular people. We often point to the practice of featuring your customers as a way to reveal more about your brand. But Airbnb took it a step further and let their customers and fans act out the story. They challenged their creativity.

There is virtually no marketing like this happening in real estate, which feels like a missed opportunity. We know of one brokerage, RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis, that takes this approach in hosting an annual local film festival.

Have you ever noticed how candid people get when you ask them about where they live? They immediately start in with their list of likes and dislikes, firing off specific restaurants and landmarks, commenting on the weather, and naming best times of the year to visit.

Even the shyest of people will talk openly about where they live. Their neighborhood. The people. The weather. Traffic.

I’d love to see more real estate companies harnessing the tools available to mine for these stories and share them with their customers. Rather than shoveling content into social media each day and calling that a strategy, why not set yourself up to listen instead? Set up a situation like Airbnb did and call upon your customers for creative content they associate with home.

Olapic, Vine, Chute, Tumblr, Instagram. These are all tools that can be used to stoke your users’ appetite to create content.

Stop to listen

Of course, none of this is to suggest you start putting videos up on YouTube of your customers talking about how great you are. As Marc points out with video, the bar for attention and engagement is very high. Quality is important.

The content of your marketing story matters more than you may think. It’s too easy to turn you off, click away and watch something else. With each piece of marketing you send out online, you’re competing for attention with Miley Cyrus’ latest tongue shot and Beyonce’s latest hairdo.

Focus on ways you can engage your customers in telling the story. I bet you’ll find that more people stop to listen.