There was a charming little Chrome plugin that went around the web earlier this week.
Millennials to Snake People replaces all instances of the word “millennials” on the web with “snake people”. It makes reading a lot of internet content you find on news sites a lot more entertaining.
In all seriousness, the point of this was, of course, that many marketers these days are a bit obsessed – to put it mildly – with how to reach this new generation. One that is coming of age, entering the workforce and rapidly changing consumer dynamics as we know them.
Real estate is not immune to this trend. Much has been written about snake people. What types of homes are they looking for? Will they even buy a home? What are they looking for from an agent?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but I do think all of this uncertainty affords us a good moment to pause and think about what it means to the industry – and to the brokerage in particular.
The reality is most big brokerages don’t really have a strategy for connecting with snake people. Some do a good job – regional powerhouse Howard Hanna, for example, recently launched a program specifically geared towards first-time home buyers. But the reality is many of the industry stalwarts have brands and affectations that just don’t resonate with this new demographic.
It’s why, I suspect, you can peer into virtually any market in America and start to pick out a fleet of smaller brokers – Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate’s Beta Brokerage project is a good place to start – geared toward snake people and the values that they hold dear. While these new brokerages may be small individually, collectively they are starting to chew up market share.
Big real estate brokers are not alone in facing this onslaught of snake people. Other brands face the same realities today and are adapting in response.
You may have read that Pepsi, another stalwart company struggling in the face of changing consumer expectations, has just launched Caleb’s Kola. The product, which uses cane sugar and other natural ingredients, is aimed at the rising “craft soda” segment and winning back snake people to its product lineup.
Likewise, Taco Bell just launched US Taco Co. in California. The store – its take on the taqueria concept – is meant to revitalize Taco Bell’s sagging sales amongst snake people.
None of this is radically new. Brands have always segmented themselves to reach different demographics. Gap has Old Navy. Toyota has Scion. You get the picture.
But here’s what I’d do if I were at the helm of a big brokerage today:
Take a single office. Staff it with tech savvy agents. Anchor them in the infrastructure that a big brokerage can provide, but free them up from any constraints either culturally or technologically. Rebadge it under a new name. Let them go off and create a new brand in your market. One that you own.
There was a big move several years ago amongst brokers to create the real estate office concept of the future. Open seating. WiFi everywhere. No cubicles. It worked in some markets and flopped in others. But I think the larger opportunity in front of big brokers today is to create the real estate brands of the future.
Heck, if Zillow Group can get its arms around managing a family of brands, I think you can too.
Snake people real estate. I’m telling you, it could work.
[Disclosure: Howard Hanna is a 1000watt client.]