Multi-layer Brand & Social Media

Last week, I had an opportunity to attend an extraordinary meeting with some of the most senior people at NAR, on the topic of social media.  I have to thank Jim Duncan for putting the meeting together, and of course, I am grateful to the leadership at NAR for being willing to listen to a bunch of blogger types.  I finally got the chance to meet Jim in person, and it was absolutely fantastic to meet and converse about social media, web, real estate, and marketing with some of the best and brightest in our industry.

Quick shout-outs then to: Dale Stinton, Frank Sibley, Mark Lesswing, Pamela Kabati, Hilary Marsh, and Keith Garner from NAR.  And to my fellow realestistas Jim Duncan, Ben Martin, Jay Thompson, Joe Ferrara, Eric Bryn, and via telephone, the redoubtable Benn Rosales, a tip of the ole hat.

However, this is not a post about that meeting.  It is, rather, about a concept that was brought up that has really intrigued me: multi-layer brand, and how that interacts with social media.

Multi-Layer Branding

The notion is that all working realtors (or REALTORS, more precisely) have what one might call a “multi-layer brand” and that this will have enormous impact on social media (indeed, on all marketing efforts) for real estate services.

Let me illustrate:

Multi-Layer Branding, Badly Illustrated

Multi-Layer Branding, Badly Illustrated

So the idea here is that every single REALTOR has multiple brands.

First, they are a REALTOR, a member of the National Association of REALTORS.  Presumably, this distinguishes them from the non-REALTORS, who I understand are referred to as “licensees”.  Those non-REALTORS are nonetheless real estate brokers and agents, fully licensed to help people transact business.

Then they are often members of large franchises or networks, such as Coldwell Banker.  Again, this distinguishes them from people who are not CB agents and do not carry the CB brand.

Then you have brokerages — in our industry, many/most operate under their own brand name as an extension of the franchise brand.  (Those that are not franchised operate under their own brand.)  So presumably, being with Coldwell Banker United is different from being with Coldwell Banker Joe-Blow Realty.

Next tier down may be either Teams or Offices.  Now this brand is trying to distinguish the realtor from others who are not part of the “Jill Smith Team”.  It’s trying to say, “Sure, those people are also CB United REALTORS, but we’re better/different because we are the Jill Smith Team.”

And finally, you have the agent’s personal brand:  “That Joan Cartwright is a real expert, and so friendly too!”

As the graphic attempts to illustrate, brand awareness (or breadth of brand) is higher towards the top and drops as you go down the layers.  More consumers have heard of REALTOR than have heard of Jill Smith Team.  Conversely, and interestingly, brand value (or power) is lower towards the top and higher towards the bottom.  For example, you may be referred business because you’re Joan Cartwright, super-agent, but only rarely (if ever) will you have a consumer say, “I’m giving you this listing, because you’re with Coldwell Banker, instead of those Keller Williams people.”

Hey, I got another follower on Twitter!

Hey, I got another follower on Twitter!

Born of Marketing, Growing Up on Social Media?

What I find interesting about this is that the multi-layer brand is the inevitable result of past marketing strategies focused around mass communications media.

It is much easier — and more effective — for national organizations to leverage TV, radio, and national print campaigns to create a national brand than it is for a local agent team to do so.  In fact, it probably makes no sense for Jill Smith Team to buy a Superbowl ad, but it may very well make a lot of sense for NAR to do so.

Since traditional marketing had a more-or-less direct correlation to the amount of spend, awareness is inevitably tied to size.  At the same time, over the past decade or so, the erosion of brand value not just for real estate brands but for almost all brands has been accelerating as consumers become more and more networked, and more and more skeptical of advertising.  As the Wired article says:

A study by retail-industry tracking firm NPD Group found that nearly half of those who described themselves as highly loyal to a brand were no longer loyal a year later. Even seemingly strong names rarely translate into much power at the cash register. Another remarkable study found that just 4 percent of consumers would be willing to stick with a brand if its competitors offered better value for the same price.

And,

The single biggest explanation for fragile brands is the swelling strength of the consumer. We’ve seen a pronounced jump in the amount of information available about goods and services. It’s not just bellwethers like Consumers Union and J.D. Power, established authorities that unquestionably shape people’s buying decisions, but also the crush of magazines, Web sites, and message boards scrutinizing products.

Hinted at in the Wired article is the growing power of “social media”.  New-school web-heads might look at “message boards” and laugh at it as being so Web 1.0.  But Facebook is really just a message board, which are in turn just a prettier face to the old Usenet newsgroups.  Plus ςa change

One of the observations I made about social media at the meeting is that no matter what else social media might do, it definitely does one thing: bypass traditional media.  Brands that were born from traditional media, and sustained by traditional media plays (like mass advertising and PR) need to look at social media with some care and even trepidation.  Because social media allows other players to bypass traditional media, one of the implications is that the higher-awareness brands (whose value is already weak) start losing awareness to boot.  If you’re a consumer getting most of your information from Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, you may never have even heard of Keller Williams as a brand.  You’re certainly not going to have any impression or emotional connection to the KW brand.

The Challenge

The conundrum of the higher-awareness brand owners then, such as NAR, is what to do about social media.  There are three available strategies:

  • Alienate
  • Ignore
  • Embrace

Alienate

An organization (such as NAR) can try to alienate social media.  It can prohibit its members from blogging, from using Twitter to talk about the organization, and the like.  It can leverage its power in traditional media to denigrate these “upstart know-nothing bloggers”.  Traditional news organizations have tried taking this tack in the past, with disastrous results.

For real estate, at this stage of the game, I believe that trying to alienate and denigrate social media would just make an organization look out of touch and stuck in the past.

Suffice to say, alienating social media is not recommended as a strategy.

Ignore

You can try to pretend that social media doesn’t really exist, or if it does, it’s not something to be taken all that seriously.  While not prohibiting involvement, you can choose not to promote involvement either.  Have a website, even a blog, but don’t expend a lot of effort beyond that.

A variation on the theme is to do social media as a ghettoized niche of marketing.  Far too many companies that have “social media” also have “corporate communications” and “public relations” and so on.  Only those people who work in “social media” are allowed to be the voice of the organization, and blog posts have to be approved by the Director of Social Media or some such.

The trouble with this is that “social media” is just a channel; that isn’t really important.  What is important is the attitude that makes “social media” workthe natural, authentic, human voice.  When you have segregated social media into a small corner of the overall marketing effort, then what you are really trying to do is ignore it, hoping it’s a fad that will go away.

Depending on the organization, this very well may be the ideal strategy.  If you’re Apple, for instance, I don’t know that it pays for you to let your people blog freely or twitter away.  So much of Apple’s brand image, and therefore its power, is a creature of traditional media that is tightly controlled by some very talented marketing people.  Why mess with it?  Sure, have a blog; but make sure it’s controlled.  Have an Apple Facebook page, but make sure that it’s tightly controlled.  If traditional methods are working, then why mess with it?

Embrace

The final strategy is to really embrace social media as an organization.  The challenge here is that social media at its heart is not a tactic, but a culture.  It means adopting Cluetrain principles of lowering barriers to communication between the people within your walls to consumers, interest groups, and stakeholders outside of those walls.

Social media isn’t just a corner of marketing; it becomes marketing.  Corporate communications & PR are subsumed into the social media culture of openness and authenticity.  There ain’t nothing to spin, if your culture is about openness and honesty, is there?  Everyone from the CEO down to the janitor become voices of the organization, for good and bad.  There is no “funnel” of engagement into the organization, anymore than there is a “megaphone” of the Corporate Voice out to the public.

Understandably, this state of affairs would make most marketers and most corporate executives extremely nervous.

Let me see that detialed marketing plan for a second...

Let me see that detailed marketing plan for a second...

Enter Chaos

As if wholesale organizational cultural change were not nerve-wracking enough, now we add multi-layer brand effects to the mix.

If a higher-order (in terms of awareness) organization starts to engage in social media — meaning, relaxing the barriers between its people and the public — what impact does that have on downstream brands?

So for example, say Coldwell Banker really embraces social media.  All of a sudden, you have corporate executives from CB national blogging openly and freely about real estate, about brokerage, about what’s going on inside 1 Campus, and so on.  They’re providing a lot of direct interaction with consumers, agents, and whatnot.  They start going on Twitter and engaging with individual agents of CB, even individual consumers.

While this may be wonderful, there will be a sort of a “flattening effect” that takes place.  The national Coldwell Banker brand starts to be defined by the open conversation that takes place directly with consumers and with agents.

So if you are the director of marketing for CB United, what does that do to you and your plans for the CB United brand which you are trying to differentiate from other CB-branded companies?

What if you’re Jill Smith, and you’re trying really hard to enforce a certain way of doing business in an effort to differentiate yourself from the rest of the CB agents out there?  What if your strategy was to use social media to convey to your clients that you “get it”, that you’re “authentic”, not like those other CB agents?  And here comes CB corporate essentially granting that brand image of authenticity to all CB agents by virtue of their social media efforts.

While this impact of top-level brand on lower-level brand has always been in place for any multi-layer brand, social media exacerbates the problem because of its global reach, combined with direct interaction.  Jill Smith Team can overpower traditional media in its local market by focusing the ad spend in local channels, and public relations strategies focusing on local publications.  But with social media, it takes the same (low) effort for the local consumer/agent to follow @jillsmithteam on Twitter as it does to follow @coldwellbanker.

And Coldwell Banker’s blog is likely to have far higher SERPS on various search engines, and have huge multiples of readers/subscribers than Jill Smith Team’s blog.

Now what?

Many Questions, No Answers

One of the reasons why I wrote this is that I have no answers.  It’s a new area, a new conundrum.  The amount of spend — higher but broader at the top, lower but more concentrated at the lower end — has little impact on social media.  Conversely, those lower-down on the pyramid can get completely swamped and silenced by those higher up.

I’m sure there’s a way out of this maze, and that we’ll all figure it out together.  But right now, there are far more questions than there are answers.

I have a feeling that the solution will involve something like a cascade of value via cascade of content, with a coordinated — rather than a commanded — social media effort from the top-down, bottom-up, and in-between.  The solution might involve one or more of the layers simply atrophying away to meaninglessness as openness becomes the norm, rather than the exception.

We’ll be returning to this topic in the future.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts?

-rsh

  • http://4realz.net/ Dustin

    The “now what?” seems pretty straightforward for now…

    I think you’re going to see a lot of companies make timid attempts at social media and continue to play it relatively safe (i.e. dumb facebook apps, bland blogs, etc). And there’s a good reason for this — not a lot of big companies are making series money off their social media endeavors.

    However, some new companies in real estate are starting to make a serious dent using social media (I’m thinking of how Jeff Turner has done almost all the marketing of RES through social media)… As those upstarts get bigger, you’ll see the existing players either reach out to people who know how to drive social media ROI or lose market share.

    I think you’re focus on the role of the traditional “brands” is a bit misplaced since brands are only good if they’re driving ROI. If a slightly (completely?) chaotic brand drives more biz, then the winners in the space will be the ones who adapt when the timing is right.

  • http://4realz.net/ Dustin

    The “now what?” seems pretty straightforward for now…

    I think you’re going to see a lot of companies make timid attempts at social media and continue to play it relatively safe (i.e. dumb facebook apps, bland blogs, etc). And there’s a good reason for this — not a lot of big companies are making series money off their social media endeavors.

    However, some new companies in real estate are starting to make a serious dent using social media (I’m thinking of how Jeff Turner has done almost all the marketing of RES through social media)… As those upstarts get bigger, you’ll see the existing players either reach out to people who know how to drive social media ROI or lose market share.

    I think you’re focus on the role of the traditional “brands” is a bit misplaced since brands are only good if they’re driving ROI. If a slightly (completely?) chaotic brand drives more biz, then the winners in the space will be the ones who adapt when the timing is right.

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  • brandieyoung

    Ooohh. Interesting! Would have loved to been a fly on the wall during this discussion. This truly is a conundrum. There are a couple areas I’d love to explore in what you’ve posted here.

    First: “those lower-down on the pyramid can get completely swamped and silenced by those higher up.” I wonder about that … Those higher up certainly have the ability to make more noise, but since the communications are not 1-to-1, are they impactful enough to silence those lower-down who are communicating 1-to-1 (or more so)?

    The other thing to consider is the folks at the lowest point, agents, are independent contractors. So, a fully coordinated effort of cascading content is no easy feat – unless, someone at the top is willing to deemphasize their brand building strategy and place the emphasis on delivering value-added content for the marketplace and the consumer. I think that might be a tad altruistic for the big box brands – or at least – too difficult to justify.

    R.O.B. rocks!

  • brandieyoung

    Ooohh. Interesting! Would have loved to been a fly on the wall during this discussion. This truly is a conundrum. There are a couple areas I’d love to explore in what you’ve posted here.

    First: “those lower-down on the pyramid can get completely swamped and silenced by those higher up.” I wonder about that … Those higher up certainly have the ability to make more noise, but since the communications are not 1-to-1, are they impactful enough to silence those lower-down who are communicating 1-to-1 (or more so)?

    The other thing to consider is the folks at the lowest point, agents, are independent contractors. So, a fully coordinated effort of cascading content is no easy feat – unless, someone at the top is willing to deemphasize their brand building strategy and place the emphasis on delivering value-added content for the marketplace and the consumer. I think that might be a tad altruistic for the big box brands – or at least – too difficult to justify.

    R.O.B. rocks!

  • http://www.pawleys-island.net/ pawleys island

    great post. You are right we do have a multi-level brand. Being an agent I see all of the flaws in the system too.

  • http://www.pawleys-island.net pawleys island

    great post. You are right we do have a multi-level brand. Being an agent I see all of the flaws in the system too.

  • http://waves.wavgroup.com/ Marilyn Wilson

    I would ask a different question before even getting to the social media question. Why is the real estate industry trying to create so many multi-level brands? When I was VP Marketing at Fisher-Price with $40mm plus marketing budgets we were lucky if we could promote the Fisher-Price and just one more level of branding to differentiate one toy line from another. To think that any firm, regardless of their social media strategy can legitimately create brand awareness for 5 levels of brands is ludicrous.

    Why is it that consumers don’t say I would like to work with Coldwell-Banker vs. Keller Williams? I believe there are two factors conributing to the lack of brand loyalty for consumers. First, the national franchises have done little to differentiate themselves from each other. I couldn’t tell you the difference between what I should expect from a Coldwell-Banker experience versus a Keller-Williams experience. Second, the brands do little to create a consistent brand experience for consumers. Most brands do not require or even recommend consistent behaviors so that consumers will know what to expect from a brand. Franchises in other industries require each individual company and even employee to participate in creating an overall brand image. None of the U.S. based franchises have created that discipline in this industry.

    Second, I agree with you that large companies are going to continue to have a hard time to figure out to effectively leverage social media. Even those that have embraced the idea of creating a direct and open dialog with their customers run into the hurdle of lawyers and stockholders. Large companies do not publish anything without legal approval. How do you create an honest, timely and open dialog when you it will need to be blessed by lawyers? Many companies are also afraid of what a blog can do to their stock price too. If a high profile blogger publishes bad things about them(e.g. security risk of iPhones) it can create a big impact on the stock price. With that said, however, I do believe that every company with a consumer brand needs to deploy a social media team to monitor and manage their online brand “dialog”. The “ignore” strategy is not working for many companies even though they are afraid to address it.

    The good news is that smaller companies who have not yet gone public have a unique advantage to build a better relationship with their customers by taking advantage of their ability to connect directly. It provides an opportunity to beat the more well-established players by building one on one relationships.

  • http://waves.wavgroup.com Marilyn Wilson

    I would ask a different question before even getting to the social media question. Why is the real estate industry trying to create so many multi-level brands? When I was VP Marketing at Fisher-Price with $40mm plus marketing budgets we were lucky if we could promote the Fisher-Price and just one more level of branding to differentiate one toy line from another. To think that any firm, regardless of their social media strategy can legitimately create brand awareness for 5 levels of brands is ludicrous.

    Why is it that consumers don’t say I would like to work with Coldwell-Banker vs. Keller Williams? I believe there are two factors conributing to the lack of brand loyalty for consumers. First, the national franchises have done little to differentiate themselves from each other. I couldn’t tell you the difference between what I should expect from a Coldwell-Banker experience versus a Keller-Williams experience. Second, the brands do little to create a consistent brand experience for consumers. Most brands do not require or even recommend consistent behaviors so that consumers will know what to expect from a brand. Franchises in other industries require each individual company and even employee to participate in creating an overall brand image. None of the U.S. based franchises have created that discipline in this industry.

    Second, I agree with you that large companies are going to continue to have a hard time to figure out to effectively leverage social media. Even those that have embraced the idea of creating a direct and open dialog with their customers run into the hurdle of lawyers and stockholders. Large companies do not publish anything without legal approval. How do you create an honest, timely and open dialog when you it will need to be blessed by lawyers? Many companies are also afraid of what a blog can do to their stock price too. If a high profile blogger publishes bad things about them(e.g. security risk of iPhones) it can create a big impact on the stock price. With that said, however, I do believe that every company with a consumer brand needs to deploy a social media team to monitor and manage their online brand “dialog”. The “ignore” strategy is not working for many companies even though they are afraid to address it.

    The good news is that smaller companies who have not yet gone public have a unique advantage to build a better relationship with their customers by taking advantage of their ability to connect directly. It provides an opportunity to beat the more well-established players by building one on one relationships.

  • http://www.realcentralva.com/ Jim Duncan

    Who is the customer?

    As the graphic attempts to illustrate, brand awareness (or breadth of brand) is higher towards the top and drops as you go down the layers. More consumers have heard of REALTOR than have heard of Jill Smith Team. Conversely, and interestingly, brand value (or power) is lower towards the top and higher towards the bottom. For example, you may be referred business because you’re Joan Cartwright, super-agent, but only rarely (if ever) will you have a consumer say, “I’m giving you this listing, because you’re with Coldwell Banker, instead of those Keller Williams people.”

    You buy a Honda because they make a good car. In my experience, there is very little, if any real differentiation between brokerages with respect to their agents.

    Consumers want a quality product, and they have been left to discern said agent quality on their own, as mass advertising has (at least in the recent past) been – “use *a* Realtor,” not use a *competent* Realtor.

    In light of the mass media push to all consumers and in light of consumers’ respective growing of their own social, trusted networks, social-media aware Realtors are more able and prepared to address those individual networks without having to resort to broad advertising campaigns.

    An ongoing challenge is the persistence of the message. Most consumers only buy residential real estate every five or seven years (at best) so staying somewhere near the tip of the tongue is remarkably difficult. As a Realtor, I don’t necessarily care if people think of my company’s brand. I want them to remember my name or blog or brand – and then they’ll just Google me.

    Consumers are searching for authenticity and trust – two character traits that have been seemingly lacking in the Top-Level Realtor Brand, and not even addresses at the Network or Brokerage-level brands and that void is therefore harmful to the individual Realtor.

    Q – What is the brand or service that the brokerages – big or small – are selling?

    A – The quality of their agents?

    Their technological prowess?

    Ability to market differently?

    Quality of their agents?

    You tell me.

    This leads into one of the discussions we had – who is the NAR’s customer? The agent? Brokers? (big/small?) Associations? The answer sort of depends on whom you ask.

    Who is the brokers’ customer?

    The consumer or the agent?

    I wish I had answers to the questions …

    Regarding Network-level brand awareness and the abdication of brand responsibility in this “me too” environment.

    The best example I have is Century 21. Their agents used to be universally recognized because they all wore the god-awful ugly yellow coats. But everyone recognized the people in ugly coats as Century 21 Realtors – a small price to pay for being fashion-challenged.

    To Marilyn’s point:

    The good news is that smaller companies who have not yet gone public have a unique advantage to build a better relationship with their customers by taking advantage of their ability to connect directly. It provides an opportunity to beat the more well-established players by building one on one relationships.

    This is one of the most salient points made to which I will add one thing – for the smaller players, the risks and guttural fears are far less than those felt by the larger brands.

    In the end, the discussion is about building, maintaining, leveraging and branding trust into tangible business.

    * I really should have just made this a blog post … :)

  • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

    Who is the customer?

    As the graphic attempts to illustrate, brand awareness (or breadth of brand) is higher towards the top and drops as you go down the layers. More consumers have heard of REALTOR than have heard of Jill Smith Team. Conversely, and interestingly, brand value (or power) is lower towards the top and higher towards the bottom. For example, you may be referred business because you’re Joan Cartwright, super-agent, but only rarely (if ever) will you have a consumer say, “I’m giving you this listing, because you’re with Coldwell Banker, instead of those Keller Williams people.”

    You buy a Honda because they make a good car. In my experience, there is very little, if any real differentiation between brokerages with respect to their agents.

    Consumers want a quality product, and they have been left to discern said agent quality on their own, as mass advertising has (at least in the recent past) been – “use *a* Realtor,” not use a *competent* Realtor.

    In light of the mass media push to all consumers and in light of consumers’ respective growing of their own social, trusted networks, social-media aware Realtors are more able and prepared to address those individual networks without having to resort to broad advertising campaigns.

    An ongoing challenge is the persistence of the message. Most consumers only buy residential real estate every five or seven years (at best) so staying somewhere near the tip of the tongue is remarkably difficult. As a Realtor, I don’t necessarily care if people think of my company’s brand. I want them to remember my name or blog or brand – and then they’ll just Google me.

    Consumers are searching for authenticity and trust – two character traits that have been seemingly lacking in the Top-Level Realtor Brand, and not even addresses at the Network or Brokerage-level brands and that void is therefore harmful to the individual Realtor.

    Q – What is the brand or service that the brokerages – big or small – are selling?

    A – The quality of their agents?

    Their technological prowess?

    Ability to market differently?

    Quality of their agents?

    You tell me.

    This leads into one of the discussions we had – who is the NAR’s customer? The agent? Brokers? (big/small?) Associations? The answer sort of depends on whom you ask.

    Who is the brokers’ customer?

    The consumer or the agent?

    I wish I had answers to the questions …

    Regarding Network-level brand awareness and the abdication of brand responsibility in this “me too” environment.

    The best example I have is Century 21. Their agents used to be universally recognized because they all wore the god-awful ugly yellow coats. But everyone recognized the people in ugly coats as Century 21 Realtors – a small price to pay for being fashion-challenged.

    To Marilyn’s point:

    The good news is that smaller companies who have not yet gone public have a unique advantage to build a better relationship with their customers by taking advantage of their ability to connect directly. It provides an opportunity to beat the more well-established players by building one on one relationships.

    This is one of the most salient points made to which I will add one thing – for the smaller players, the risks and guttural fears are far less than those felt by the larger brands.

    In the end, the discussion is about building, maintaining, leveraging and branding trust into tangible business.

    * I really should have just made this a blog post … :)

  • http://www.realcentralva.com/ Jim Duncan

    Aargh. My html formatting didn’t make it.

    Q – What is the brand or service that the brokerages – big or small – are selling?
    A – The quality of their agents?
    Their technological prowess?
    Ability to market differently?
    Quality of their agents?
    You tell me.

  • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

    Aargh. My html formatting didn’t make it.

    Q – What is the brand or service that the brokerages – big or small – are selling?
    A – The quality of their agents?
    Their technological prowess?
    Ability to market differently?
    Quality of their agents?
    You tell me.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts — this post in particular made me want to have a discussion, because I genuinely have no idea how it’ll play out.

    I happen to agree with Marilyn that the RE brands won’t exactly be winning branding awards anytime soon. And Jim’s point re: the gold jackets is a salient one. Even if you recognize that gold jacket = Century 21, there is no actual meaning to “Century 21″ in the consumer’s mind. It’s a recognizable brand that doesn’t stand for anything.

    Frankly, the same goes for the REALTOR brand that NAR spends so much money branding every year. Even amongst professionals, REALTOR isn’t like (say) “CCIM” amongst commercial folks that does have a brand equity/meaning.

    Now, we can discuss how to fix that situation, how to make these brand meaningful through other means, but the one that has me scratching my head is how social media specifically interacts with these brands, up and down through the layers.

    Since “social media” at its heart has some notion of “conversational marketing” drawn from Cluetrain principles, it’s an attempt to either define or re-energize a company’s brand/image/reputation by allowing people who work there speak openly and freely to the world.

    Okay, fine; let’s say for the purpose of examination that a large organization successfully embraces social media. Say NAR successfully manages to imbue the brand “REALTOR” with some real meaning: “ethical professionals who are subject matter experts on real estate”.

    If you’re Coldwell Banker, what do you do now with YOUR social media strategy? Every agent with the REALTOR tag now carries the “ethical professionals who are experts” brand image. And if NAR’s social media strategy is successful, it won’t be because NAR has a great chief blogger, but becasue NAR unleashes its membership to carry on conversations with the marketplace.

    Which is great… unless you’re CB and your own enterprise value is tied up in differentiating your paying customers (aka, affiliates) from those other REALTORS. How does CB now leverage social media conversational marketing to differentiate its brand? “We’re even MORE ethical than the average REALTOR?”

    And so on down the line. Even the small Jill Smith Team or the individual Joan Cartwright, REALTOR, has to deal with the branding that has been established ‘above’ them that has wider awareness.

    In other words — consider not the implications of failure but the implications of success by the larger entities in real estate.

    NAR successfully brands REALTOR as “ethical professional”

    CB in turn brands all CB REALTORS as “friendly, ethical professional”

    CB United brands as “friendly, ethical, professional with a tradition of client service”

    Jill Smith Team brands as “friendly, ethical, professional, with client service, who know the local market better than anyone else”.

    What the heck is left for Joan Cartwright? “I love horses”?

    This would be my response to Brandie’s comment re: 1-to-1. Social media is inherently 1-to-1; if the larger organizations actually succeed, it means that they are in 1-to-1 communication directly with the wider agent community and with the consumer public.

    Sure, they might FAIL — and that failure might be due to execution or due to some unknown structural reason (aka, “big brands simply can’t do social media well”) — but since I don’t see at this point a structural issue with big brand social media plays (look at what BHG and LeadingRE have been up to lately)… I guess I’m asking what happens when these strategies are successful.

    Great thoughts; looking forward to the next set of comments/thoughts.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts — this post in particular made me want to have a discussion, because I genuinely have no idea how it’ll play out.

    I happen to agree with Marilyn that the RE brands won’t exactly be winning branding awards anytime soon. And Jim’s point re: the gold jackets is a salient one. Even if you recognize that gold jacket = Century 21, there is no actual meaning to “Century 21″ in the consumer’s mind. It’s a recognizable brand that doesn’t stand for anything.

    Frankly, the same goes for the REALTOR brand that NAR spends so much money branding every year. Even amongst professionals, REALTOR isn’t like (say) “CCIM” amongst commercial folks that does have a brand equity/meaning.

    Now, we can discuss how to fix that situation, how to make these brand meaningful through other means, but the one that has me scratching my head is how social media specifically interacts with these brands, up and down through the layers.

    Since “social media” at its heart has some notion of “conversational marketing” drawn from Cluetrain principles, it’s an attempt to either define or re-energize a company’s brand/image/reputation by allowing people who work there speak openly and freely to the world.

    Okay, fine; let’s say for the purpose of examination that a large organization successfully embraces social media. Say NAR successfully manages to imbue the brand “REALTOR” with some real meaning: “ethical professionals who are subject matter experts on real estate”.

    If you’re Coldwell Banker, what do you do now with YOUR social media strategy? Every agent with the REALTOR tag now carries the “ethical professionals who are experts” brand image. And if NAR’s social media strategy is successful, it won’t be because NAR has a great chief blogger, but becasue NAR unleashes its membership to carry on conversations with the marketplace.

    Which is great… unless you’re CB and your own enterprise value is tied up in differentiating your paying customers (aka, affiliates) from those other REALTORS. How does CB now leverage social media conversational marketing to differentiate its brand? “We’re even MORE ethical than the average REALTOR?”

    And so on down the line. Even the small Jill Smith Team or the individual Joan Cartwright, REALTOR, has to deal with the branding that has been established ‘above’ them that has wider awareness.

    In other words — consider not the implications of failure but the implications of success by the larger entities in real estate.

    NAR successfully brands REALTOR as “ethical professional”

    CB in turn brands all CB REALTORS as “friendly, ethical professional”

    CB United brands as “friendly, ethical, professional with a tradition of client service”

    Jill Smith Team brands as “friendly, ethical, professional, with client service, who know the local market better than anyone else”.

    What the heck is left for Joan Cartwright? “I love horses”?

    This would be my response to Brandie’s comment re: 1-to-1. Social media is inherently 1-to-1; if the larger organizations actually succeed, it means that they are in 1-to-1 communication directly with the wider agent community and with the consumer public.

    Sure, they might FAIL — and that failure might be due to execution or due to some unknown structural reason (aka, “big brands simply can’t do social media well”) — but since I don’t see at this point a structural issue with big brand social media plays (look at what BHG and LeadingRE have been up to lately)… I guess I’m asking what happens when these strategies are successful.

    Great thoughts; looking forward to the next set of comments/thoughts.

    -rsh

  • http://www.NestRealtyGroup.com/ Jonathan Kauffmann

    Interesting discussion – something that I’ve thought about in the past. Real estate is an interesting profession b/c you have NAR trying to ‘brand’ all Realtors one way…and the individual agents may be trying to brand a different way. So, there is a bit of tension in there.

    Here’s how I see it: every quality agent needs to first look out for themselves and brand themselves. If an agent is part of a brokerage that doesn’t allow this, it’s time to look elsewhere. For quality agents, your personal brand is your most important brand.

    I do think that a brokerage brand can complement an agent brand…if done properly. However, the brokerage brand should not overpower the agent brand. If it does, either 1) the brokerage is spending too much of its’ agents’ money on company branding and/or 2) the agent needs to think about their brand and how they are marketing themselves.

    The top line ‘Realtor’ brand is another story. We could talk all day long about the NAR’s efforts of Realtor branding. But, along with my point about brokerage brands: no quality agent should ever rely on NAR to promote their brand. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with some recent campaigns, the NAR is doing more detriment than good to the brands of quality agents.

    One last point: you’ll notice that I’ve mentioned ‘quality agents’. I think that NAR and brokerage branding is geared towards helping to establish legitimacy of newer (and maybe non-producing) agents. Only a newer agent promotes themselves as, “Hi, I’m John Smith. I’m a member of NAR and a Realtor with ABC Realty.” In this case, the brokerage’s name recognition attempts to add legitimacy to the individual agent.

  • http://www.NestRealtyGroup.com Jonathan Kauffmann

    Interesting discussion – something that I’ve thought about in the past. Real estate is an interesting profession b/c you have NAR trying to ‘brand’ all Realtors one way…and the individual agents may be trying to brand a different way. So, there is a bit of tension in there.

    Here’s how I see it: every quality agent needs to first look out for themselves and brand themselves. If an agent is part of a brokerage that doesn’t allow this, it’s time to look elsewhere. For quality agents, your personal brand is your most important brand.

    I do think that a brokerage brand can complement an agent brand…if done properly. However, the brokerage brand should not overpower the agent brand. If it does, either 1) the brokerage is spending too much of its’ agents’ money on company branding and/or 2) the agent needs to think about their brand and how they are marketing themselves.

    The top line ‘Realtor’ brand is another story. We could talk all day long about the NAR’s efforts of Realtor branding. But, along with my point about brokerage brands: no quality agent should ever rely on NAR to promote their brand. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with some recent campaigns, the NAR is doing more detriment than good to the brands of quality agents.

    One last point: you’ll notice that I’ve mentioned ‘quality agents’. I think that NAR and brokerage branding is geared towards helping to establish legitimacy of newer (and maybe non-producing) agents. Only a newer agent promotes themselves as, “Hi, I’m John Smith. I’m a member of NAR and a Realtor with ABC Realty.” In this case, the brokerage’s name recognition attempts to add legitimacy to the individual agent.

  • http://blog.sellsiusrealestate.com/ Joseph Ferrara.sellsius

    It is, of course, necessary to build brand awareness and trust, irrespective of the level you occupy in the inverted pyramid. If the brands higher up the pyramid have awareness and trust & I participate in them, via membership, it behooves me to take advantage of their brand power and add it to my own. The question is how. The answer lies partly in the highest brand establishing itself as a prerequisite brand for hiring an agent. Before a consumer looks for a “competent” Realtor, they must first be looking for a Realtor. It is then, at this competency level, that the lower tiered brands establish their desirability in the local market. Performance works best, IMO.

    Social media is an essential vehicle for broadcasting, monitoring and encouraging participation in your brand, again, irrespective of your brand pecking order. But again, you hope to take advantage of brand identity & trust built by those brands above, of which you participare thru membership. But social media is too broad a term to wrap a strategy around. So, one must identify the various social media channels, monitor them and then choose the channel(s) which best serve the message or content you wish to communicate (the media part) and have SHARED (the social part)

    The different social media channels you’ll find in my blog post (coming soon).

    Hmm.. I’m getting hungry for BBQ

  • http://blog.sellsiusrealestate.com Joseph Ferrara.sellsius

    It is, of course, necessary to build brand awareness and trust, irrespective of the level you occupy in the inverted pyramid. If the brands higher up the pyramid have awareness and trust & I participate in them, via membership, it behooves me to take advantage of their brand power and add it to my own. The question is how. The answer lies partly in the highest brand establishing itself as a prerequisite brand for hiring an agent. Before a consumer looks for a “competent” Realtor, they must first be looking for a Realtor. It is then, at this competency level, that the lower tiered brands establish their desirability in the local market. Performance works best, IMO.

    Social media is an essential vehicle for broadcasting, monitoring and encouraging participation in your brand, again, irrespective of your brand pecking order. But again, you hope to take advantage of brand identity & trust built by those brands above, of which you participare thru membership. But social media is too broad a term to wrap a strategy around. So, one must identify the various social media channels, monitor them and then choose the channel(s) which best serve the message or content you wish to communicate (the media part) and have SHARED (the social part)

    The different social media channels you’ll find in my blog post (coming soon).

    Hmm.. I’m getting hungry for BBQ

  • http://www.century21.com/ Matt Gentile

    Great post Rob. As usual you raise many interesting points that we in the real estate marketing business are exploring. I put the question to David Meerman Scott (www.webinknow.com – cheap plug for you David) of what were the top 10 things I can do immediately to use social media to spread the gospel of homeownership and drive brand preference to CENTURY 21. Here is his response: http://www.webinknow.com/2008/10/top-10-ideas-fo.html.

    Having come from CBNRT in Florida, I completely understand the challenges faced by all tiers below NAR in your stylish inverse pyramid. It is an interesting time to be in real estate marketing. The infusion of technology and its integration with mass communication / marketing / public relations strategies is extremely interesting for someone who has spent the past 20 years in technology marketing and pr.

    While I agree with your take that consumers have gained a great deal of power through greater access to information, I tend to disagree with the limited overview you provide as it makes broad generalizations about the “erosion of brand” based on two simple paragraph references. Obviously I have a bias working for the largest real estate franchise company, but that is not my sole reason for disagreement.

    The power of brands still drives perception in the market and customers to the door for product and service based companies. For service based companies it is critical for that service provider, in this case, real estate agent, then leverage their training, tools and skills to convert that potential customer into a customer for life.

    No amount of social media can close the deal like a qualified sales professional.

    From the brand level we can make every effort to drive consumers to our franchises. As you may have read, CENTURY 21 recently announced (See Ad Age Article) its intention to move its national tv advertising money online. This action is to drive business via paid search, display and additional social media components.

    I don’t see the brand drowning out brokerages or agents in the online social media space. I know we have several projects on the board to create a supportive environment for our brokerages and agents who are on the frontier of utilizing Web 2.0 in their business. If anything, I see the brand as an enabler for its brokers and agents to succeed in their social media efforts.

    In the end it all comes back to the quality of service that you (NAR, Brand, Company, Team, Agent) deliver to the consumer and it always will be. Social media simply acts as a (channel) multiplier to dissiminate the consumer opinion (message) of that service.

    Good service = more business.

    Bad service = less business.

    Sender – Channel – Message – Receiver

    Same as it ever was.

    Matt Gentile
    Director, PR
    CENTURY 21 Real Estate

  • http://www.century21.com Matt Gentile

    Great post Rob. As usual you raise many interesting points that we in the real estate marketing business are exploring. I put the question to David Meerman Scott (www.webinknow.com – cheap plug for you David) of what were the top 10 things I can do immediately to use social media to spread the gospel of homeownership and drive brand preference to CENTURY 21. Here is his response: http://www.webinknow.com/2008/10/top-10-ideas-fo.html.

    Having come from CBNRT in Florida, I completely understand the challenges faced by all tiers below NAR in your stylish inverse pyramid. It is an interesting time to be in real estate marketing. The infusion of technology and its integration with mass communication / marketing / public relations strategies is extremely interesting for someone who has spent the past 20 years in technology marketing and pr.

    While I agree with your take that consumers have gained a great deal of power through greater access to information, I tend to disagree with the limited overview you provide as it makes broad generalizations about the “erosion of brand” based on two simple paragraph references. Obviously I have a bias working for the largest real estate franchise company, but that is not my sole reason for disagreement.

    The power of brands still drives perception in the market and customers to the door for product and service based companies. For service based companies it is critical for that service provider, in this case, real estate agent, then leverage their training, tools and skills to convert that potential customer into a customer for life.

    No amount of social media can close the deal like a qualified sales professional.

    From the brand level we can make every effort to drive consumers to our franchises. As you may have read, CENTURY 21 recently announced (See Ad Age Article) its intention to move its national tv advertising money online. This action is to drive business via paid search, display and additional social media components.

    I don’t see the brand drowning out brokerages or agents in the online social media space. I know we have several projects on the board to create a supportive environment for our brokerages and agents who are on the frontier of utilizing Web 2.0 in their business. If anything, I see the brand as an enabler for its brokers and agents to succeed in their social media efforts.

    In the end it all comes back to the quality of service that you (NAR, Brand, Company, Team, Agent) deliver to the consumer and it always will be. Social media simply acts as a (channel) multiplier to dissiminate the consumer opinion (message) of that service.

    Good service = more business.

    Bad service = less business.

    Sender – Channel – Message – Receiver

    Same as it ever was.

    Matt Gentile
    Director, PR
    CENTURY 21 Real Estate

  • http://www.realcentralva.com/ Jim Duncan

    This would be my response to Brandie’s comment re: 1-to-1. Social media is inherently 1-to-1; if the larger organizations actually succeed, it means that they are in 1-to-1 communication directly with the wider agent community and with the consumer public.

    The goals are different. NAR wants to brand the brand of Realtor while brokerages want to (or should want to) brand the quality of their agents and offerings.

    As I’ve been thinking about this, I think that for NAR or C21 or the small brokerage or the brand, these keywords or concepts keep coming to the forefront of my definition of a social media strategy/person/position -

    - Chief listener
    - Translator
    - Guide
    - Air Traffic Controller – listening to much (not all) of the ongoing conversation) and
    - Connector – connecting the people asking questions to the ones who have the answers
    - Conversation manager

    I think that the audiences, much like the brands, are different. The target audiences are likely in different stages of the real estate process.

    NAR – use a Realtor – national
    KW – use our Realtor – national
    Brokerage – use
    our – national and local
    Realtor/Team – use
    me – local (and regional/national via Google)

    There is one truism – If the strategy focuses on the technology and process and neglects the people, it will fail.

  • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

    This would be my response to Brandie’s comment re: 1-to-1. Social media is inherently 1-to-1; if the larger organizations actually succeed, it means that they are in 1-to-1 communication directly with the wider agent community and with the consumer public.

    The goals are different. NAR wants to brand the brand of Realtor while brokerages want to (or should want to) brand the quality of their agents and offerings.

    As I’ve been thinking about this, I think that for NAR or C21 or the small brokerage or the brand, these keywords or concepts keep coming to the forefront of my definition of a social media strategy/person/position -

    - Chief listener
    - Translator
    - Guide
    - Air Traffic Controller – listening to much (not all) of the ongoing conversation) and
    - Connector – connecting the people asking questions to the ones who have the answers
    - Conversation manager

    I think that the audiences, much like the brands, are different. The target audiences are likely in different stages of the real estate process.

    NAR – use a Realtor – national
    KW – use our Realtor – national
    Brokerage – use
    our – national and local
    Realtor/Team – use
    me – local (and regional/national via Google)

    There is one truism – If the strategy focuses on the technology and process and neglects the people, it will fail.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Matt -

    Thanks for your input, Matt. I do think what C21 is up to at the Big Networks level is something the industry is watching very carefully.

    I do think, however, that the recent move to shift all offline ad spend to online is not the same as embracing social media. An ad on Trulia is still just an ad, the same as an ad in a newspaper is; it still belongs in the same family as ‘traditional media’.

    If, instead, you guys had spent $10m a year in hiring bloggers, training every C21 agent, broker, support staff, and corporate team (including Tom Kunz, for example) to blog, twitter, connect via Facebook, and so on, then that’s real social media. Imagine Tom doing a weekly webinar on C21, on transactions, on the state of the market relying on stats from C21 franchises, etc. while taking frank questions and comments from audience members, unfiltered by Legal and by Corporate Communications. That’s social media.

    Plus, I have a question about this:

    The power of brands still drives perception in the market and customers to the door for product and service based companies….

    No amount of social media can close the deal like a qualified sales professional.

    I completely agree that nothing closes a deal like a qualified pro. At the same time, do you guys have any statistics on the impact of the C21 brand on driving leads? Does a C21 franchise get 20% more leads than a non-branded real estate company? Does it get 15% more leads than a CB franchise, or a Remax franchise, or a KW franchise? I know you did a survey recently; what data on customer loyalty to C21 as a brand, or customer perception of what C21 brand means, do you have (can can share)?

    Finally, this most delicious morsel:

    If anything, I see the brand as an enabler for its brokers and agents to succeed in their social media efforts.

    Now that’s what we’re talking about!

    But as you implement this “brand as enabler”, supposing you’re successful with those efforts… what does that look like from a brand standpoint? You will enable C21 franchisees (at both brokerage and individual agent levels) to engage in social media — presumably this means training, software, etc. As a result, those brokers and agents have successfully branded themselves. Where does the C21 brand fit in as a differentiator from other brands, whether independents (see, e.g., Leading RE companies) or other franchises (e.g., Remax, KW, CB, etc.)?

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Matt -

    Thanks for your input, Matt. I do think what C21 is up to at the Big Networks level is something the industry is watching very carefully.

    I do think, however, that the recent move to shift all offline ad spend to online is not the same as embracing social media. An ad on Trulia is still just an ad, the same as an ad in a newspaper is; it still belongs in the same family as ‘traditional media’.

    If, instead, you guys had spent $10m a year in hiring bloggers, training every C21 agent, broker, support staff, and corporate team (including Tom Kunz, for example) to blog, twitter, connect via Facebook, and so on, then that’s real social media. Imagine Tom doing a weekly webinar on C21, on transactions, on the state of the market relying on stats from C21 franchises, etc. while taking frank questions and comments from audience members, unfiltered by Legal and by Corporate Communications. That’s social media.

    Plus, I have a question about this:

    The power of brands still drives perception in the market and customers to the door for product and service based companies….

    No amount of social media can close the deal like a qualified sales professional.

    I completely agree that nothing closes a deal like a qualified pro. At the same time, do you guys have any statistics on the impact of the C21 brand on driving leads? Does a C21 franchise get 20% more leads than a non-branded real estate company? Does it get 15% more leads than a CB franchise, or a Remax franchise, or a KW franchise? I know you did a survey recently; what data on customer loyalty to C21 as a brand, or customer perception of what C21 brand means, do you have (can can share)?

    Finally, this most delicious morsel:

    If anything, I see the brand as an enabler for its brokers and agents to succeed in their social media efforts.

    Now that’s what we’re talking about!

    But as you implement this “brand as enabler”, supposing you’re successful with those efforts… what does that look like from a brand standpoint? You will enable C21 franchisees (at both brokerage and individual agent levels) to engage in social media — presumably this means training, software, etc. As a result, those brokers and agents have successfully branded themselves. Where does the C21 brand fit in as a differentiator from other brands, whether independents (see, e.g., Leading RE companies) or other franchises (e.g., Remax, KW, CB, etc.)?

    -rsh

  • http://www.Miamism.com/ miamism

    I like to play devil’s advocate and as much as I think the mega brands or the Top of the tier can use social media, they will always be “represented” by an individual’s voice.

    There will always be politics in the top tier and how they come out in the new media world is puzzling to me. I left CB because I didn’t need their brand anymore and I started hitting road blocks.

    I converse with Hilary Marsh all the time, like her and respect her and think she does a great job of representing NAR – but I can only imagine that she is very limited on what she can say or do when it comes to twitter and facebook and all the other avenues out there.

    I’m also curious to see how the mega brands approach this dilemma – I can’t see them turning their back or they will loose ground IMHO.

  • http://www.Miamism.com miamism

    I like to play devil’s advocate and as much as I think the mega brands or the Top of the tier can use social media, they will always be “represented” by an individual’s voice.

    There will always be politics in the top tier and how they come out in the new media world is puzzling to me. I left CB because I didn’t need their brand anymore and I started hitting road blocks.

    I converse with Hilary Marsh all the time, like her and respect her and think she does a great job of representing NAR – but I can only imagine that she is very limited on what she can say or do when it comes to twitter and facebook and all the other avenues out there.

    I’m also curious to see how the mega brands approach this dilemma – I can’t see them turning their back or they will loose ground IMHO.

  • Marc

    Rob,

    Do you think is this a new conundrum or simply a newly added dimension to an already existing conundrum that goes to very heart of the difficulties facing real estate brands?

  • Marc

    Rob,

    Do you think is this a new conundrum or simply a newly added dimension to an already existing conundrum that goes to very heart of the difficulties facing real estate brands?

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    >The notion is that all working realtors (or REALTORS, more precisely) have what one might call a “multi-layer brand” and that this will have enormous impact on social media (indeed, on all marketing efforts) for real estate services.

    I disagree.
    It’s not my job, my concern, nor my responsibility to brand anyone/anything but myself. Everything I do is to establish my own brand- service oriented, transparency oriented- my duties are to my clients.

    As an individual agent and independent contractor, my biggest branding is personal and lives- or dies- with my clients- by my own sword.

    So, you are writing this, I’ll assume, to brokers and the organizational wonks. I’m simply responding as an agent. A sfr agent. The pointy -or in my case, prickly ;-)- part of your graph.

    >So the idea here is that every single REALTOR has multiple brands.

    A cringe-inducing statement.

    SMM is 1:1. Anything more and the brand gets diluted, regardless of good intentions, and the occasional homerun. The beauty part, to my way of thinking, is that because I’m small and I’m working with people 1:1, I can change, morph, evolve, grow, improve, develop, and provide, much more quickly, much cleaner, and much more effectively than an organization…

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    >The notion is that all working realtors (or REALTORS, more precisely) have what one might call a “multi-layer brand” and that this will have enormous impact on social media (indeed, on all marketing efforts) for real estate services.

    I disagree.
    It’s not my job, my concern, nor my responsibility to brand anyone/anything but myself. Everything I do is to establish my own brand- service oriented, transparency oriented- my duties are to my clients.

    As an individual agent and independent contractor, my biggest branding is personal and lives- or dies- with my clients- by my own sword.

    So, you are writing this, I’ll assume, to brokers and the organizational wonks. I’m simply responding as an agent. A sfr agent. The pointy -or in my case, prickly ;-)- part of your graph.

    >So the idea here is that every single REALTOR has multiple brands.

    A cringe-inducing statement.

    SMM is 1:1. Anything more and the brand gets diluted, regardless of good intentions, and the occasional homerun. The beauty part, to my way of thinking, is that because I’m small and I’m working with people 1:1, I can change, morph, evolve, grow, improve, develop, and provide, much more quickly, much cleaner, and much more effectively than an organization…

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Marc -

    I think this is a new added dimension to the existing conundrum — however, the unique factors of social media makes resolving it far more difficult.

    Traditional marketing (advertising, mailings, whatever) remain more or less unidirectional broadcast/positioning. The impact of that is diluted, and leaves plenty of room for the lower-layer brands to maneuver.

    Social media, if done well by the over-brands, is a direct engagement with the consumer, which leaves less room to maneuver for the under-brands. Which poses significant challenges to organizational structure, coordination, and message cohesion.

    At least… I think so… :)

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Marc -

    I think this is a new added dimension to the existing conundrum — however, the unique factors of social media makes resolving it far more difficult.

    Traditional marketing (advertising, mailings, whatever) remain more or less unidirectional broadcast/positioning. The impact of that is diluted, and leaves plenty of room for the lower-layer brands to maneuver.

    Social media, if done well by the over-brands, is a direct engagement with the consumer, which leaves less room to maneuver for the under-brands. Which poses significant challenges to organizational structure, coordination, and message cohesion.

    At least… I think so… :)

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Teri -

    I think you’re misreading me slightly.

    I’m not saying you have any responsibility to any brand but your own, which you control. What I am saying, however, and this seems incontrovertible, is that whether you like it or not, you have a multi-layer brand.

    Recall what you said to me over Twitter about the damage that David Lereah did to YOU. That couldn’t happen if you didn’t have a multi-layer brand, where the consumer associated the words of a NAR economist with you.

    If your broker is indicted for fraud in some high-visibility case, that will absolutely impact your brand, even if you had nothing whatsoever to do with his actions.

    The impact goes both ways, by the way. Having one bad agent is bad news for a Team, for the Brokerage, and for the Brand, all the way up to the top brand layer. Indeed, many of the voices crying out for reform focus on ridding the industry of unprofessional, “bad” agents who give the rest of you a bad name.

    I’m also not claiming that organizations can do social media better than an agent, or lower-tier brands. What I am pointing out is the significant impact that social media would have on lower-tier brands (and conversely, the impact that social media could have on higher-tier brands) by virtue of direct 1:1 engagement with the consumers.

    It’s a conundrum; a riddle inside a box wrapped in an enigma. :)

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Teri -

    I think you’re misreading me slightly.

    I’m not saying you have any responsibility to any brand but your own, which you control. What I am saying, however, and this seems incontrovertible, is that whether you like it or not, you have a multi-layer brand.

    Recall what you said to me over Twitter about the damage that David Lereah did to YOU. That couldn’t happen if you didn’t have a multi-layer brand, where the consumer associated the words of a NAR economist with you.

    If your broker is indicted for fraud in some high-visibility case, that will absolutely impact your brand, even if you had nothing whatsoever to do with his actions.

    The impact goes both ways, by the way. Having one bad agent is bad news for a Team, for the Brokerage, and for the Brand, all the way up to the top brand layer. Indeed, many of the voices crying out for reform focus on ridding the industry of unprofessional, “bad” agents who give the rest of you a bad name.

    I’m also not claiming that organizations can do social media better than an agent, or lower-tier brands. What I am pointing out is the significant impact that social media would have on lower-tier brands (and conversely, the impact that social media could have on higher-tier brands) by virtue of direct 1:1 engagement with the consumers.

    It’s a conundrum; a riddle inside a box wrapped in an enigma. :)

    -rsh

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    Hi Rob-

    No, I understood what you were saying. I was commenting more to those agents who are peeking in, reading this conversation, just beginning to explore SMM but not sure where they might stand and how it applies to their individual brand. To those agents- you are your own brand and because you are dealing on the street level, you have a much more powerful opportunity to use SMM to create value and provide service for your clients. Use it! But use it for your clients, not for your own gain. Give information, education, be transparent.

    Yes, I’m affected by poor choices made by others, but I believe I have more control than a larger organization. As agents we need to become acutely aware of that power and use it to educate on a 1:1 level.

    Not being involved in the branding of brokerages, city, state and national board-level branding, I’ll not speak to what is going on there, except to say own experience is that being transparent online pays off in a myriad of ways when I get f2f. Transparency is a shield of sorts against whatever is going on with the fatter parts of the pyramid.

    Come to think of it, it’s very possible that the conundrum only exists if transparency doesn’t occur at some point on the pyramid… hmmm…

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    Hi Rob-

    No, I understood what you were saying. I was commenting more to those agents who are peeking in, reading this conversation, just beginning to explore SMM but not sure where they might stand and how it applies to their individual brand. To those agents- you are your own brand and because you are dealing on the street level, you have a much more powerful opportunity to use SMM to create value and provide service for your clients. Use it! But use it for your clients, not for your own gain. Give information, education, be transparent.

    Yes, I’m affected by poor choices made by others, but I believe I have more control than a larger organization. As agents we need to become acutely aware of that power and use it to educate on a 1:1 level.

    Not being involved in the branding of brokerages, city, state and national board-level branding, I’ll not speak to what is going on there, except to say own experience is that being transparent online pays off in a myriad of ways when I get f2f. Transparency is a shield of sorts against whatever is going on with the fatter parts of the pyramid.

    Come to think of it, it’s very possible that the conundrum only exists if transparency doesn’t occur at some point on the pyramid… hmmm…

  • Marc

    Rob,

    Regarding the idea that social media done right by over brands would leave less room for the under brands to maneuver, perhaps in a more perfect real estate world that would not occur but actually both would highly benefit from each others uber branding play and or star power much like powerful over brand sport teams brands coincide well with the powerful brands of its star players.

    The conundrum as you point out in real estate is vastly created by the fact that very few of over brands in this business mean anything to the consumer. The fact is a consumer’s impression of any over brand is probably created from whatever experience they had with an agent they worked from that brand. And since most of the over brands in real estate don’t stand for very much other than recruiting agents, selling franchises or attracting membership, their attempts at social media would probably fail miserably anyway.

    Which brings up Teri’s point, which I feel is rock solid. The only brand in real estate that actually matters is the agent’s brand. The only voice that really has any influence is the agent’s voice. For an over brand to actually be effective using social media its voice would have to reflect and echo that of its lower brand partners. There are handful of cases where this exists, but that’s it. For the most part, if you inverted your pyramid and placed the agent at the top, that would like right to me. Especially since their work, their income, the pieces of their commission, feeds every single one of the brands beneath them.

    So to add to your conundrum, I juxtapose that the agents are really the super brands in real estate, the upper brands are simply tools for the agents, not brands, and the future looks very good for agents like Teri who have that figured out.

  • Marc

    Rob,

    Regarding the idea that social media done right by over brands would leave less room for the under brands to maneuver, perhaps in a more perfect real estate world that would not occur but actually both would highly benefit from each others uber branding play and or star power much like powerful over brand sport teams brands coincide well with the powerful brands of its star players.

    The conundrum as you point out in real estate is vastly created by the fact that very few of over brands in this business mean anything to the consumer. The fact is a consumer’s impression of any over brand is probably created from whatever experience they had with an agent they worked from that brand. And since most of the over brands in real estate don’t stand for very much other than recruiting agents, selling franchises or attracting membership, their attempts at social media would probably fail miserably anyway.

    Which brings up Teri’s point, which I feel is rock solid. The only brand in real estate that actually matters is the agent’s brand. The only voice that really has any influence is the agent’s voice. For an over brand to actually be effective using social media its voice would have to reflect and echo that of its lower brand partners. There are handful of cases where this exists, but that’s it. For the most part, if you inverted your pyramid and placed the agent at the top, that would like right to me. Especially since their work, their income, the pieces of their commission, feeds every single one of the brands beneath them.

    So to add to your conundrum, I juxtapose that the agents are really the super brands in real estate, the upper brands are simply tools for the agents, not brands, and the future looks very good for agents like Teri who have that figured out.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    Teri -

    I see it now :) And I have no issue with your suggestions/thoughts.

    Marc -

    Thing is, the pyramid actually addresses your very point: brand value is inversely related to brand awareness. And that’s a fact that is easily provable by consumer research. More people have heard of Century 21 than have heard of Teri Lussier. At the same time, as you point out, the Century 21 brand is more or less devoid of any meaning/brand value, while Teri has enormous brand value.

    This is one of the central challenges of any overbrand — how to increase brand value to all those underneath it in the layer-cake, so as to keep justifying the cost/fees/commission splits. Social media will absolutely be one of the tools the overbrands explore using to increase brand value.

    The conundrum, I suppose, is what that (social media play, if successful) does to the brand value of the underbrands.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    Teri -

    I see it now :) And I have no issue with your suggestions/thoughts.

    Marc -

    Thing is, the pyramid actually addresses your very point: brand value is inversely related to brand awareness. And that’s a fact that is easily provable by consumer research. More people have heard of Century 21 than have heard of Teri Lussier. At the same time, as you point out, the Century 21 brand is more or less devoid of any meaning/brand value, while Teri has enormous brand value.

    This is one of the central challenges of any overbrand — how to increase brand value to all those underneath it in the layer-cake, so as to keep justifying the cost/fees/commission splits. Social media will absolutely be one of the tools the overbrands explore using to increase brand value.

    The conundrum, I suppose, is what that (social media play, if successful) does to the brand value of the underbrands.

    -rsh

  • Marc

    The conundrum indeed.

    The task of any overbrand to increase brand value to those underneath is critical. Today many are hemorrhaging as more and more agents leave these nests to start their brands. Interestingly, as a result of social media, these agents turned brokers are able to build their brands and their business quickly and successfully. Jay has done it. Kris has done it. Others are doing it.

    My guess is by the time the major over brands realize that SM is a tool to be respected and utilized, it will be too late for them.

    With that in mind, there are handfuls of overbrands, both old and established (McGuire Real Estate in SF as an example) or new and exciting (@Properties in Chicago or BH&G in NJ) that are building their value up and down the ladder through significant corporate branding that include a powerful SM play.

  • Marc

    The conundrum indeed.

    The task of any overbrand to increase brand value to those underneath is critical. Today many are hemorrhaging as more and more agents leave these nests to start their brands. Interestingly, as a result of social media, these agents turned brokers are able to build their brands and their business quickly and successfully. Jay has done it. Kris has done it. Others are doing it.

    My guess is by the time the major over brands realize that SM is a tool to be respected and utilized, it will be too late for them.

    With that in mind, there are handfuls of overbrands, both old and established (McGuire Real Estate in SF as an example) or new and exciting (@Properties in Chicago or BH&G in NJ) that are building their value up and down the ladder through significant corporate branding that include a powerful SM play.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Marc -

    You know what would be cool is taking BHG for example and looking at their social media efforts, then looking at how that affects the underbrands, all the way down the chain to an agent with BHG.

    Of course, if it does not affect the underbrands… that’s another problem in and of itself…

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Marc -

    You know what would be cool is taking BHG for example and looking at their social media efforts, then looking at how that affects the underbrands, all the way down the chain to an agent with BHG.

    Of course, if it does not affect the underbrands… that’s another problem in and of itself…

    -rsh

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    >Of course, if it does not affect the underbrands… that’s another problem in and of itself…

    No! No it isn’t a problem, Rob. Quit that crazy talk! Gee whiz.

    Look. I’m perfectly cool with creating my own brand, thankyouverymuch, and you are not helping me out here. gah. :-D

    You are gonna blow the best thing that’s happened to agents- SMM is cheap, easy, and connects with an extraordinary amount of freedom. We don’t want brokers screwing, er, um, diluting, umm… confusing?… uh… effecting our own personal brands.

    Seriously though, the challenge for upbranding is to stay out of the way of agents. Instead of trying to control us, train us on best uses, then allow us to create brands that work for us. What works for us, also works for the upbrands in increased revenue, but they must learn to untie the apron strings.

    Now, if that freedom is a problem, then they don’t trust us. Which has everything to do with training, and nothing to do with branding.

    I should be writing my own post… ;-)

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    >Of course, if it does not affect the underbrands… that’s another problem in and of itself…

    No! No it isn’t a problem, Rob. Quit that crazy talk! Gee whiz.

    Look. I’m perfectly cool with creating my own brand, thankyouverymuch, and you are not helping me out here. gah. :-D

    You are gonna blow the best thing that’s happened to agents- SMM is cheap, easy, and connects with an extraordinary amount of freedom. We don’t want brokers screwing, er, um, diluting, umm… confusing?… uh… effecting our own personal brands.

    Seriously though, the challenge for upbranding is to stay out of the way of agents. Instead of trying to control us, train us on best uses, then allow us to create brands that work for us. What works for us, also works for the upbrands in increased revenue, but they must learn to untie the apron strings.

    Now, if that freedom is a problem, then they don’t trust us. Which has everything to do with training, and nothing to do with branding.

    I should be writing my own post… ;-)

  • Marc

    I have to agree with Teri on almost every count. The upper brands were set up and for the most part exist as simple recruitment centers to attract agents, set them up in business and provide them everything from designations to cubicles. Most of the upper brands are not consumer brands and have proven that through some of very bad attempts to connect through SM or mainstream marketing.

    What is sad it how diluted these upper brands have become in both their value propositions to the agents and their sorry attempts to extend value to the consumer.

    BHG is a different story. With 60 years as a consumer brand their SM efforts make sense.

  • Marc

    I have to agree with Teri on almost every count. The upper brands were set up and for the most part exist as simple recruitment centers to attract agents, set them up in business and provide them everything from designations to cubicles. Most of the upper brands are not consumer brands and have proven that through some of very bad attempts to connect through SM or mainstream marketing.

    What is sad it how diluted these upper brands have become in both their value propositions to the agents and their sorry attempts to extend value to the consumer.

    BHG is a different story. With 60 years as a consumer brand their SM efforts make sense.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Teri -

    LOL — but Teri, it is a problem if the overbrand doesn’t affect the underbrand at all. Because there are payments going on from the underbrands to the overbrands.

    FWIW, what I’m pointing out is that as the overbrands undertake social media marketing — which they most assuredly will — they need to consider the conundrum that you are raising: “We don’t want brokers screwing, er, um, diluting, umm… confusing?… uh… effecting our own personal brands.” That’s exactly right.

    So the worst of both worlds is if the overbrands do hamfisted social media plays that make no sense, is not in coordination with the underbrands, and end up screwing everybody while deriving little value for itself.

    And yes, you should be writing your own post. :)

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Teri -

    LOL — but Teri, it is a problem if the overbrand doesn’t affect the underbrand at all. Because there are payments going on from the underbrands to the overbrands.

    FWIW, what I’m pointing out is that as the overbrands undertake social media marketing — which they most assuredly will — they need to consider the conundrum that you are raising: “We don’t want brokers screwing, er, um, diluting, umm… confusing?… uh… effecting our own personal brands.” That’s exactly right.

    So the worst of both worlds is if the overbrands do hamfisted social media plays that make no sense, is not in coordination with the underbrands, and end up screwing everybody while deriving little value for itself.

    And yes, you should be writing your own post. :)

    -rsh

  • Marc

    I wonder if this conundrum is much to do about nothing. Most of the over brands are not thinking about SM as a tactic. The ones that are thinking about it are essentially doing so in a confused manner – kind of like a caveman staring at butane lighter. Most though, like the caveman with the lighter, are frightened by it. Of the few over brands that approach SM, most will either screw it up or speak to a deaf audience. The consumer has not bought into the big brands and the big brands have done little to buy into the consumer. I cite the NAR Ethic campaign or the Now is the Right Time to Buy campaign that has had no effect on anyone.

    The bottom line is, the agent is still in charge. If those over the agent attempt to hamstring an agent, the agent can either change over brands or start their own.

  • Marc

    I wonder if this conundrum is much to do about nothing. Most of the over brands are not thinking about SM as a tactic. The ones that are thinking about it are essentially doing so in a confused manner – kind of like a caveman staring at butane lighter. Most though, like the caveman with the lighter, are frightened by it. Of the few over brands that approach SM, most will either screw it up or speak to a deaf audience. The consumer has not bought into the big brands and the big brands have done little to buy into the consumer. I cite the NAR Ethic campaign or the Now is the Right Time to Buy campaign that has had no effect on anyone.

    The bottom line is, the agent is still in charge. If those over the agent attempt to hamstring an agent, the agent can either change over brands or start their own.

  • http://www.century21.com/ Matt Gentile

    As I said in my original comment, “I see the brand as an enabler for its brokers and agents to succeed in their social media efforts.”

    The excessive bashing of the “overbrands” strikes me as self-serving commentary by marginalized competitors and doesn’t advance the discussion of social media and its applications for real estate marketing by NAR, the major brands or other industry players.

    As with most innovation, much progress is made by individual players and then enhanced by organizations with a proven track record of success and a solid foundation from which to build.

    In regard to all of the comments concerning the value that major brands provide to their brokers and agents… top tier training and education, enormous SEM and SEO spend, plus a powerful worldwide referral network of real estate professionals all designed to drive more business through the System highlight just a few of the benefits.

    I would like to see some relevant statistics on how much business is actually being driven by social media. While I understand the principles of cluetrain and I believe social media is a great new channel for network development and CRM, much work remains to enhance its utilization in driving qualfied leads and converting units.

    Now, about Rob’s question, “Where does the C21 brand fit in as a differentiator from other brands, whether independents (see, e.g., Leading RE companies) or other franchises?”

    The great differentiator…

    Ah, the latest jargon among the realestistas, (love tha term by the way. I feel so Che, when I read it.)

    Your question really drives at various points among the other posts here…what does brand mean now that everyone is their own brand. I asked this question of Scoble recently, “Are we moving to a place where every business must become their own media company?” Will Anthony’s Bakery be required to make news and entertaining content to thrive in a Web 2.0 world?

    I doubt it. CENTURY 21 is is 64 countries around the world with a network of over 130,000 professionals. Regardless of whether or not agents create individualized brands within the companies and the “overbrand” is irrelevant. Brand awareness for C21 is 97% and brand preference is 60%. If you polled 100 people and asked them to name a real estate company, I’m guessing a majority would say CENTURY 21.

    Now, I don’t want to play the Family Fued card, but to suggest that the major RE brands are not already developing a cogent strategy for leveraging social media to its highest and best use is either foolhardy or wishful thinking.

    I look forward to more spirited debate on this subject.

    Best Regards,

    Matt Gentile

  • http://www.century21.com Matt Gentile

    As I said in my original comment, “I see the brand as an enabler for its brokers and agents to succeed in their social media efforts.”

    The excessive bashing of the “overbrands” strikes me as self-serving commentary by marginalized competitors and doesn’t advance the discussion of social media and its applications for real estate marketing by NAR, the major brands or other industry players.

    As with most innovation, much progress is made by individual players and then enhanced by organizations with a proven track record of success and a solid foundation from which to build.

    In regard to all of the comments concerning the value that major brands provide to their brokers and agents… top tier training and education, enormous SEM and SEO spend, plus a powerful worldwide referral network of real estate professionals all designed to drive more business through the System highlight just a few of the benefits.

    I would like to see some relevant statistics on how much business is actually being driven by social media. While I understand the principles of cluetrain and I believe social media is a great new channel for network development and CRM, much work remains to enhance its utilization in driving qualfied leads and converting units.

    Now, about Rob’s question, “Where does the C21 brand fit in as a differentiator from other brands, whether independents (see, e.g., Leading RE companies) or other franchises?”

    The great differentiator…

    Ah, the latest jargon among the realestistas, (love tha term by the way. I feel so Che, when I read it.)

    Your question really drives at various points among the other posts here…what does brand mean now that everyone is their own brand. I asked this question of Scoble recently, “Are we moving to a place where every business must become their own media company?” Will Anthony’s Bakery be required to make news and entertaining content to thrive in a Web 2.0 world?

    I doubt it. CENTURY 21 is is 64 countries around the world with a network of over 130,000 professionals. Regardless of whether or not agents create individualized brands within the companies and the “overbrand” is irrelevant. Brand awareness for C21 is 97% and brand preference is 60%. If you polled 100 people and asked them to name a real estate company, I’m guessing a majority would say CENTURY 21.

    Now, I don’t want to play the Family Fued card, but to suggest that the major RE brands are not already developing a cogent strategy for leveraging social media to its highest and best use is either foolhardy or wishful thinking.

    I look forward to more spirited debate on this subject.

    Best Regards,

    Matt Gentile

  • Marc

    C21 may have a network of 130,000 agents. Not sure I would causally refer to all of them as professionals since that term certainly connotes some brand value not everyone has earned.

  • Marc

    C21 may have a network of 130,000 agents. Not sure I would causally refer to all of them as professionals since that term certainly connotes some brand value not everyone has earned.

  • http://www.realestaterelativity.com/blog/ Eric Bryn

    Rob, the challenge you outline is endemic to many brands today who’ve relied in the past on a command and control, top down models of marketing and advertising. And some brands are just too ubiquitous to elicit passion that would align with a social media branding campaign.

    One interesting point you allude to is the “disintermediation” effect that a big brand’s social media strategy could have on its agent constituency (i.e., the “Jill scenario”); it’s like a top-down Coup d’état on the agent brand, which would have the effect of splintering their agent community from a loyalty perspective as well as diluting their customer loyalty (who often align with the agent over the big brand).

    In response to your query: “I’m asking what happens when these strategies are successful”, that success will be hard to come by because it necessarily assumes a command and control, top down orchestration, which is inherently inapposite to the grassroots nature and power of social media. Thus, your scenario turns on what is the definition of “success”.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with Jim Duncan’s comment: “If the strategy focuses on the technology and process and neglects the people, it will fail”, which aligns well with “If anything, I see the brand as an enabler for its brokers and agents to succeed in their social media efforts”, with my caveat that this enabling effect has the potential echo effect of further diluting and fragmenting the big brand’s overarching relationship with consumers (i.e., big brand enables local franchisee to tap social media power which propels franchisee agent to “touch” local consumer, thus, establishing a deeper 1-to-1 relationship with customer which is in tension with big brand’s enterprise level customer for life goals).

  • http://www.realestaterelativity.com/blog/ Eric Bryn

    Rob, the challenge you outline is endemic to many brands today who’ve relied in the past on a command and control, top down models of marketing and advertising. And some brands are just too ubiquitous to elicit passion that would align with a social media branding campaign.

    One interesting point you allude to is the “disintermediation” effect that a big brand’s social media strategy could have on its agent constituency (i.e., the “Jill scenario”); it’s like a top-down Coup d’état on the agent brand, which would have the effect of splintering their agent community from a loyalty perspective as well as diluting their customer loyalty (who often align with the agent over the big brand).

    In response to your query: “I’m asking what happens when these strategies are successful”, that success will be hard to come by because it necessarily assumes a command and control, top down orchestration, which is inherently inapposite to the grassroots nature and power of social media. Thus, your scenario turns on what is the definition of “success”.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with Jim Duncan’s comment: “If the strategy focuses on the technology and process and neglects the people, it will fail”, which aligns well with “If anything, I see the brand as an enabler for its brokers and agents to succeed in their social media efforts”, with my caveat that this enabling effect has the potential echo effect of further diluting and fragmenting the big brand’s overarching relationship with consumers (i.e., big brand enables local franchisee to tap social media power which propels franchisee agent to “touch” local consumer, thus, establishing a deeper 1-to-1 relationship with customer which is in tension with big brand’s enterprise level customer for life goals).

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    >“Are we moving to a place where every business must become their own media company?” Will Anthony’s Bakery be required to make news and entertaining content to thrive in a Web 2.0 world?

    I love that.

    That thinking allows Ines to create Miamism as a brand, Kelley Koehler to create Housechick as a brand, and me to create The Brick Ranch as a brand. All with real value targeted at a very focused group of people. Not worldwide- that’s not our focus. We’ll leave that to you.

    I also love that you think Web 2.0 is “news and entertaining content”. That just rocks my world. Don’t ever change.

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    >“Are we moving to a place where every business must become their own media company?” Will Anthony’s Bakery be required to make news and entertaining content to thrive in a Web 2.0 world?

    I love that.

    That thinking allows Ines to create Miamism as a brand, Kelley Koehler to create Housechick as a brand, and me to create The Brick Ranch as a brand. All with real value targeted at a very focused group of people. Not worldwide- that’s not our focus. We’ll leave that to you.

    I also love that you think Web 2.0 is “news and entertaining content”. That just rocks my world. Don’t ever change.

  • http://www.century21.com/ matt gentile

    Teri,

    Obviously “news and entertainment” were not meant to define Web 2.0, but to demonstrate a point with regard to how businesses are leveraging it to create media properties (e.g., http://tv.winelibrary.com).

    Thank you for the belittling sarcasm though, great to get the heart pumping in the morning.

    You don’t ever change either.

    Regards,

    Matt Gentile
    (SCMR – Same as it Ever Was)

  • http://www.century21.com matt gentile

    Teri,

    Obviously “news and entertainment” were not meant to define Web 2.0, but to demonstrate a point with regard to how businesses are leveraging it to create media properties (e.g., http://tv.winelibrary.com).

    Thank you for the belittling sarcasm though, great to get the heart pumping in the morning.

    You don’t ever change either.

    Regards,

    Matt Gentile
    (SCMR – Same as it Ever Was)

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    I think I’m in love with this discussion. I might propose marriage to it.

    @Eric -

    I think you’re right on that an overbrand SM strategy cannot be traditional ‘command&control’. And that Jim’s insight re: people, not technology is an important one.

    I’m looking at some ideas and concepts right now that might propose a solution to the conundrum, but that’s a big project. :) It’ll take me a while to sort that one out.

    So what’s LeadingRE’s SM strategy — I’m thinking the new blog would be a great place to expound your thoughts on the subject. (hint, hint) :)

    @Matt -

    As is fairly obvious by now, I’m in the Robnecks camp of “Big Brands are meaningful” :) But I think you do have to acknowledge that despite 97% brand awareness, that 60% brand preference number is highly suspect.

    Do you have any studies or data to show (perhaps from polling your own agents) that consumers choose to list with a C21 agent over a CB agent or a RE/MAX agent because of the brand? Just speaking for myself, unless I’m in the ultra-luxury market where Sotheby’s or Corcoran or some such might be meaningful, I don’t know that the brand of the listing broker means a thing to me.

    The same goes for buy-side; one study I read showed that some huge majority (80+%?) of consumers work with the first agent to call them back. Hardly a recommendation for brand value.

    This is the basic issue that Marc Davison points out all the time, and I think is accurately reflected in the Multi-Layer pyramid: brand awareness is inversely correlated to brand value.

    Now I happen to love the confirmation that you provide that every major RE brand is launching or seriously planning a Social Media strategy. Of course you are; knowing some of the bright minds at 1 Campus, I have no doubts on it. I mean, this post was inspired by a meeting that NAR — the so-called stodgy, doesn’t-get-it, NAR — held to understand social media strategy more. I know that’s happening.

    So the real questions, I think, are:

    (1) Will Big Brands gain brand value commensurate with brand awareness through social media or not?
    (2) If gain, then will that gain by the over-brands come necessarily at the expense of the under-brands, or is there a strategy by which everyone benefits?
    (3) What would such a strategy look like?

    As an aside, the debate between you and Teri is awesome. :) And it points to the tensions that will need to be resolved as every overbrand pursues SM strategies.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    I think I’m in love with this discussion. I might propose marriage to it.

    @Eric -

    I think you’re right on that an overbrand SM strategy cannot be traditional ‘command&control’. And that Jim’s insight re: people, not technology is an important one.

    I’m looking at some ideas and concepts right now that might propose a solution to the conundrum, but that’s a big project. :) It’ll take me a while to sort that one out.

    So what’s LeadingRE’s SM strategy — I’m thinking the new blog would be a great place to expound your thoughts on the subject. (hint, hint) :)

    @Matt -

    As is fairly obvious by now, I’m in the Robnecks camp of “Big Brands are meaningful” :) But I think you do have to acknowledge that despite 97% brand awareness, that 60% brand preference number is highly suspect.

    Do you have any studies or data to show (perhaps from polling your own agents) that consumers choose to list with a C21 agent over a CB agent or a RE/MAX agent because of the brand? Just speaking for myself, unless I’m in the ultra-luxury market where Sotheby’s or Corcoran or some such might be meaningful, I don’t know that the brand of the listing broker means a thing to me.

    The same goes for buy-side; one study I read showed that some huge majority (80+%?) of consumers work with the first agent to call them back. Hardly a recommendation for brand value.

    This is the basic issue that Marc Davison points out all the time, and I think is accurately reflected in the Multi-Layer pyramid: brand awareness is inversely correlated to brand value.

    Now I happen to love the confirmation that you provide that every major RE brand is launching or seriously planning a Social Media strategy. Of course you are; knowing some of the bright minds at 1 Campus, I have no doubts on it. I mean, this post was inspired by a meeting that NAR — the so-called stodgy, doesn’t-get-it, NAR — held to understand social media strategy more. I know that’s happening.

    So the real questions, I think, are:

    (1) Will Big Brands gain brand value commensurate with brand awareness through social media or not?
    (2) If gain, then will that gain by the over-brands come necessarily at the expense of the under-brands, or is there a strategy by which everyone benefits?
    (3) What would such a strategy look like?

    As an aside, the debate between you and Teri is awesome. :) And it points to the tensions that will need to be resolved as every overbrand pursues SM strategies.

    -rsh

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    Matt-

    Sarcastic, yes. It’s a gift. ;-)

    Belittling? No. There will always be ways for me to provide more value in my own backyard, using sm, and also create a brand for myself, in my own backyard, than C21, or Trulia or R.com for that matter, ever will.

    Conversely, however, you can create a worldwide awareness of a brand, and there’s where you focus lies. My view is ground level, “marginalized” as you say. I’ll take that, and build the best damn marginalized brand I can, by offering each individual client the best damn service I’m capable of. You can’t do that. And my saying that, even sarcastically, is not meant to belittle, but to point out the fundamental differences in focus.

    Rob-

    > I don’t know that the brand of the listing broker means a thing to me.

    >The same goes for buy-side; one study I read showed that some huge majority (80+%?) of consumers work with the first agent to call them back. Hardly a recommendation for brand value.

    Exactly.

  • http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/ Teri Lussier

    Matt-

    Sarcastic, yes. It’s a gift. ;-)

    Belittling? No. There will always be ways for me to provide more value in my own backyard, using sm, and also create a brand for myself, in my own backyard, than C21, or Trulia or R.com for that matter, ever will.

    Conversely, however, you can create a worldwide awareness of a brand, and there’s where you focus lies. My view is ground level, “marginalized” as you say. I’ll take that, and build the best damn marginalized brand I can, by offering each individual client the best damn service I’m capable of. You can’t do that. And my saying that, even sarcastically, is not meant to belittle, but to point out the fundamental differences in focus.

    Rob-

    > I don’t know that the brand of the listing broker means a thing to me.

    >The same goes for buy-side; one study I read showed that some huge majority (80+%?) of consumers work with the first agent to call them back. Hardly a recommendation for brand value.

    Exactly.

  • http://www.century21.com/ matt gentile

    Rob,

    Here is a link to the Millward-Brown survey data that was posted by our good friend on the West Coast as soon as it was released: http://waves.wavgroup.com/century-21-is-rated-highest-real-estate-brand-by-consumers-for-9th-straight-year

    The study was conducted by a third party, Millward-Brown, a global market research organization. C’mon, I might be a flack, but I wouldn’t push information into the blogosphere without appropriate backup.

    To Teri’s point, I agree that the business is won on the ground. We can only support the environment in an effort to create a competitive advantage for our Brokers and Agents, via training, marketing, advertising and business consulting.

    The brand of a listing broker may not mean a thing to you, but it does to 60% of the Millward-Brown survey respondents.

    Rob your questions are spot on and only time will tell. It is an exciting time to be in real estate marketing at any level.

    Keep up the great work. I’ll be watching.

    Best Regards,

    Matt Gentile
    (SCMR) Same as it Ever Was

  • http://www.century21.com matt gentile

    Rob,

    Here is a link to the Millward-Brown survey data that was posted by our good friend on the West Coast as soon as it was released: http://waves.wavgroup.com/century-21-is-rated-highest-real-estate-brand-by-consumers-for-9th-straight-year

    The study was conducted by a third party, Millward-Brown, a global market research organization. C’mon, I might be a flack, but I wouldn’t push information into the blogosphere without appropriate backup.

    To Teri’s point, I agree that the business is won on the ground. We can only support the environment in an effort to create a competitive advantage for our Brokers and Agents, via training, marketing, advertising and business consulting.

    The brand of a listing broker may not mean a thing to you, but it does to 60% of the Millward-Brown survey respondents.

    Rob your questions are spot on and only time will tell. It is an exciting time to be in real estate marketing at any level.

    Keep up the great work. I’ll be watching.

    Best Regards,

    Matt Gentile
    (SCMR) Same as it Ever Was

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    Hey Matt -

    I saw that study by Millwar-Brown :) And those are some impressive brand awareness/preference numbers.

    That isn’t what I questioned, though. (Nor, do I think you’re a ‘flack’ for whatever that’s worth, heh.)

    What I’m questioning is whether the 60% “preference” number actually translates to action when the rubber meets the road. If it does, then you guys should have at least anecdotal evidence from your agents — collect enough of those and you’ve got real evidence of something.

    Send out a questionnaire to your 130,000 agents and ask them, “Tell us about a recent deal in which the consumer said he/she chose you over others because of the C21 brand.”

    The 60% preference number simply reflects consumers saying that they would. But what’s that saying in RE? Buyers are liars? :)

    FWIW, and I guess I can only speak to my own motivations while at Realogy, in response to what you said about supporting the Brokers and Agents… I know that a huge part of MY motivation for working as hard as I did at CBC was that I really respected our affiliates. Really. These are men and women who have sacrificed so much, struggled through decades of hardships building a successful business, with ups and downs and war stories aplenty. I always felt a sense of responsibility to them to help them be more successful because of their association with CBC.

    I rather suspect that quite a few people working at Big Franchise feel the same way. Whether they’re effective or not is a separate question; their motivation, however, is really to help the affiliates. That much, I can attest to.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    Hey Matt -

    I saw that study by Millwar-Brown :) And those are some impressive brand awareness/preference numbers.

    That isn’t what I questioned, though. (Nor, do I think you’re a ‘flack’ for whatever that’s worth, heh.)

    What I’m questioning is whether the 60% “preference” number actually translates to action when the rubber meets the road. If it does, then you guys should have at least anecdotal evidence from your agents — collect enough of those and you’ve got real evidence of something.

    Send out a questionnaire to your 130,000 agents and ask them, “Tell us about a recent deal in which the consumer said he/she chose you over others because of the C21 brand.”

    The 60% preference number simply reflects consumers saying that they would. But what’s that saying in RE? Buyers are liars? :)

    FWIW, and I guess I can only speak to my own motivations while at Realogy, in response to what you said about supporting the Brokers and Agents… I know that a huge part of MY motivation for working as hard as I did at CBC was that I really respected our affiliates. Really. These are men and women who have sacrificed so much, struggled through decades of hardships building a successful business, with ups and downs and war stories aplenty. I always felt a sense of responsibility to them to help them be more successful because of their association with CBC.

    I rather suspect that quite a few people working at Big Franchise feel the same way. Whether they’re effective or not is a separate question; their motivation, however, is really to help the affiliates. That much, I can attest to.

    -rsh

  • http://www.lisasellsstroudsburg.com/ Lisa Sanderson@Poconos Real Es

    I realized I was logged in under the wrong alias when I posted that last comment. I hope you can delete it and use this one instead:

    I take exception to your illustration-the point of the pyramid should be at the top, pointing to the consumer, with the rest of the layers providing the foundation to the agent who is the ultimate point of contact with the consumer.

    As Jim said, each layer has to consider who its customer is….every one, except for the agent, needs to consider the layer above it(or below in your illustration), even more-so than it should consider the consumer in its social media efforts.

    NAR for example, needs to nail down it’s value proposition to those it serves even more than it needs to prove anything to consumers. The same goes for the franchise, the company and the team. Ultimately, no one can offer the consumer value or prove our worth to the public better or more easily than the agent in the field. So, the supporting layers need to offer value and support to the next layer to allow the ultimate goal of meeting consumer needs to happen. As you said, doing that without interfering with the next layer’s efforts is the art of it.

    Being a few months in to joining a Better Homes and Gardens franchise, I am pleased at how this particular Brand has integrated social media in to their plan…offering all the tools and support it can to help the affiliates navigate the new world of real estate while being very aware of its role to the franchisee.

    More tricky is defining the role of the franchisee, which struggles to balance the needs of the older mindset of agent that expects the company to generate leads, etc, to the new, self-supporting agent of the future…the path of the social media ‘sell’ to the folks on the ground is rocky, in our area at least.

    But now I’m starting to ramble and probably thinking too much of my own particular little world here. Thanks for bringing this conversation up, I’ve been thinking about this in my own confused way and you have helped to organize my mind a bit :)

  • http://www.lisasellsstroudsburg.com Lisa Sanderson@Poconos Real Estate Blog

    I realized I was logged in under the wrong alias when I posted that last comment. I hope you can delete it and use this one instead:

    I take exception to your illustration-the point of the pyramid should be at the top, pointing to the consumer, with the rest of the layers providing the foundation to the agent who is the ultimate point of contact with the consumer.

    As Jim said, each layer has to consider who its customer is….every one, except for the agent, needs to consider the layer above it(or below in your illustration), even more-so than it should consider the consumer in its social media efforts.

    NAR for example, needs to nail down it’s value proposition to those it serves even more than it needs to prove anything to consumers. The same goes for the franchise, the company and the team. Ultimately, no one can offer the consumer value or prove our worth to the public better or more easily than the agent in the field. So, the supporting layers need to offer value and support to the next layer to allow the ultimate goal of meeting consumer needs to happen. As you said, doing that without interfering with the next layer’s efforts is the art of it.

    Being a few months in to joining a Better Homes and Gardens franchise, I am pleased at how this particular Brand has integrated social media in to their plan…offering all the tools and support it can to help the affiliates navigate the new world of real estate while being very aware of its role to the franchisee.

    More tricky is defining the role of the franchisee, which struggles to balance the needs of the older mindset of agent that expects the company to generate leads, etc, to the new, self-supporting agent of the future…the path of the social media ‘sell’ to the folks on the ground is rocky, in our area at least.

    But now I’m starting to ramble and probably thinking too much of my own particular little world here. Thanks for bringing this conversation up, I’ve been thinking about this in my own confused way and you have helped to organize my mind a bit :)

  • Marc

    The study from C21 reveals a particular anomaly about real estate and how it values or understands the concept of branding.

    While the study cites C21 as the most well known brand, I will argue that it’s the most well know name in real estate. But being a well known name does not make a brand. A brand is something different. Its backed by specific promises it keeps, trusts it forms that creates an identity that distinguishes it from others.

    I would argue that C21 has not built that cache of brand value in the consumer world, it has hardly done it inside real estate.

    But I do agree its the most recognized name in real estate. But ask any of the respondents of that survey to tell you what makes C21 different from ERA or Remax or anything and they would be hard pressed.

  • Marc

    The study from C21 reveals a particular anomaly about real estate and how it values or understands the concept of branding.

    While the study cites C21 as the most well known brand, I will argue that it’s the most well know name in real estate. But being a well known name does not make a brand. A brand is something different. Its backed by specific promises it keeps, trusts it forms that creates an identity that distinguishes it from others.

    I would argue that C21 has not built that cache of brand value in the consumer world, it has hardly done it inside real estate.

    But I do agree its the most recognized name in real estate. But ask any of the respondents of that survey to tell you what makes C21 different from ERA or Remax or anything and they would be hard pressed.

  • Teri L

    Marc-

    >But being a well known name does not make a brand. A brand is something different. Its backed by specific promises it keeps, trusts it forms that creates an identity that distinguishes it from others.

    Thank you for saying that so well.

  • Teri L

    Marc-

    >But being a well known name does not make a brand. A brand is something different. Its backed by specific promises it keeps, trusts it forms that creates an identity that distinguishes it from others.

    Thank you for saying that so well.

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  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Lisa -

    I deleted your first comment, as per your request. :)

    I think you raise some really interesting challenges.

    As Jim said, each layer has to consider who its customer is….every one, except for the agent, needs to consider the layer above it(or below in your illustration), even more-so than it should consider the consumer in its social media efforts.

    NAR for example, needs to nail down it’s value proposition to those it serves even more than it needs to prove anything to consumers. The same goes for the franchise, the company and the team.

    One of the big issues this raises is the fact that except for the franchisor, pretty much everyone else in the brand-layer-cake has the Agent as the consumer. And we can now add web-based brands such as Redfin and BlueRoof to the mix.

    But unless NAR goes totally silent, it has no choice but to impact its members via the public. It’s such a visible entity, and is in the news, and so on, that any missteps by NAR will reflect on all realtors (capital R or no). Same with any appropriately large entity, like Realogy or RE/MAX.

    I suppose a question would be to someone like you, Lisa:

    What would YOU want from each of the overbrands above you?

    And how much are you willing to pay to each of them for whatever it is that you want from them?

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Lisa -

    I deleted your first comment, as per your request. :)

    I think you raise some really interesting challenges.

    As Jim said, each layer has to consider who its customer is….every one, except for the agent, needs to consider the layer above it(or below in your illustration), even more-so than it should consider the consumer in its social media efforts.

    NAR for example, needs to nail down it’s value proposition to those it serves even more than it needs to prove anything to consumers. The same goes for the franchise, the company and the team.

    One of the big issues this raises is the fact that except for the franchisor, pretty much everyone else in the brand-layer-cake has the Agent as the consumer. And we can now add web-based brands such as Redfin and BlueRoof to the mix.

    But unless NAR goes totally silent, it has no choice but to impact its members via the public. It’s such a visible entity, and is in the news, and so on, that any missteps by NAR will reflect on all realtors (capital R or no). Same with any appropriately large entity, like Realogy or RE/MAX.

    I suppose a question would be to someone like you, Lisa:

    What would YOU want from each of the overbrands above you?

    And how much are you willing to pay to each of them for whatever it is that you want from them?

    -rsh

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