Anybody that runs a company wants to believe that consumers LOVE their brand – after all we love our brands don’t we? While that’s a great goal, it’s a lot harder than it looks to create a strong emotional connection with your customer base.
Apco Worldwide, a public relations firm recently fielded a global survey. Here’s the list of the Top 100 Most Lived brands. According to Apco’s press release, here’s what it takes to rank as a loved brand:
“APCO’s proprietary Emotional LinkingSM model served as the basis for evaluating the companies by measuring consumers’ emotional attachment to brands along eight dimensions, providing companies with a roadmap to understanding consumer expectations in an actionable way. Technology companies were the largest industry represented in the top 10 with Apple coming in at ninth on the list.
“The best brands are those that build a strong, enduring emotional attachment with consumers,” said Bryan Dumont, president, APCO Insight. “In addition to acting as a highly predictive tool for consumers’ purchase choices, the Emotional Linking model has proven to be an excellent way to help companies retool their campaigns to build stronger emotional attachments between their key audiences and their brands.”
The rankings are the result of a decade-long research project including a global survey of more than 600 of the world’s largest corporate brands among more than 70,000 individuals in 15 key markets around the world. The Emotional Linking model identified eight emotions that are critical to effective brand communication. These eight critical emotions are: Understanding, Approachability, Relevance, Admiration, Curiosity, Identification, Empowerment and Pride.”
This methodology is very interesting and seems to have found a way to quantify emotional connections to brands.
So what can real estate brands learn from this research about how to create stronger brand loyalty and connections to their customers?
In the real estate industry we are notoriously bad about engaging consumers in dialog to truly understand their wants, and emotional desires. We cannot expect to create a meaningful connection if we don’t even know what really drives them? As I have written about many times, it’s time for our industry to embrace the consumer and engage in regular dialog with them. Companies like the Houston Association of REALTORS® as well as Trulia and others regularly engage in conversation.
Do we make it easy for potential customers to approach us? In many cases, consumers are afraid or reticent to engage with a real estate professional for fear someone will try to sell them something before we are ready. We avoid providing them information and insight that would attract a consumer to us – instead we believe they should contact us. This is very outdated thinking and gets us in trouble every day with the consumer.
While most consumers still rely on their agent to buy and sell homes, there are definitely “chinks in the armor” starting to show. A growing number of consumers believe they can search for a home on their own using third party sites, not broker or agent sites. In today’s tight inventory situation, more and more sellers believe they can sell their home on their own as well. Without clearly demonstrating a value proposition via our websites, blogs and listing presentations, the industry is at risk of a continued loss of relevance.
Many consumers have strong relationships with their agent. They appreciate it when their agent goes the extra mile to get them the house of their dreams or successfully work through a sticky situation in the transaction. We, as an industry, however, have flatly refused to share feedback from past clients in many cases. We believe that consumers just simply don’t know how to adequately evaluate performance. We conveniently forget that consumers demand this type of transparency now. Have you heard of a site called TripAdvisor, Lawyers.com or Doctor.com? Consumers are getting performance transparency in every other industry, but our own and they are frustrated by it.
How about Zillow.com? As of today, Zillow displays 574,706 agent ratings on their site and the number is growing daily. I don’t understand why we are so reticent to share ratings on our sites, but agents have proven they are interested in participating in ratings programs beyond our own websites.
What do we do to stimulate our customer’s curiosity? We are reticent to share listing data and even less likely to surround listings with all of the information that gets them excited about moving to a new neighborhood. And how about Virtual Office Websites – Companies like Wolfnet, and Quantum Leads have been offering these exciting solutions for years, yet only a handful of brokers are still providing the depth of data that this type of data feed allows.
Consumers gravitate to brands they identify with. They feel like the company has their best interest in mind and shares the same attitudes and beliefs. In the real estate industry consumers identify with their agents, but not nearly enough with the brokers they work with. How can they identify with a company that delivers a different experience every time a customer works with them. Without setting and enforcing service consistency, there’s no way for a consumer to identify with a real estate brand.
The best brands empower their customers to connect with them – they invite them in to the “family” so to speak. They allow them to experience the brand in a variety of contexts. They do not pressure the consumer – instead they allow them to engage at the pace and method they choose. By treating potential new customers as “leads”, immediately putting them in a sales funnel and trying to categorize them we have destroyed their ability to work with us at the pace they choose.
Consumers that love their brand partners identify with them. They take pride in sharing stories about them with their friends. They talk about their brand choices and experiences online. By encouraging consumers to identify with individual agent brands, real estate brands have lost the opportunity to encourage consumers to brag about their affiliations with our brands. Consumers certainly will have a sense of pride about the home they purchase, but they are much less likely to talk about the brand they bought the home from. By not creating true brand differentiation and consistency there’s no way for a real estate brand to become one of the top 100 most loved brands no matter how hard we try.
It’s time for brand leaders to start thinking about ways to stop using the excuse that they work with “independent” agents and start thinking about ways to attract consumers AND agents by creating a specific and consistent brand experience.