What’s the secret to this condo project’s success? The Truth.
Every day brings new information and predictions about the real estate market. It’s up! It’s not! It’s bottomed! It’s still falling! For real estate developers, the crystal ball has never been cloudier.
One industry veteran has a message for everyone in the real estate game. “We all had it far too easy,” says David Allison, Partner at Braun/Allison, a leading real estate project branding company who has worked on property development projects around the world. “As an industry, the bar was not raised very high. In fact, it was barely off the ground.”
Allison, whose Vancouver-based group created catchy slogans and alluring imagery for major residential and resort real estate offerings, is critical of his industry, and even his own company. “It was pretty easy to be successful. We could scribble a note on a napkin and tape it to a lamp post and people would line up to buy a condo or a vacation home,” he says. “Well, that’s all changed. And I welcome it.”
Allison’s company has been focused intensely on R&D since the middle of 2008, trying to figure out what will make people trust real estate developers again. And now he has proof that what they’ve come up with works. “We call it Marketing Journalism,” he says, “which is a snappy way of saying that our campaigns are based on the truth. Now that the investors and flippers are largely out of the game, the buyers are actual owner-occupiers. And they want to make a truly informed decision. We need to help them.”
His theories are not just theories anymore; they’ve been tested in the real world. “We worked with a fantastic developer, ParkLane Homes, to apply Marketing Journalism to a project called The Block, a 32-townhome development just off South Main here in Vancouver. We provided buyers with far more factual information – objective facts and data — than we ever have before, during all stages of the buying process.
We actively engaged in conversations with consumers, sometimes hourly, on social media sites. We blogged extensively, and provided useful information instead of sales information. We hosted neighbourhood photography contests. We even provided links on the website to competitive products in the area. We wanted to help people feel fully informed. The only antidote to the fear and uncertainty in the market today is truth. And plenty of it.”
And the results? The project launched on May 30th, 2009, in the middle of the gloomiest real estate market in memory, with 55% of the inventory pre-sold at full price. By the end of July, 8 weeks later, all but two of the homes were sold, and prices had been increased as inventory dwindled.
“The developer was thrilled, and we were very excited to see these results,” Allison said. “To me, this proves that people are hungry for information, and that if we are open and honest people will respond to that.”
Soon, Allison and his concept of Marketing Journalism will face an even bigger challenge, as they are hard at work on a campaign for a condominium tower in Phoenix. “Phoenix is certainly one of the hardest hit markets in North America. If we are successful there, and I’m confident we will be, it will be a huge affirmation that our ideas work. We’re lucky to be working with Blueprint Global Marketing and the local Sotheby’s International Realty affiliate in that market, and we have the support of the team at MacDonald Development who are incredibly experienced and focused. I think, together, we are going to surprise the naysayers in Phoenix.” Time will tell, and soon, as this project is slated to go to market in October.
“I realize the whole concept of using the truth as a campaign concept is not anything earth-shattering,” Allison says with a laugh. “But you’d be surprised how different it is from what we did in the past. Think about how much information people want today before they will even buy a 50-cent apple. They want to know if it is organic, fair traded, genetically modified, locally grown and pesticide free. Now think about all those successful condo sales programs that were nothing more than a photo of two people having a cappuccino in a trendy café. Something’s wrong there.”
Allison is practicing what he preaches. He’s written a book for anyone in the real estate industry about this new way to sell homes, called Sell The Truth, and he’s giving it away for free on his website at www.braunallison.com. “Trying to hang on to information today is a mistake,” he said. “Not too long ago, we’d have tried to sell a book like this. But if we share our secrets, it will help everyone.”
David Allison, Author and Partner at Braun/Allison Inc.
David Allison is a partner at Braun/Allison Inc.; a Vancouver-based company that provides creative services for residential and resort real estate developers. His book, Sell The Truth, is available for free here. You can connect to him on LinkedIn , follow him on Twitter @BAdavid and read his blog, One Brand Clapping here.