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Marketing Barbieland in the CRE Kendom

The 2024 market outlook looks a little less beige, and a lot more pink

Britainny Hari is founder and principal of The Dual Agency in Vancouver. (Courtesy The Dual Agency)
Britainny Hari is founder and principal of The Dual Agency in Vancouver. (Courtesy The Dual Agency)

A special International Women's Day first-person commentary: The commercial real estate Kendom has ruled for quite some time now, but there is no shortage of Barbies longing for a change.

With fields like development, finance, brokerage, debt and construction still pinned as male-dominated, their persisting undertones continue to deter powerful, diverse and talented females from entering the industry.

However, there are important organizations that exist for this very reason.

Commercial Real Estate Women’s Network (CREW) is an international organization with the sole mandate of transforming the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally.

This group and others aim to shift stereotypes and make professional development, mentorship and leadership opportunities accessible to women in the industry. But what else needs to happen for the land to be ours?

While the fantasy of a world dominated by women occupying the stage of power sounds tempting, as the founder and principal of Dual Agency Inc., I would settle for a neutral reality; one defined by core values such as cooperation, respect and equality.

In celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), the industry has welcomed its first visual minority, female-led, owned and operated commercial real estate marketing agency helping developers, brokerages and landlords compete, both creatively and ethically, in a turbulent Canadian economy.

Early on in my career, I faced the reality that I may not ever have mentors that look like me, let alone minority females in positions of power to look up to. I was, however, fortunate enough to connect with stellar clients turned progressive male mentors who, to this day, encourage and support me on days the paths less travelled appear rocky.

Despite this realization, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

It’s because I know this is not everyone’s experience that I feel compelled and empowered to provide awareness, support and space for women to lean on when the burden of breaking glass ceilings weighs too heavily.

It's a fact that my efforts, nor those of any international organization on its own, won't incite enough change. From implementing ESG policies and establishing DEI practices to providing growth trajectories to senior women in the commercial real estate industry, there is a lot of work left to be done.

Firms will need to begin considering ways they can contribute to this mission, if not for their people, then to relate to and align with the audiences they are targeting. This involves learning and investing into the industry’s only female-dominated field – marketing and communications.

Marketing as a tool is still widely misunderstood by this industry. It is often a component of the business that is overlooked or shelved because it's harder to put tangible metrics behind it. While professionals in this field do their best to attribute the most accurate numbers to justify spend, it is nearly impossible to measure the macro impact your campaign or brand has on society.

I've spent years working with real estate companies which believe in the power of public relations and creative marketing. From revitalizing their brands and building corporate awareness, to spotlighting significant projects, the true value add is finding ways to strategically communicate it to the public in a way that resonates and relates to your intended audiences.

Brand perception is power and there isn't a price tag on that. Education, influence, or an impression from even a single social media post, signage, or this article you're reading right now, they all play a vital part in evoking feelings and emotions that link back to their decision-making. All of these components contribute to validating your brand and boosting the overall sales program.

While there is lots of education needed around this area of expertise, there are a lot of companies who are doing it really well. And this is possibly a larger incentive for you to consider leaning into some of the educating now to keep up.

In an economic climate as volatile and competitive as ours right now, marketing arguably becomes the most crucial part of your program; but ironically, it tends to be the first budget cut or where layoffs start to happen.

Finding ways to connect with your audiences, demonstrating how relatable and authentic you are, are all imperative considerations in times of economic uncertainty. After all, companies and people strengthen their relationships based on trust and that's ultimately how they'll base their decisions as well.

It's important to ask yourself when starting a new project, "If I haven't taken the time to show them who I am, why would they take the time to partner with me and show me who they are?" Trust is the core foundation of relationships, and this works no differently when it comes to good marketing.

And this is only one female-dominated facet of the industry that faces grave misunderstanding and marginalized investment. It is imperative that we lean into the emotional competencies women have to offer firms in the commercial real estate industry to ensure equitable prosperity for the long term.

If it weren’t for industry associations like CREW it could feel even more daunting. Being one of the few females within your organization can feel lonely and extremely isolating. I owe a lot to these committees and associations that connect many of us lonely ones to make our own support circle - and some of my best friendships have come from this.

I actively work with companies that value the impact and importance of creative marketing. One critical focus is ensuring my work is positively impacting communities outside of my own.

By incorporating values of ESG, DEI and visual representation, I am determined to continue breaking moulds and forming new, stronger ones for the next generation of females in our industry.

Are you?

Britainny Hari is a senior-level marketing and media professional based in Vancouver. With a strong background in leadership, strategy and corporate branding, she honed her craft through the fast-paced and results-driven agency environment as well as experience working within the public sector, sports and real estate industries. As an avid participant within male-dominated industries, she is passionate about representation, equity and diversity and is involved in associations and committees furthering this work in the community. She was recently named among the Top 50 Women Leaders in Vancouver for 2023 by Women We Admire (WWA) and was the recipient of the Commercial Real Estate Women’s Network (CREW) 2023 Vancouver Rising Star Leadership Award.

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