In the current economic situation, the market for most things, including real estate, has changed dramatically. Five interconnected social trends have been developing at their own pace and have seemingly been accelerated by market conditions.
Social trend one
People want more information about everything.
They want to know where their coffee is grown and if the coffee plantation workers have been fairly treated.
They want to know if their potatoes are organic, the environmental policies of their homebuilder are sound, if the emissions of the car they’re buying are harmful to the air and if the clothes they’re buying were made in sweatshops.
Full disclosure has become a mandatory requirement for successful companies.
Social trend two
Consumers expect dialogue.
They want answers when they have questions. If a company isn’t quick to respond to an email or a call to the toll-free line, consumers get annoyed. In our hyper-connected world, consumers respond to emails and text messages all day long.
And it’s now socially mandated that companies should too. Immediately.
Social trend three
Consumers are searching for authenticity.
We’re all looking for what’s real. We want vacations that have small footprints — where we learn about the indigenous people of the places we visit. We want Brie from France and Burgundy from Burgundy. We have clothes for yoga made from bamboo fibre and clothes for the office made from Italian wool.
We want sushi rice with sushi and basmati rice with a curry. (When I grew up, there was only one kind of rice. It came in a box. You ate it with or without frozen peas.)
Another word for authenticity is truth. People want truth.
Social trend four
Traditional advertising is working less effectively.
People don’t want to be sold anything. Hype and bombastic campaigns have soured the consumer towards overtly commercial messages, and rightly so.
The proliferation of media options has splintered what traditional media audiences are left, which makes it hard to blanket a target demographic with a sales message, regardless of effectiveness.
Social trend five
Social media networking sites have become mainstream.
The disconnection of our shared sense of community is largely blamed on technology. We keep hearing no one knows his or her neighbours anymore because we all spend too much time online.
Ironically, it’s technology — in the guise of social media such social media outlets as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — that’s re-energizing the concepts of connection and community, making them relevant again.
Roughly 60 per cent of Canadians have a Facebook page and approximately 70 per cent of Americans have connected to an online social network of some description.
These communication tools aren’t going away. They’re only going to grow.
Combined, these five trends create a perfect storm of change, where everything we thought we knew about the sales and marketing of real estate developments (or anything else) needs to be rethought at the same rate of change as the environment in which they exist.
Doing anything because it’s how you did it before, even just last year, is a dangerous justification.
David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting version of any story for early stakeholder engagement, internal audiences, regulatory approvals, consultant briefings and investor recruitment. His award-winning work in the real estate sector alone spans decades and continents. His most recent book, The Stackable Boomer, examines the movement of baby boomers to multi-family homes, and includes research results from a 1,000-boomer survey. He can be reached at [email protected].