Drip by drip, like water torture, I’ve been noticing something happening. It’s a kind of technology build up, approaching critical mass. The real estate development marketing implications aren’t exactly clear, but we are reaching a tipping point and a new thing is going to be born that will change our perceptions around communication in a very big way. Here’s what I mean:
• Google Maps are adding real time components. You can zoom in and watch real-time traffic and real-time weather. Some smart guys are even working on overlaying video surveillance camera images on satellite maps, so you can see people walking around on the streets and sidewalks, as it happens.
• Google Wave is re-inventing email. Google points out that email was invented 40 years ago, and that if it were to be invented today it would likely look and act a lot different. It’s just in beta-test mode now, but from what I can tell so far it’s a kind of real time drag-and-drop collaborative platform, more like Facebook than email.
• Augmented reality has gone mobile. I can look at the screen on my iPhone and see little floaty bits move around as I turn in a circle. If I click on one of the floaty bits I see the Wikipedia (or other programs) entry for the thing I am pointing the phone at, overlaid on top of the screen image. It’s as if you are wearing some kind of Star Trek visor that shows you information for whatever you are seeing, on top of your field of vision. This one’s real, and now. It’s on my phone and I spent the better part of yesterday walking around Vancouver staring at my phone like one of those tourists who only ever see the place they are visiting through the viewfinder of their video camera.
• Google has also launched something called Sidewiki. This is a program that you download (and because it’s Google, and free, everyone will) that allows you to leave notes on any website you visit, in a column down the side of the screen. Anyone else who visits the site can see your notes. It means you can go to your competitor’s website and comment. And they can do the same to yours. This is a huge power shift. The guys who launch the website are not in control of the website anymore. Including you.
Individually, each of these new tools is cool, and rather mind-boggling. Together, they signal something new. An evolution in the way we move through the world. We will be able to see everything, participate in anything, and control very little, all in real time. At a macro level, this is a change from technology being a platform to record/recall/review to it being a platform to interact and impact. This is a shift from past tense to present tense.
How will this impact residential and resort marketing and branding? The mind boggles.
Imagine you are a developer in the middle of a sales and marketing program for an urban tower development in a master-planned community.
Before they ever set foot in the sales office, your customers will have already been to your website and left comments all over it, and walked through the neighbourhood reading and chatting in real-time with all the residents and merchants of the community. They know the hairdresser on the corner of the street personally now, and they’ve heard his version of your entry into the neighbourhood. They’ve also read the other comments left on your website by the competition, but they are smart enough to know which comments to take seriously and which ones are from sour grapes.
They’ve heard all about your fight with city planners for extra density allotments, and have been exchanging Tweets with your carpenter who is complaining about the cheap hardware you chose for the cabinet hinges in the bathroom.
They’ve video-conferenced with the company that manufactures your heating and cooling systems and are impressed with the sustainability initiatives you have implemented around HVAC functionality.
They know the track record of success that Jane on your sales team has from her past customer’s blog ratings about her help buying their last home, and they know that Bob is her assistant but isn’t very organized, so they prefer to talk to Jane directly. They have questions for her about the zoning applications submitted to city hall three hours ago by a competitor who is trying to assemble a developable plot across the street. And they have a price/features matrix that compares costs and net profits on your project to three other comparable ones in the area.
They’ve been watching the real time traffic feeds on Google Maps for the street in front of your building and worry about how the 300 people moving into the new tower are ever going to be able to get in and out of the parking garage.
They also have noticed that you only show up on site for 30 minutes or so once a week, and wonder why you aren’t more interested in the construction process. They’ve timed their arrival at the sales office today to coincide with yours, because they want to meet you and ask you why your ROI projections are so aggressive compared to your competitors. They want to use this as a bargaining chip to get a better price than the one you are offering.
Scary? Seem unreal?
Save this blog post. Read it again in a year. See if I’m wrong.
We are heading in some kind of new real-time direction, and it’s going to be a wild ride.
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.