Fit Your Clients Into Your Company’s Story

An emerging advertising concept calls for brokerages to get their customers involved in the creation of marketing campaigns.

January 28, 2015

How much can your company really stand out these days? Most real estate brokerages have a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, an Instagram account, a Twitter feed. And though each brokerage’s message might be a little different, they’re all saying the same basic thing: “Buy or sell with us!”

It’s time to market differently.

As consumers become more and more inundated with advertising online, companies need a newer, fresher way of grabbing their audiences’ eyeballs. For some of the nation’s biggest consumer brands, they’re finding that the most successful ads don’t focus on saying something to consumers — but doing something with them.

At a broker seminar Tuesday during the Real Estate Connect conference in New York, Jason Harris, president of creative advertising agency Mekanism, touted an emerging marketing concept: involvement advertising. The idea behind this concept is for companies to identify a value they share with consumers — perhaps environmental conscientiousness or giving back to the community — then engage with consumers about that value, and create an ad campaign around that engagement.

“Everything comes down to storytelling,” Harris said. “This type of advertising actually tells the consumers’ story and shows the company’s alignment with that story.”

Mekanism has worked on involvement ad campaigns with some of the most recognizable brands in the country, such as Pepsi, and many companies have garnered the best results they’ve ever seen. Harris broke down a few of the elements that make involvement advertising successful.

Define Your Brand

“It’s very clear that Apple stands for innovation,” Harris said. “And when you think of Disney, you think of magic. Make sure you know what your brand stands for — it’s that one thing you stand for above everyone else.”

For Raj Qsar, broker-owner of The Boutique Real Estate Group in Corona del Mar, Calif., high-tech marketing is his company’s staple.

“Our concept is, we truly are a sales and marketing company that is intimately focused on technology and creativity, and oh, by the way, we just happen to sell real estate,” said Qsar, who was part of a three-person panel on this topic. “We’ll outmarket everyone else.”

Once you’ve identified your company’s biggest and most unique strength, you’ll be able to establish the consumer value that strength speaks to.

Give the Audience Your Stage

Pepsi runs Super Bowl ads every year. But in 2013, Mekanism helped Pepsi create an ad campaign with user-generated content for the biggest sports night of the year. Pepsi was the sponsor of that year’s Super Bowl halftime show, featuring superstar singer Beyoncé. Pepsi asked its audience to pose for a photo every day and send them to Pepsi for a commercial. Pepsi crowdsourced the photos on social media and received about 100,000 pictures. The company used more than 500 of them for the final commercial that aired during a countdown to Beyonce’s performance.

After the ad aired, Pepsi tracked consumer sentiment between its brand and its chief rival, Coke. For the first time ever, sentiment for Pepsi was higher, Harris said.

For real estate companies, giving their stage to their audiences could mean creating ad campaigns around client testimonials. Suzanne Powers, broker-owner of Powers Realty Group in Milwaukee, said her company developed a huge organic following on social media partially by posting client feedback and regularly calling out customers.

“We’re successful because we show that we love our clients and they are part of the company,” Powers said.

Give Them a Common Cause

Find out what kinds of causes are most important to your community, and then incorporate those causes into your advertising to show that your company shares your clients’ values.

Restaurant chain Chipotle jumped on the sustainability movement by promoting the company’s policy to use organic, locally grown food products. The company created a commercial depicting the owner of a family farm who went to work for an industrial agricultural company, saw the error of his ways, and returned to local farming. It was one of its most viewed YouTube videos, with millions of hits.

Ben Kinney, who owns and operates several Keller Williams Realty franchises in the Seattle area, has made community development the main cause that his companies champion.

“We sponsor outdoor food festivals, cinema festivals, and anything tied to a charity, we want our name on it,” Kinney said. “What I wanted everyone to learn is that we support the community more than anything. People know that we spend the most money on marketing these events, and we’ve gained a huge, reliable following because of it.”

Let Your Audience Influence

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body, sent 1,000 free copies of his second book to people who bought his first book, with the caveat that they must write an review of the second book. He timed his request right before he released the book to the general public, so when the book was released, the Amazon reviews made it highly indexed in online search engines.

Real estate companies could think about ways to incentivize a group of clients to produce online testimonials or reviews, and then the story of how the company won those testimonials could become part of an advertising campaign.

“Those who tell stories do the best business,” Qsar said. “Don’t make your marketing about you. Make it about a story that connects to people emotionally.”

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Graham Wood
Senior editor

Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at