As a luxury real estate marketing professional, imitation of the market leader is definitely not a viable brand strategy for the challenger. It becomes a case of “Monkey see, Monkey do”. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it will not result in increased market share.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, we stopped by our favorite shopping center in Century City adjacent to Beverly Hills. This is an outdoor mall with movie theaters, restaurants, department stores, boutique stores, and electronic equipment stores. The mall is situated between several high rise office buildings with walkways and bridges over the streets that bring a constant flow of people to the center. As we were walking along checking out the latest and greatest we passed the Apple store that was packed with customers, many who were coming out with purchases. Then, several doors down, we noticed the new Sony Store that was not crowded at all.
In Japan, Sony has slipped to #2 with Apple becoming the #1 “luxury” electronic brand. Now, with lost market share, Sony is trying to play catch-up. But, how are they different? What does Sony stand for? Why was Sony not as busy as the Apple store?
In the Sony storefront was a large billboard of leaping young people (pictured above) with the slogan, “Connect/Compete/Conquer”. In front of the billboard are three colorful balls. This message was our first encounter with the brand as a store. What does this message mean in terms of a unique promise of value as distinct from Apple? We are still scratching our heads in wonderment.
If you do not immediately offer a compelling reason to switch brands on first encounter your chances of gaining market share from the incumbent market leader are next to none. The same holds true for marketing luxury real estate.
The Sony store is beautifully designed, and fun to walk through. We donned glasses to view the newest 3D screens, we saw holographic image technology, and we played with their new touch screens. The sales people were very knowledgeable and very helpful. They wore colorful T shirts with Sony logos (just like the Apple staffers). One of the fun things that caught our eye was colorful keyboard covers that would transform an ordinary white keyboard into lime green, hot pink, or orange. But, it was Apple that introduced the concept of multiple bright colors to their product line.
The Sony laptop computers uses the Windows 7 operating system. So do other brands. How are Sony’s laptops different from those brands? Certainly, the feature of applying a colorful plastic cover to your keyboard is unique. But, any other brand could replicate this feature for pennies and render Sony’s keyboards indistinguishable.
A handful of people walked in and out admiring and testing the displays. But, we did not see any products purchased in the Sony store while we were there.
Luxury real estate marketing professionals, take heed! Imitation of incumbent market leaders will get you nowhere as a brand strategy. Think different. That is what Apple has done.
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