Photo courtesy of mbusa

In luxury real estate marketing, brand perception is an extremely important determining factor for consumers when selecting an agent to assist them in buying or selling a home.  Have you taken the time to consider how you are perceived by potential clients? What do you stand for in the minds of your target market? If market leadership is your quest, you must tell people how you want them to perceive you and in which of their mental categories you want to be held.  Otherwise, by default, they will pigeonhole you themselves-accurately or not (mostly inaccurately). 

To get a better sense of how perception factors into the agent selection process let us first take a look at how Mercedes Benz is winning the battle of perception as a market leader. Then, in Part 2 we will apply the principles of brand perception to your luxury real estate marketing practice.

According to Consumer Reports’ 2010 Brand Perception Survey for cars, consumers consider the following categories to be the most important factors in buying a new car: 

  1. Safety
  2. Quality
  3. Value
  4. Performance
  5. Environmentally Friendly/Green
  6. Design/Style
  7. Technology/Innovation 

Each of these factors becomes a brand perception category in the minds of car buying consumers; each category offers an opportunity for one brand to be a category leader, enjoying top-of-mind status in that category.  A brand perception category is different from a product category, such as economy car, luxury car, sports car, truck, SUV/crossover, or van. A brand perception category is an aspect of the product category that has relative importance and meaning, i.e., value to the consumer when making a buying or hiring (in the case of a service) decision.

Deliberately communicating to your target market that you want your brand to be perceived predominantly in a particular brand perception category is a key component of brand positioning.  This is where the real competition for market leadership takes place.  Whichever brand commands the top-of-mind position in a brand perception category wins! Mindshare precedes market share.

Here is how it works. Which automobile brand comes to mind first when you think of the word Safety?  According to Consumer Reports, Volvo absolutely dominates this brand perception category. Through years of engineering and marketing Volvo has come to “own” the category of Safety in the minds of 77% of consumers.  Volvo has deliberately positioned itself as the top-of-mind leader in the perception category of Safety, and has a stranglehold in this category.  In the physical realm of moving parts, many other car brands aim to achieve the same rigorous safety standards as Volvo. But, Volvo, the only luxury car in this category, consistently wins the battle that takes place in the consumer’s mind.

In the category of Quality, Mercedes Benz was the only luxury car in the top 5. But, Mercedes was a “no-show” in the top 5 for the Performance category; BMW and Porsche were the only luxury brands there.  BMW’s slogan “the ultimate driving machine” has reinforced their leadership in the Performance category, a brand position they have dominated for years.

Mercedes Benz is also the category luxury leader of Technology/Innovation.  Based on the Brand Perception Survey, Lexus is the only other luxury car competitor in this category.

It is important to pick your battles wisely. It is better to focus on a single category, like Volvo (Safety) or BMW (Performance) that you can dominate, rather than disperse your efforts by trying to be all things to all people.  However, Mercedes Benz has the potential to regain its status as the overall most highly perceived luxury car brand in the world and once again become a triple threat by dominating not only Quality and Technology/Innovation, but also Design/Style.

This year Mercedes Benz made a bold move by going back to their roots and re-focusing on Design/Style. They changed their slogan to “the best or nothing” to strengthen their dominance of Quality. And, they reintroduced a retro version of the 1955 classic sports car, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing that sells for upwards of $200,000. 

While only a select segment of their target market can afford to purchase this awesome car, the value of producing it lies primarily in perception enhancement. In 2011, Mercedes Benz will most likely surpass Lexus and Cadillac with whom they are tied for the top spot in the Design/Style category in the 2010 survey. 

Be sure to check out Part 2 of this blog post series where we will discuss what it takes to win the battle of brand perception in marketing luxury real estate.


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