As a luxury real estate marketing professional if it is your desire to challenge a formidable incumbent market leader in your marketplace keep an eye on Google as they take on Facebook with their new strategy, Google +.  The key to challenging the incumbent is to identify where they are most vulnerable, concentrate all of your strengths with laser sharp focus and then take aim at that vulnerability.   

Google has determined that contact management (particularly the way you group your contacts) is one of  Facebook’s weakest links. Google+ offers a superior contact management method that enables you to easily group your friends into “circles” that more closely mirror how you actually socialize. This is not easy to do on Facebook. Google is also in the process of tying together the various components that they have already developed (and are currently in use by billions of people) into a cohesive social strategy.

For example, when you are planning a family event you will be able to send a Google map of the event location to everyone in your family circle plus your extended family circle with a couple of clicks.  You will be able to “hang out” with your circle of scuba diving buddies via their video conferencing answer to Skype or “huddle” for a chat with your circle of team members on a project at work via Google’s instant messaging software. 

However, to take on Facebook the challenger must come up with a strategy that is a true social networking game changer. The first clue that Google+ may not be a game changer is in the brand name itself, which was the subject of Part 1 of this series. Including Google within the new brand name is very risky.  From a branding standpoint if you have indeed created a new category of social networking, a fundamental paradigm shift, you must first name your new category. Then, you must create a brand name that stands for the category.  

If social circles,  indeed represents a fundamental new way to organize social networking Google needs to create a distinct brand name for this product/service that will potentially stands for the category. Calling it something like “Circles”, for example,  would have made it easy for both the press and consumers to spread the word about the new category and its extraordinary promise of value. That is how Google can still avoid the Line Extension Trap we refer to in Part 1 before general release (Google+ is in beta testing now).

When Steve Jobs introduced a new category of computers (touch screen tablet with apps) it trumped the categories of net books and e-book readers.  It sparked a tsunami of news coverage, triggered a massive demand for the category and also for the first and only product in the category. Overnight, iPad stood for “tablet”. 

Google stands for “search engine”, not a new, superior category of social networking.  Google+ could stand for “social search”, but supposedly it is much more than a new category of search.  Conversely, Android, Google’s brand of smart phone and tablet operating systems, successfully stands for the most viable alternative to the iPad and iPhone.  

If social circles is not a game changing new category of social networking, but is instead just a feature that can easily be imitated by Facebook, Google has fallen into another trap of trying to compete on features. Facebook just announced that Microsoft-owned Skype will be incorporated into its entire platform, which will match the same feature offered by Google+. Additionally, Facebook just announced that it now has 750 million users.  Competing on features alone, with a Juggernaut like Facebook, is futile.

To take on a formidable incumbent in your luxury real estate marketplace, you must become a game changer and create a thoroughly compelling, newsworthy business model.   And, you must brand yourself in such a way that your name stands for your unique promise of value. That way you make it very easy for others to spread the word about you and how you stand out from your competition.  



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