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Branding

The Closing Gift Conundrum: It Depends...

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In our sixteen years of focusing on branding and marketing in various niches of the real estate industry with both companies and agents, we have seen innumerable ways that real estate marketing professional in all facets of the industry attract clients, and create a referral stream.  

Closing gifts is one way to assure this happens.  We have heard and read many discussions on the subject as to what works and what does not work when it comes to closing gifts. We have concluded that the appropriate answer is that it dependson the personalities of the agents and the personalities of the people they attract.  Remember, the old adage: People like to do business with people like themselves.

It is not uncommon to hear that someone with a high-end listing will show prospects homes in a chauffeured limousine, for instance.  Or, they will rent a helicopter to view the property if they have a buyer for large tracts of land, ranches or vineyards.  They will also wine and dine them at posh restaurants.  We have seen the same type of service albeit less extravagant at the mid-range level in real estate, as well as in commercial real estate also.

Here is an example of a successful agent who feels that gift giving is the best method   to attract those who are ready to buy or sell.  We call it, the “treat them as if they ruled the world “system. 

This agent specialized in luxury real estate. A special gift from Tiffany’s was sent after a listing presentation.  It was a clever gift, a silver pen. The attached gift card explained this was the “special” pen for the potential sellers/buyers to sign the closing papers with. This individual had a high enough percentage of buyers/sellers sign the exclusive for this method to justify the cost.  At the end of the transaction, there was another luxury gift for the client.

This is one way of doing business, it worked for this individual. Even in the age of electronic signing, this person is still spending money with Tiffany’s on other items as the opening gambit.Keep in mind that this is the type of client this individual attracts over and over again, because this agent would want to be similarly treated, if he/she were the seller or buyer.  It worked.

At the same conference, we, we were speaking at, we met another agent whose approach was radically different. This person does not give gifts, she spontaneously gets them from happy clients. This is another approach to working with the wealthy or any other type of financial strata that one is working with.  

Her stance is that her service is invaluable, her knowledge of the luxury market impeccable. She has an impressive roster of clients who praise her expertise and prowess. These are the clients she consistently attracts. She is a player on an equal footing with her clients who are treated like partners in the process of selling or buying a home.  Although, she does not expect a gift, she often gets gifts from her clients.   

Find your approach, express it clearly and you will attract the very ones you would like to work with.  There is no right or wrong here, it depends on your personality and the people you would like to do business with.  As a rule, we gave ourselves a gift when we closed a deal.

What Is Marketing Magic? Is It A Rabbit Pulled out of Hat?

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We live and breathe marketing and branding day in and day out for our clients. We are constantly tweaking strategies based on evidence of psychographics (lifestyle) to refine the message for our luxury real estate client’s listings in their target market as it evolves and changes with the times. Our view on marketing magic is not a rabbit pulled out of a hat.  

 

What is appropriate for a magic show has no value in luxury or other real estate marketing.  Gimmicks have short life spans and may generate cash.  Gimmicks at some point they will die of natural causes as interest wanes.  Skip the gimmicks!

 

Successful marketing in real estate or any other profession is based on the fundamentals of marketing.  Keep in mind, that marketing is not synonymous with Sales.  As our favorite marketing guru, Peter Drucker stated: The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”

 

People want to do business with people they trust, respect and like.  If you take a moment to review the brands you like doing business with, you will no doubt be able to enumerate what makes them special in your opinion.  You trust how they do business, what they stand for and what you can expect from them.  It is easy for you to recommend them.  

 

Getting the message right, (your unique promise of value) to your target market will never change, regardless where you promote your message. Remember both psycho-graphics and demographics change as time goes by.“Focus on the right message for the right people at the right time.” – Russell Glass. 

 

Know your audience is something we have preached over and over again in our posts.  Do not just relay on demographics or what someone tells you about a neighborhood.  ‘Listen to your customers, not your competitors.”Joel Spolsky.  Take time to research, and then take time to make sure your research is accurate. 

 

Get out of your office and go talk to people.  Get to know them.  Understand what makes them tick and what they are about.  What are their aspirations, values and desires when it comes to buying or selling a home?   We are talking about psychographics or generally speaking lifestyles. “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself”.  Peter Drucker

 

Know your market inside out, every minute aspect of it.  We have met several agents with whom we have worked, who can tell you the history of all the homes in their marketplace.  

 

Do not strut your stuff. It is a turnoff when someone is constantly referring to their three-favorite people (me, myself and I).  It is also off putting to compare one’s superiority over the competition, however subtle you think you are. “The customer expects you to have knowledge of their stuff, not just your stuff.”Jeffrey Gitomer

 

The biggest fundamental once you have come up with a marketing strategy is ConsistencyMaintain your visibility during lean and good times. The elements (discussed above) make marketing magical.  Leave the rabbit out of this!

Throwback Thursday: Branding Moment with History plus Localism Strategy

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Standing out from the crowd of sameness is a concept we highly recommend to those who want to dominate their marketplace in the real estate industry. Whether you are a luxury real estate marketing professional, or focus on any other part of real estate, differentiation is key in your branding and strategy.  Here is an example of using a brand strategy that implies history and localism.

We came across these bottles of wine (pictured above) in one of our favorite upscale supermarkets in town.  These bottles stood out among the rest.  They look like they came from and ancient cellar laden with dirt and dust, when making glass bottles had not been perfected.

Our research revealed that in 1952, Père Anselme came up with the idea to create a bottle that would evoke the origins of wine.  Its theme (according to their website) "The wild movement of the grenache vine twisted in the strong Provence Mistral wind".  Mistral is a strong, cold northwesterly wind that blows through the Rhône valley and southern France into the Mediterranean, mainly in winter. Even the bottle reflects the force of the Mistral winds, and the gnarled vines.

This bottle shape is a “fiole”.  Translating the French into English, it means, vial, or flask. In ancient times, liquids in vials were thought of as precious and of great value.  The bottle was created by local master glass craftsmen, and is exclusive to the Brotte family.  

The fiole is used to bottle non-vintage wines, a blend of the best vintages of Chateauneuf-du-Pape from current and past years. This is a common practice in the Champagne region.  Quite often you will find that the non-vintage blends taste better and are rated higher than their vintage counterparts.

Reviews on this wine are mixed among the critics. We did not buy it on the look or label.  We admired it for its originality and concept.  They do stand out among the rest with their brand strategy of history plus localism. a

How to Avoid Real Estate Branding Confusion, or the Me-too Marketing Box

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Perhaps one of the most important principles that luxury real estate or any other real estate marketing professionals need to understand about personal branding for real estate agents is this: Out-think, not out-spend your competition. If you want to out-smart your competition, find something, some niche that you can do better than anyone else in your marketplace. Don’t waste your time or your money becoming a what is known in marketing speak as the “me-too”in a niche that your competitor dominates.

Every year in the United States companies invest over $300 billion in marketing products and services. A huge portion of this is spent on introducing new brands in the marketplace. The majority of these new product launches never get off the ground.  The reason for this is that they are a me-too.  Here are several ways to tell if your brand is a me-too.

Your website looks like your competitors, same design, same colors, same template etc.

You use the same social media channels and other channels to spread the word of your brand, and your marketing resembles your competitors.  You even use the same vendors that everyone else uses.

Potential clients cannot tell the difference between you and everyone else, because your story and services sound the same as everyone else’s: professional photography including drones, state of the art technology to drive leads, to your website, brilliant SEO, and so on and so forth.  Even your promises are similar.

You use the same words as your competition to differentiate yourself, including the same real estate designations.

If any of these are true for you, you will be doomed to outspending your competition in order to be noticed first

As a real estate or luxury marketing professional, the size of your advertising budget does not guarantee your success if you fail to form a strong emotional connection with your target market, whether it be with consumers or referring real estate agents from outside of your marketplace. Win the hearts and minds of your target market in a niche you can own.  There are so many niches to own and create when you think outside of the me-too box.

Blurring Branding: A Case of Monkey See Monkey Do Branding!

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If your aim in luxury real estate or any other branch of real estate is to have the majority of the market share in a niche or specialty, it is important that your brand is hard to blur, in other words hard to imitate. The logo and design should be original in order to prevent someone from copying your brand or colors making slight changes.  Blurring in legalese is known as “trademark dilution”.  The intent is to confuse the consumer into buying your brand, because it is similar to something that is already familiar.  A big firm whose logo has been blurred has the funds to sue and prove that the blurring party is affecting their business and profitability. 

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Pictured above is a perfect example of blurring in tuna.  We have been partial to the Genova Brand of tuna for many years. As we passed the supermarket tuna aisle we noticed that Bumble Bee had rebranded. Prior to discovering Genova, we bought Bumble Bee exclusively.  You can see the original can on their website using a blue and white label, the one we were accustomed to.  For someone in a hurry, it would be easy to pick up the new Bumble Bee rather than the Genova, especially since they share shelf space with Genova, and vice versa those wanting Bumble Bee may find the wrong brand in their bag when they get home.   

 Prior to starting our own commercial real estate firm in Los Angeles, we were wooed with a deal we could not refuse by a new company located minutes from our home in Brentwood on the Westside.  The broker owner had branded his commercial real estate company as Citi-Pacific.  He had spent large sums of money on the logo, video, signs, stationary cards, etc. It was intended by his branding company to give him as a new company a perception of legacy. Six months later, he received a nice cease and desist letter from Citi Bank’s law firm. They own the word “citi”. However, they were also willing to reimburse the costs (by providing invoices) he had incurred in branding.   He had to change the spelling to “city”.  

 Recently, a web developer contacted us to ask us to send him business both as a developer and designer. He sent us his recent work for a real estate company/agent.  It was clear that the template he used was one we had seen, over and over again.  It was a case of fill in the blanks: new agent photo, new location photo (sometimes using the same photo) for another agent in the area.  We have seen that same site in the same marketplace done in different colors, and in some cases the same copy.  We push both our graphic designer and our web developer to come up with something new and different, every time.

If you are tempted to blur to save money, don’t!  Someone may send you a cease and desist letter especially if they have the means to do so.  Blurring is a slippery slope.  Eventually even if they do not sue, they will point out that you have monkey see, monkey do branding.  In the case of Bumble Bee, it lowered our previous high esteem of the brand.  

If you are tempted to blur to save money, don’t!  Someone may send you a cease and desist letter especially if they have the means to do so.  Blurring is a slippery slope.  Eventually even if they do not sue, they will point out that you have monkey see, monkey do branding.  In the case of Bumble Bee, it lowered our previous high esteem of the brand.  

Branding: How Attractive Is This New Brand in Beverly Hills?

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One of the first rules in luxury real estate marketing and branding strategy is to identify your market, and to thoroughly research and know without the shadow of a doubt if that market will generate the income to support your lifestyle.  This is the first priority.  Selecting a name and creating a brand will naturally follow from this exhaustive search and discovery.

Today in the wee hours of the morning, we were touring Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills' prime retail street. Among all the established brands, we found this new one called Billionaire.

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Our first question in a luxury real estate marketing and branding project would be:  Who is your target buyer?  California is home to 92 billionaires, and the majority live in Northern California.  The US has a total of 540 billionaires, and the world has 2,208 billionaires according to Forbes Magazine, May 2018 issue.  Is that a high enough pool of customers to meet their rent, their cost of goods, and their employees salaries?

We have met and spent time with a handful of billionaires (US), and our impression is that they would not be attracted to this store.  Other than a prestigious yacht club crest on a polo shirt, we have not observed any with a "billionaire crest" blazer, nor "billionaire" brand crests on their casual shoes.  The majority are humble and do not brag or advertise their wealth. The use of a lion headed mannequin is implying that billionaires are "kings of the jungle." Is that attractive, or is it an overused and trite symbol of wealth?

We would guess that their prices are on par with the neighboring stores on either side of the street. We ask our readers:  "Who will buy this Billionaire Label?, Who will this label attract?"  We look forward to hearing your answers.  

Differentiation in Branding: Confused or “Corn fused”?

As a luxury real estate marketing professional or any real estate marketing professional, if you are seeking additional market share and visibility, it is important to give a complete picture of how you are different without any potential confusion to the buyers or sellers that may seek your services.  Here is an example of confusion, which turned into more confusion or “corn fused!”

Some of you many have seen the Bud Light commercial during the Super Bowl.  This was an attempt by Bud Light to differentiate themselves from their competitors, Miller Lite and Coors Lite by stating that they do not use corn syrup, whereas the competition does.  This was an attempt to claim their unique selling proposition, and transparency. A spokesman for Bud Light as quoted in Forbes: “Bud Light’s Super Bowl commercials were meant to point out a key difference in Bud Light from some other light beers. This effort is to provide consumers transparency. We’re proud of what we put into Bud Light and what we leave out like – corn syrup, preservatives and artificial flavors”. 

In response, Miller Lite explained in a full-page ad in the New York Times, that they are proud to use they use corn syrup, and not high fructose corn syrup.  This statement creates more confusion for the consumer. The bottom line is that both forms of corn syrup are sugar.  The reason folks drink light beers is because they are concerned about their health which includes an intake of calories, especially carbs.  Whether it is high fructose or corn syrup it usually produced from GMO corn, which is another health concern for many consumers.  

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Even this light organic corn syrup (pictured above) has 31grams of carbs in two tablespoons, and 130 calories. The American Heart Association recommends that most women get no more than 100 calories a day of added sugar from any source, and that most men get no more than 150 calories a day of added sugar. That's about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

The Bud Light spokesman went on to say:” Some beers do use corn syrup and that’s fine. In fact, our value brands use corn syrup. We use corn syrup in these brands because it makes the beer less expensive to produce and is therefore offered at a more affordable price to consumers”.

That statement leaves us even more confused. As rare beer drinkers, we are confused or “corn fused”.  Next time, we will definitely ask: “does this beer have corn syrup?”  Will you ?

The Origins of Personal Branding: My Journey in Identifying "ME" Brand!

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Recently, I published our (Ron’s and mine) definition for Peace of Mind.  One of the commenter's agreed with the general principles of the definition, but this individual had their own ideas also.  My reply was “That is wonderful, we are different.”  Another commenter said, “thought provoking it did not fit the definition of ‘me.”  They were glad that "our ideals were flexible."  

I replied,: “this explains why we our passion is branding.  We have learned that every living being is distinctly different, and we love emphasizing that distinct difference in a brand.  And we all have a common way of communicating which helps us to be friends and appreciate the differences.”

This exchange of comments has inspired this post.  Most people find it hard to understand the concept of brand and branding strategy. Perhaps, it is because we are born branded as “boy” or “girl”.  We are given names, first, middle, and last name. Some of us don’t have middle names. All brands have names.  There are brand colors for both sexes.  We are given religions to follow by our parents, and we are given nationalities also. We are also influenced by parental wishes such as “following in their mother’s/or father’s footsteps.”   

Scholastically, we are branded.  There are personality tests, Intelligence tests, Aptitude tests, and all types of other tests to determine who we are and who we should be. At some point, we may wake up and try to find the “me” in all this, or we may be content that the “me” has been perfectly branded by our parents, as well as all the outside influences (schools, religions, peer pressure, etc.).

My aha moment came at an early age. My parents recalled a time when entertaining their friends, I was sitting listening to the conversation.  One of their friends said, “she is definitely French”, whereas another disagreed and said, “No, she is Russian”, and the third friend said, “she was born in Lebanon, and that makes her Lebanese!”  According to my father, I screamed, “NO, I am ME!”  

From that moment as I continued my discovery process of “me”. I was both a thorn in my parents’ side as well as a source of pride.

Branding & Marketing Moments: Do You Have A Nose For SPIN ?

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A good-looking brand identity supported with a brand story that does not ring true is not a guaranty for successfully marketing luxury real estate or any other real estate niche. A brand story needs to be congruent with the product, the marketplace, and the psychographics of the buyers and sellers.  Taking control of how you want to be perceived as a real estate marketing professional is known as SPIN in marketing.  Otherwise, it is what we would refer to as Swiss Cheese Marketing! You can see smell it and see through it!

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SPIN is an acronym for the following words: Sstands for situation (collect facts: noisy street, freeway nearby), P,stands for problem (identifying the problem-old home, desire for smaller home),I, stands for implication (higher costs of maintenance in an old home), and N,stands for need payoff/buying motive (value, importance or usefulness).  These are considered the 4 top sales/marketing questions that need to be answered to entice a prospect into buying a home.  These answers differ in each marketplace and solely depends on the psychographics of that marketplace—the attitude, aspirations and interests of those who live there. 

SPIN has a negative association also.  It is often used as a cover up for mistakes made by public figures and celebrities. An unflattering synonym for SPIN is propaganda, or what some would call a creative or deceptive use of facts in order to reflect favorably in a new venture or on a negative situation.  It can also imply that the person doing the spinning has not done their research in order to contain the effect.  

In a recent discussion (re: California problems) one of the attorneys in the group blamed the agricultural states for the problems we are having today.  It was obvious that this person (although a California native) did not know that California is largest producers of food in the United States, and the 5thlargest producer in the world.  It is also the number one dairy state, the first largest producer of wine in the US, and the fourth largest wine producer in the world.

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Pictured above is wine brand, which we both liked in terms of color and graphics.  We thought that it was very creative in its choice of color and presentation. Our wine expert friend called it a mistake! He cautioned us not to buy it, and not even to use as a marinade.  And that explains the bargain price from $14.99 to $2.99.  

In 2015, Motto Wine launched its brand of wine.   They hired winemaker, Reid Klei, who was the winemaker for Ste Michelle Wines Estates in Washington State for 10 years.  Here is his spin:

"We wanted to put a Washington spin on California wines, so we implemented the same approach we use for our Washington wines, but with California grapes," said Motto winemaker Reid Klei.  Our Story:  Our winemakers didn’t set out to push boundaries.  But they did.  They didn’t mean to ruffle any feathers.  But they did. So, they decided to embrace it and make it their motto, learn the rules so you can break them with style.  The result? Rich dark wine like none you have had before.”

Here is their introductory video that reinforces their brand story! 

Make sure that you are presenting yourself with a genuine SPIN, and not one that someone can smell or can see through, like a piece of Swiss cheese.!




The Importance of Commenting—"We Read to Know That We Are Not Alone”

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“We read to know that we are not alone” is a line from Shadowlands, a play by British writer William Nicholson, which was also made into a film. We would add that “we write to know that we are not alone.”

 

Why read a blog post you like, if you are not going to comment?  When you comment, you leave an impression for all to see which includes the writer, those who subscribe to the blog, and the public at large. Commenting is a way to engage in conversation with the author.  It is letting them know that they are not alone!

 

That conversation can lead to a discussion.  Discussions can often generate a new understanding for both the author and the commenter.  It can lead to a friendship.  The ones who read the comments also benefit from additional information that may in turn spark a desire to join the conversation.  Good conversations and discussions lead to intellectual satisfaction.  A post may inspire someone to write a related post.

 

Commenting is also a way to acknowledge and appreciate the writer’s time and effort in writing a post. The writer of the post has just given you a gift. It resonated with you. Just liking it is not enough.  It leaves the author wondering, what did you like? The least you can do say is “thank you.” Thank you, for that book recommendation, thank you for the information on this subject, thank you for the beautiful picture that made me smile. Here is a picture that may make you smile.  Or you may have a suggestion, here is a book I liked and would recommend you read, etc. 

 

Commenting is a feedback to the author, on the post and on the commenter. The author may choose to comment back if a question is asked. The author may be sparked by the comment into a further discussion.  And as the blog post catches the public’s eye, they learn so much about the author and the commenters. 

 

Do not forget, we read to know that we are not alone, and we write to know that we are not alone.  We are all in this together!

Branding Moment: Unforgettable Marketing, With Just A Few Words!

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One of the aspects of good branding is marketing the product or the service in such a way that it is unforgettable. This ad from the October Architectural Digest exemplifies this concept.  What you are seeing in this photo is trim that is used as a finishing detail on upholstery, pillows, bedspreads and drapery.  This also includes tassels.

We appreciated the trim pictured above transformed to look like desserts complete with smaller trim to look like cherries and raspberries on top. It was also presented on marble and placed in gold trimmed china.  Very little text was needed to get the message across: just the credit to the designer, Timothy Corrigan--An Elegant Indulgence For The Home, and the brand statement, Samuel & Sons Is Trim, with the URL.

Although, we are not in the market for trim, we took a look at the website and enjoyed seeing the variety of trim available.  If someone were to ask us for trim, we would know who to recommend, based on the elegance and creativity of this ad!

Branding Moments: Taboo Marketing!

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We noticed this point of sale display while shopping at the Santa Barbara Nordstrom's recently.  We watched shoppers go by, look, shake their heads and move on.  Others laughed at the double meaning, and moved on. 

Taboo marketing can definitely bring a brand into focus by those they are hoping to attract.  It creates an instant effect!  It will no doubt attract some to buy!  

We have seen taboo styled real estate videos and other ads.  The only message it may send to the sellers of these properties is that their agents will go to any length to bring attention to their listings...

What is your take on this?

Branding Moments: Finding The Perfect Brand Colors-A Case Study

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Many have asked how we come up with brand colors for our real estate clients and the companies we work with.We have a three part process.  The first is to give our client a comprehensive color test defining their favorite colors, the mood they want to convey, and the style of their practice.  The second involves the colors of their marketplace and the lifestyle.   And lastly, we combine all three into the brand.

Here is the case study.  Pictured above is the bark of a eucalyptus tree.  Note the myriad of colors and shades on the bark.  Since the target market lived among eucalyptus trees, this became our inspiration for color.

Our client's color preference were in the pastel family accented with a bright color.  Her market was a high end community with stately traditional homes.  The residents even named their eucalyptus trees.  Pictured above is the bark of a eucalyptus tree.

Together we selected the colors of the brand, and used a touch of orange (you can see it on the left lower side of the picture) and used it sparingly as an accent to the slate grey blue which became the main color.  This also is the color of the leaves on eucalyptus trees.

It was a perfect marriage of colors.  Every aspect of the luxury real estate marketplace was represented: our client, the market place and the lifestyle.

Wishing you a great weekend!

Branding Moment: Brand analysis (No Couch Needed)!

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If you are going to come up with a brand for your real estate marketing business, be sure that: 1.)It attracts your target market, 2.) It has a genuine differentiator like a niche or a specialty, 3) a good story behind it.

Ron and I happen to be a perfect target for the bottle of olive oil pictured above.  We often buy special olive oil for ourselves and for our "foodie" friends as gifts for birthdays, Christmas or Hanukkah.  We liked the bottle and the color of the label, however, we did not buy it.  Here is our reasoning.

The name "Bare" meant nothing to us.  Seeing that the olive oil originates from Portugal. I looked up the translation of "bare" from Portuguese to English.  What came up is "barge."The word "bare" is used as part of many URL's.

In English, the word "bare" is not one we would choose for a luxury product.   Wanting to be fair-minded, I found their beautiful website.  What the company means by "bare" is nothing added just the olives are in the bottle.  It mentioned their wonderful aged trees and the care they put into maintaining the quality.  This idea is no different for any fine olive oil.  One presses the olives and puts the oil in a bottle.

The words "gluten free" also made no sense to me.  Olives have no gluten, and olive presses are made solely to press olives.When we lived in Northern California's wine country, we visited the Community Olive Pressin Sonoma County that presses olive oil for wine country residents at .75 cents per pound.   No gluten ever touched that press, which was the insinuation that the site made, when it came to differentiate themselves from the olive oil competition.  

It took us all of 5 seconds to decide not to buy this brand. It did not resonate with our standards. For the same price, we can purchase a bottle of Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from one the finest Olive oil producers in Italy.

Use this as a basic guideline to take a moment and analyze why a service or a product appeals to you or does not.  It will help you understand the power of branding, and the importance of getting it right!  

You want your target market to say: “Yes, I want to list my home with this you! 

What Is in Your Half Empty or Half Full Glass: Nectar or Poison?

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We have always answered the age-old question: Is the glass half full or half empty, and we say: it depends on what is in the glass.  Is it Nectar or is it Poison? We love maintaining a positive mindset— drinking nectar.

The most successful luxury real estate and other real estate niche marketing professionals have developed a genuine positive mindset. As a result, they attract more clients (sellers and buyers).  One of the ladies we worked with a young 78- year-old was thriving during the worst of the recession unlike some of the other agents in her market.  She knew without a doubt that there is always an abundance of business regardless of the economy and its fluctuations. Another one of our clients had one of her highest all-time years during the same time period.  Neither one focused on short sales, they just repeated their well-honed formula consistently.

We both grin with great delight and take it as a compliment, when s­­­­­omeone critiques us as being “too” positive or unrealistic when it comes to our approach to life and people in general. Some will tell us that we are ignoring the world’s tragedies and proceed to enumerate them.  On the contrary, we are aware of them, we just do not choose to dwell on them, and we take comfort in the fact that there are many wonderful people working on these issues, which are outside of our sphere of influence.  

We steadfastly have maintained an optimistic approach going in the worst of times.  We even give ourselves permission to moan and groan for all of 5 minutes.  We know that we can choose, how we decide to approach or feel about any problematic or disastrous situation.  We can dwell and rue about it and engender sympathy, or we can find the positive aspect and find a way to make it work.  This mindset has given us strength and inspiration in the best of times and in the worst of times.

Two weeks ago, in our Qigong *(defined below) class our teacher demonstrated the power of the positive mindset.   Using a simple muscle strength test, he used to measure one of the participant’s strength.  Now, he had us (50 students) say aloud, to this man, that he has many problems. Afterwards, our teacher went over to him and checked his muscle strength. It had markedly diminished.  Then he had the audience say, he is a wonderful problem solver!  The muscle strength test improved beyond the initial measurement.   

The second part of this demonstration was to ask several members of the group to stand next to the man.  They too had their muscle strength assessed.  We all repeated the negative mantra.  What was revealing is that the onlookers also lost muscle strength in the process.  The action of sympathizing with his dilemma created a weakening of their strength as well as he weakening of strength of the audience.  We all repeated the positive mantra and everyone’s strength was improved.

Wishing someone harm, bitching and moaning, dwelling on negative aspects of the real estate profession, the government, the leadership, your city, your family, your clients, and so on and so forth reduces your problem-solving capacity and inspiration. It impacts your health, your relationships, and your effectiveness in business. It is a bona-fide form of self-destruction.  This quote illustrates this, “resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Ultimately, it is your choice!  What is in your glass nectar or poison?!

Qigong (pronounced "chee-gung," also spelled chi kung) is translated from the Chinese to mean "energy cultivation" or "working with the life energy." Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of postures, exercises, breathing techniques, and meditations. Its techniques are designed to improve and enhance the body's qi or( chi) . 

“In China, qigong is used n conjunction with other medical therapies for many chronic conditions, including allergies, AIDS, ,cancer, headaches, depression, mental illness ,strokes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma and obesity.”*,

Branding: The Advantage of Authenticity Versus Playing The Role Authentically!

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Authenticity is perhaps the most important concept in personal branding for luxury real estate or any other real estate marketing professionals. Without authenticity, you live in a masquerade ball or hell as we see it.

What is at stake if you forego authenticity? Quite simply, it is your own happiness. When you walk out the door, you have to remember to take your mask and put it on like Eleanor Rigby (Beatles song), "waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door.."

Some real estate marketing professionals think they need a persona to aid them in being a success in their careers.  We certainly met many when we had our practice in commercial real estate, as well as those in luxury and other areas of residential real estate.. They were Oscar worthy  actors in their creation of their role . They had very successful careers!.  

They were obsessed with the authenticity of their role, the right thing to wear, the right car to drive, the right restaurant to be seen at, the right school for their children, etc. However, underneath all that was a profound unhappiness.  Some no longer knew who they were, or what their real face looked like.

As brand strategists, it is our job to assist our clients to drill down to their core identity, identify what is truly important to them, what they stand for, what their genuine values are, as opposed to the values of others. Only then can you make explicit, in the form of a graphic representation and a genuine marketing message, the authentic personal brand. We ask our clients what they can do better than anyone else in their marketplace. But, they also must be truly passionate about doing it. 

An authentic pursuit cannot be one based on seeking the admiration of the crowd at large, your parents,your spouse, or any other influencers in your life.  The only person that matters in all this is you, All else is a masquerade ball in hell!

" Authenticity means erasing the gap between what your firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world."  

Adam Grant

Branding Moments: Something To Crow About?

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If you are going to spend money on a print ad,  make sure you have something to crow about.  One of the ways to do this is with cleverness and  humor.  Humor is something easy to remember.  It sticks in your mind. Basic house shots and head shots is what everyone opts for and are easy to miss and a big yawn to anyone who looks at it.

This ad in one of the recent Wine Spectator publications stood out!  It elevated the look of the ordinary black rooster logo.  He now has a title and new fine clothes. was elevated to his lordship, no less. This ad promotes all the wineries that are produced within the Chianti Classicoregion.  They follow this guideline "Chianti Classicowinesmust contain a minimum of 80 percent of the Sangiovesevariety. The remainder can be made from native grapes such as Canaioloor  Colorino, Wines made only from Sangiovesehave been permitted since 1996." 

If you are going to use a tone of humor and or cleverness, be sure it fits your personality and brand.  If not, your crowing will fall on deaf ears! 




Is Luxury A Comfortable Pair Of Shoes Or A State of Mind?

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We have been cogitating, pondering and mulling over the state of luxury today.  I (A) have read numerous articles by different experts in the field of branding, marketing, and those who report on luxury sales.

In an earlier post we mentioned "affordable luxury" as a category, which in our opinion is an oxymoron. An article in Harvard Business review by Michael Silverstein and Neil Fisk coined the term masstige brands for "mass prestige" brands in their book Trading Up. These are brands that are affordable to the masses.  In real estate talk, the MacMansions are an example of a masstige brand. 

We have often asked wealthy people and luxury real estate marketing professionals the question: What does luxury mean to you?  One of the answers that stayed with us was from a very successful luxury agent whose answer was, "Luxury is a pair of comfortable shoes!"  We identified with this one recalling a trip to Spain. Prior to the trip, we had outfitted ourselves with comfortable shoes that ended up being sheer torture. Luxury was buying new shoes and being able to walk again!

We have always maintained that luxury is not just expensive goods, it is a state of mind.  What does luxury mean to you? Stay tuned for Part 2.

Branding Moment: Is This An Oxymoron?

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In the Summer of issue of Net-A-Porter, Michael Kors who declared himself as owning the category of "Affordable Luxury" published this ad. We see it as an oxymoron (a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness) broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements.)

Affordable luxury cannot possibly include a private jet.  The cost of operating a Gulfstream is $3,822.00 per hour. Be careful when making a statement about your brand that contradicts your unique concept, If you are in the luxury real estate marketing arena be sure your presentation materials are spot on your brand.  

Honor Your Reader: Don't Fall Into the Trap of Faux & Fluff Posts!

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As a luxury or any other real estate marketing professional writing blog posts or articles as a means of getting business and making yourself known and well thought of in your marketplace, spend ample time researching the facts.  Use reliable sources (verified sources) that tell both sides of the story, not just the ones who agree with your point of view, and give links to those resources. Honor your reader by letting them decide how they view it,

Recently, one of our daily feeds' headlines stated that many individuals were leaving the Facebook platform, and or changing their privacy settings.  This was a study done by Pew Research.  When I read the study, it presented both sides of the story, some were leaving and some were signing on.  The feed just told half of the story in their headline, however, they were smart to give the reference.  Many would turn around and repeat half the story, and let it spiral via social media and becomes another Faux news tidbit.  Personally, we like Pew Research organization as they give you the facts (both sides of the story), and you get to decide your interpretation.

Two years ago, we discovered that what was one a reliable source for us, (Wall Street Journal) was not so reliable.  They updated a news article on one of our Santa Barbara County Reservoirs, Lake Cachuma. Their headline stated that the water level was so low the fish were dying.  That very day, our local news reported on the Annual Bass Contest at Lake Cachuma showing a photo father and son duo who had won a $10,000 prize for their catch... This was one of the many reasons we unsubscribed to the Wall Street Journal. 

When we lived in Napa, every time severe rainstorms were predicted, the news broadcasted Storm Alerts warned everyone in the Bay Area, that the Napa River would no doubt flood that weekend.  And the San Francisco news vans drove up and parked near the river hoping it would flood. That had a huge effect on the Napa economy, whose feeder market is the Bay Area.  People canceled their reservations at hotels, restaurants and other commercial venues.  Napa depends on the tourist dollars as well as the wine trade.  Faux news kills employment opportunities.

With the recent fires in the Napa Valley last year, the news predicted that the wine would taste smoky.  They did not bother finding out that all the grapes had been harvested and the juice was resting and fermenting in their sealed barrels, and were not affected by the smoke. Think of the economic effect.  Napa County is one the richest counties in California!  We were close friends with the then CEO of Napa County.

Yesterday, as we were walking out of a store, one of our acquaintances was ranting and raving about the presidential alert test?  This gave her an opportunity to to critique the present administration.  Did she have the facts? This alert system became a law and was signed by President Obama in 2015.  And the president, by law, cannot communicate directly to us.  And the Faux facts continued to spread yesterday like wildfire.

Fluff  are the Public Relations Vanity pieces.  We see them in the luxury and other real estate arenas. Some real estate companies praise themselves as the end all be all gift to the world of real estate with the claim that they know it all, and they are the very best at what they do.  They have facts slanted to their point of view.  This is known as an advertorial aka Fluff.  

The other category of “fluffers” are the virtual influencers.  These folks are paid by companies to promote items they "love" and could not live without on all social media outlets.  Recently, one of these influencers from a luxury store named 3 cosmetic items that made her day, every day!  Just for fun and research I checked it out, and I would not recommend any of these products to my friends.

The next category of fluff is the top 100 or top 25 people or businesses in a category (real estate, social media, sports).  This is more fluff.  We have a local one that our Independent publication promotes annually claiming it is a reader- based survey.  The way to get on the list is to advertise with them year-round.  Our dry cleaner recently sent us an email asking us to vote for them, as did our go-to Thai restaurant, and we rarely pick up the Independent.  

Facts are objective. Facts are neither true or false.  Opinion is one's point of view of the facts, an interpretation of the facts. nothing less and nothing more.  One's point of view is neither good or bad, it is a point of view.  

Where do you find facts?  They are rarely on the first three pages of Google which are laden with paid ads.  Those first three pages exist because they are paid for by those looking to promote themselves.  Remember, Google wants to make money, they have to answer to their stockholders every quarter.  They have no clue as to whether those articles have any validity or are even factual!  Here is a telling example:

Our Chamber of Commerce hired the #1 authority on the first page of Google on the subject of social media.  Mr. Expert negotiated himself a nice fee, which the Chamber paid in advance.  When he gave his talk, it became obvious to the members that this man knew less than they did.  When confronted, his retort was" I know how to be #1 on Google."  We rest our case.

Our advice to you.  Honor your reader, spend ample time researching the facts, and give a link to your references.