Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Ultimate Luxury for 2010: Forever Young

Sunrise in our backyard in Carpinteria, California

2009 has stood out as a year when the meaning of “luxury” itself has been dramatically re-examined, re-evaluated and re-defined throughout the world by high net worth consumers and also by the purveyors of luxury goods and services. To be successful in the next decade, as a luxury real estate marketing professional, it is now essential to gain a deep understanding of this shift in mindset that is gaining momentum from material to experiential.

Perhaps, the root of this important change began in the sixties, when a certain poet, expressed that “the times they are a changing”. As baby boomers are reaching the peak of their earning and spending years, it isn’t surprising that they have led the way to this awakening of a deeper meaning of luxury.

Recently, while driving down Pacific Coast Highway on a magnificently clear day we listened to Bob Dylan sing one of his classic songs: May You Stay Forever Young! He articulated for us, in just five words, the most profound wish that we have for ourselves and for others. It is the wish that represents to us the ultimate luxury: To maintain the optimism and invincibility of youth throughout our lives.

We wish for you a very Happy New Year. And, may you stay forever young!

Ron & Alexandra Seigel

P.S. We included the Joan Baez version of this song on video here because it is awesome. Here are the lyrics, too.

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
And may you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the light surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
And may you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
And may you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

Bob Dylan-released in January 1974, on the Planet Waves Album-

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Is Luxury Out of Style?

1957 Mercedes Cabriolet

Luxury real estate marketing professionals need to stay abreast of current etiquette when conversing with high net worth clients. Economic conditions tend to affect the degree of conspicuous or inconspicuous consumption. But, is flaunting one's wealth ever in style?

Given the current economic conditions and the propensity of the media and talking heads to point out the downfall of the luxury retail market this holiday season, the following question comes to mind: Is luxury itself out of style?

The answer is NO. The essence of luxury is an object or a service that is well made/well done. Again the governing concept of an item is that is of exceptional craftsmanship which implies its long lasting value. A great service implies that you will return for that great service over and over again because it is worth it. The very well to do populace is not the only ones who buy luxury. There are quite a few people who may buy an item because of its "superior quality or performance." They understand that because it is a superior product, its longevity will make the purchase an economically sound decision.

Thomas Chippendale chair

There are people who will drive their Mercedes for 20-30 years. Divide the original purchase price by the number of years, and you will discover that given the performance and the lasting quality with which the vehicle is built, it is a bargain. In addition the resale value is higher, and if the model is sought after by collectors, it resale can be astronomically more than its original purchase price. A well made piece of furniture last lifetimes and is often passed from generation to generation. An authentic Chippendale is worth a fortune on today's market. With falling prices on many durable luxury items, those in the know are purchasing them.

The same could not be said about some luxury purchases. If one were to purchase a pair of satin Christian Louboutin shoes for $1500, the chances of those shoes surviving into the next century are not so great, even though they are well made and well crafted. The intention here is not to condemn the purchase but to illustrate the concept of long term luxury. It is possible that the wearer may be so careful as to avoid every possible scuff and not damage them at all and hand them off to a granddaughter with the same exact shoe size at some point in time!

What is out of style and what has always been out of style is in your face luxury i.e. bragging about and flaunting recent purchases. Etiquette is a lifelong pursuit and is not dependent on economic conditions to practice it. It depends on one's understanding and appreciation of all the conditions that life has to offer and reacting to them in a gracious manner.

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Celebrating the Holidays with Localism, Part II

One of the most wonderful promises of the blog, as a communication tool, is that it empowers you to report on local events, customs and perspectives and share them with the world. Localism, a term that is often used to describe this capability, is a powerful strategy for luxury real estate marketing professionals. It can help you to stay in touch with prospective clients who plan on relocating to your area or purchase a second home in your marketplace.

Reporting on local happenings is also great way to of reminding locals (including prospective home sellers and referral sources) about what they love the most about where they live. You can help them to fall n love with their home town all over again and fall in “like” with you in the process.

In our home town of Carpinteria, next door to Montecito in the Santa Barbara area, there are acres of agricultural land. Carpinteria is one of the avocado capitals of the world. It is also the home of some of the best and most successful wholesale growers of orchids in the United States. Most of the orchids that you buy in Trader Joes and major supermarket chains are grown right here.

This year Westerlay Orchids decorated a lovely Christmas tree with orchid ornaments that is displayed in their showroom which is open to the public. Each orchid is placed in a tube with water to maintain its freshness over the holidays. The variety of colors is magnificent and the lights in the trees make the orchids glow.

Now, this is something you do not typically see elsewhere around the world. It is truly local. And, it is a joy to share with you, our friends from all corners of the globe.

Happy Holidays!

Ron & Alexandra Seigel

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Monday, December 21, 2009

Celebrating the Holidays in Santa Barbara: Part I

This is part one of our local coverage of holiday spirit, here in Santa Barbara, California. We were inspired by holiday blog posts we have read from all over the world from bloggers who shared local color, like the first snow of season. It truly helps to make the spirit bright!

One of the luxuries of life in the holiday season is to admire the lovely decorations that signify the end of the year. The creativity involved and the execution gives you a moment to reflect on people’s artfulness. To celebrate the season and wish all our readers a wonderful holiday, we are sharing our photos of local holiday decorations that we found impressive or original.

Today, we had breakfast with friends in the Bella Vista restaurant of the Biltmore hotel overlooking Butterfly Beach. It is a wonderful room with a retractable ceiling to let in the ocean breezes and very conducive to celebration or quiet relaxation. It is a favorite of the locals as well as tourists.

One of the landmark hotels in Montecito/Santa Barbara, the famed Biltmore hotel opened in 1927, as part of the Biltmore chain. Today, it is known as the Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore Santa Barbara. The hotel has been lovingly maintained and restored. It exemplifies colonial Spanish/Moorish architecture with magnificent courtyards, gardens that feature specimen plants and trees, as well as a croquet lawn. We think that it is one of the most beautiful hotels to visit since it is reminiscent of the grandeur of the era in which it was built.

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Friday, December 18, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: The Luxury of Lemon Grass

Lemon grass by Velela

Luxury real estate marketing has become an international game. Understanding what is considered to be a luxury in multiple cultures is now a requisite education for luxury real estate marketing professionals.

For example, what is considered to be luxury in Singapore, the fifth wealthiest country in the world? Its rapid economic growth and favorable business climate converted a port city into a major urban capital. In razing orchards and plantations to build high rises and an urban infrastructure, the country’s agricultural output became non-existent. Singapore is a country that imports the overwhelming majority of its food (eggs are the exception) and half of its water. Now, home grown vegetables, fruits, and herbs have become the new luxury.

Greening up the concrete façade of the city began with the chefs of the luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons and the Fairmont, who were not satisfied with the imported organic fare. These chefs began growing herb gardens on their rooftops. This expanded to growing banana trees, chilies, bell peppers and more. Other business and restaurants have followed suit, and are growing lemons, curry leaf, lemon grass and mint.

In a country proud of its gastronomic heritage and a people who value diversity in gourmet fare, this trend of homegrown produce has become vitally importance to continue its dominance as a culinary capital. Using organic produce is also beneficial to the environment as it has an impact of lowering greenhouse emissions. Now, the government of Singapore is supporting residents to grow their vegetables on their rooftops, or participate in community gardens.

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Thank You for NOT Calling Back

Zoe Darla Seigel, Abyssinian Princess

Alexandra here… your reporter at large, covering great customer service or the lack thereof. There is definitely an important lesson in this for your luxury real estate marketing practice.

Recently, I was in the process of ordering flea meds for our cats online from a company with whom I had previously done business. The website was not working, so I picked up the phone and called them. They were extremely busy and could not take my order. But, they did promise to call back in five minutes.

As I sat at my desk waiting for the return call, I noticed another web site advertising the same products. I clicked on it, and found, much to my delight, that the same exact pet meds were half price. So, I placed the order. The original company never called back. Typically, it is easy to get upset when you are waiting to be called back. Now, I just say “thank you” and move on. But, do keep this in mind, when you think of the visitors you painstakingly attract to you luxury real estate website.

This past Saturday, I called the local store of a national retailer to purchase a Dutch oven (on sale for 2 days only) for a Texas chili recipe I was cooking. They were busy at the store. The gal who answered the phone was rude. But, she asked for my number, and promised to call back in five minutes. It is Tuesday night as I write this post, and I have still not heard back. Meanwhile, I located the same item online with free shipping at a better price. In an effort to give feedback (because this is one of my favorite stores), I sent an email to the store’s headquarters.

Today, I received a reply email that expressed appreciation for my feedback. They gave me an incident number and that was all it said. What does one do with an incident number? Are they going to do anything to win my business back? The last sentence in my note was, “because of my respect for your company and my past experience, I am writing this to you. However, you have made it very easy for me to shop elsewhere”. They just lost my business and I gained an incident number. Can anyone use an incident number?

So every time your call or email inquiries are not responded to as promised, don’t get mad. Just go on clicking. There is always someone willing to give you the service you are looking for. But, do remember that all the money you spend to acquire web visitors and phone call from prospective clients will go down the proverbial drain if you do not respond to your email or call people back. Your competition is just a click away.

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Dominate The Uncontested Market Space

Recently, we responded to an S.O.S from a successful luxury real estate marketing professional who put out this distress signal: I have been blogging consistently. Why is no one commenting or following me? Is there anyone out there? For those of you who are experiencing the same frustration, here is an important tip: Discover and dominate an under served market niche

A niche is specialized market. It is a market segment or a particular market “space”. An example of a niche in luxury real estate would be historic homes. When we were in commercial real estate in Beverly Hills we specialized in high end retail and the entertainment industry. One of our jobs was to go to find potential tenants for retail stores and shopping centers that we represented exclusively, on Rodeo Drive, or surrounding areas.

In doing some research for an upcoming blog series we found an excellent analogy for niches by Ray Wert on his blog. He referred to niches as the spaces between the marbles in a Mason jar that is full of marbles. If you were to pour sand in the jar it would fill those spaces and there would be a surprising amount of room for the sand. Only when you can no longer add sand is the jar really “full”. The marbles represent what everyone else is doing, the niches exist in those spaces between the marbles that the sand fills.

To be successful as a blogger, as a luxury real estate marketing professional, you must first identify an uncontested market “space”. The first place to look is for an under served consumer group. It must be a niche about which you can write passionately.T It needs to be a market segment for which you can offer an extraordinary promise of value, value that cannot be found elsewhere. And, you must blog in your own unique voice, your authentic style. That is, if you want to build an audience and be follow-worthy over time.

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Friday, December 11, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Refining the Definition of Luxury

Mammoth IvoryCarved by Japanese Master Carver, source IvoryandArt

As a Luxury real estate marketing professional it is important to become aware of the current shifting values in the realm of luxury goods and services. We are always on the lookout for refining the definition for luxury to keep up with new trends.

Recently we read this definition of luxury:

“Enjoyment of time, place, memory or object without regard to time or expense. One notable exception is that hedonism borders on luxury with a primary distinction being that hedonism seems to entail being without regard to consequences.” --Jay Rogers cofounder of Local Motors

Hedonism is the seeking of pleasure-devotion, especially a self-indulgent one, to pleasure and happiness as a way of life. The disregard of consequences, in some cases, has meant the near extinction of certain animals such as elephants. Fortunately, an important re-evaluation of ivory carvings as luxury is now taking place.

Since prehistoric times ivory has been carved for ornaments, jewelry and artifacts. The ivory figure of Khufu, for example, was crafted for the builders of the Great Pyramid and is considered a masterpiece of ivory carving. The ivory was usually obtained from the tusks of live elephants in India, and in Roman times, from North Africa.

Perhaps, the East Asian cultures place the highest value on ivory carvings. An entire art form of miniature ivory carvings called Netsuke was invented in the 17th century. The finest of these extraordinary objects are considered to have great artistic merit.

In the refining of the definition of luxury in thes 21st century, however, social consciousness is playing an important role. eBay, for one, has banned the sale of ivory since January of 2009. If this becomes a trend, elephants will become protected as an endangered species and the most outstanding pieces of carved ivory will significantly increase in value.

Check Out These 3 Minute Videos!

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The 2010 Imperative: Differentiate with Personal/Company Branding!

In 2010 you have a choice as a luxury real estate marketing professional: Stand Out or Bow Out! Consumers now have a plethora of choices and a scarcity of time. Your competition is just one click away. It is now an imperative to DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF and instantly communicate your unique promise of value with laser sharpness, in a nano-second. Check out these personal and company branding videos:

The Power of Personal Branding for

Luxury Real Estate Agents

Strategic Branding for Companies

Check Out More Case Studies!

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: The Contrarian Approach

Our digital world has brought about some wonderful efficiency in communication and has reduced costs. But, it has also made it easier to lose the personal touch which has now become a luxury. This opens up a tremendous opportunity for luxury real estate marketing professionals to gain a competitive edge by thinking like a contrarian.

In a time starved world where email-only customer service is the order of the day, a personal phone call can go a long way to build client loyalty. Here is an example.

Recently, a mistake was made on our account by an internet service to which we subscribe and our account was suspended. The only way that this could be remedied was via email customer service. There was no phone number given on their Contact Us page. Frustration set in because it took way too much time to write them and prove that the mistake was theirs not ours. Two days later the account was suspended again for the same reason. Again, the burden of proof was on us which took more of our time. And, we are one of their best customers!

This reminded us the Lily Tomlin sketch on Saturday Night Live where she played Ernestine the telephone operator. Her famous lines were, “I work for the phone company and it is not my job to think!” And, “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We are the phone company.”

Finally, we requested, by email, that a senior executive of the company call us, as there was no resolution via email customer service. Plus, we were ready to find a new service provider. We did get a call and the solution became apparent to the executive in less than 30 seconds. We now have her direct phone number which is rarely given out.

If your competition in luxury real estate is heading in one direction take the opposition direction and stand out. Be a contrarian. Maintain your personal touch, even after you have sold the home. It will go a long way to build client loyalty and referrals.

Check Out These 3 Minute Videos!

Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Friday, December 4, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: In Praise of Snail Mail!

Photo by Jurgen Schoner

"Luxury is making an impression, without making a scene"-Yaffa Assouline.

A handwritten note to a prospective client expresses you care in a nanosecond. One of our clients welcomes his out of town buyers with a handwritten note placed in their hotel room along with a small box of chocolates from a local purveyor. Would you want to buy a home from anyone else? The initial conversation may have started by email, and he may have sent a text message alerting his client regarding a new listing.

In the not so distant past, people made beautiful boxes to keep love letters. A love letter is a treasure, a keepsake, a touchstone of a cherished moment! Would you profess you love in a text message or via email? Would the recipient file it in a folder on their hard drive under documents/love letters?

People purchased beautiful stationary to send thank you notes, and invitations to events. They sent birthday cards and anniversary cards. They bought special commemorative stamps to match the stationary and the event. Some still do. So, the US Post Office sells customized stamps. Another client sent invites to her opening party at her new office with her picture on the stamp. Would you want anyone else to market your home?

Balance high tech with low tech marketing. You will be surprised and delighted at the results.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Is Print Media Dead?

Luxury real estate marketing professionals are often told that “print media” is dead. Shrinking revenue numbers of traditional media is presented as proof. Besides, Google discontinued its print ads in February of 2009. But, according to the Luxury Institute print will always have a place in luxury and we agree. Why? Because, taking the time to browse through a print magazine is a luxury in and of itself. Plus, it’s a break from being in front of ubiquitous digital screens: TVs, Computers, PDAs, Smart Phones, video games and now reading devises likes Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook.

Consider in-flight magazines. London-based Ink, a privately held company, posted after-tax profit of £2.4 million ($4 million) on revenue of £25.3 million for the year through June 30, 2008. Last fiscal year Ink showed close to a 10% increase in revenue. According to a study conducted by Arbitron, more than 80% of U.S. passengers read the magazines airlines placed in front of them and readers average around 30 minutes per flight with their magazines.

What is important to understand about this captive audience is that frequent flyers, those who can afford to fly frequently (or be sent by their companies), are upper-demographic consumers who are taking a break from electronic devices.

Yahoo! recently announced its new 15 month marketing campaign ($100 million dollar budget) which includes print ads, TV ads and online ads. Clearly, this internet company sees the value of print advertising combined with other media. This balanced approach is a good strategy for luxury real estate marketing professionals, as well, especially when your competition is retreating from print.

Luxury real estate magazines are often placed where high net worth consumers will take the time to read them. For example, duPont Registry distributes its high end magazine to athletes. Their issue featuring California luxury homes is placed in the locker room of the San Francisco Giants. (Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate) sends their glossy magazine to 500 top CEOs and also on private jets.

Print advertising for luxury real estate marketing can be an integral part of your personal or company branding strategy if it is done effectively. What is often missing is the right call to action that can generate bona fide leads, leads that can convert to measurable sales.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Branding: Branding is Like the Wizard of Oz

The most common misconception that luxury real estate marketing professionals have about personal and company branding is that it is as simple as creating a new look. Given that the average age of most real estate websites is five years old (35 years old in internet years) , a new look can be helpful. But, your brand will not become your “silent salesperson” if it does not reflect your entire package--the soul of your brand.

To quickly grasp the vital importance of what we mean by the soul of your brand, consider the classic story of the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy wanted to get back home. The Scarecrow wanted brains. The Tin Man wanted a heart and the Cowardly Lion wanted courage.

Your personal or company brand must have brains. Your knowledge of your marketplace, your negotiating skills, and your educational background are all logical reasons to do business with you.

Your brand needs a heart. These are the emotional reasons to do business with you. What you stand for, what you value most, what you are passionate about: all of these things must be reflected in your brand.

Although, your superior marketing savvy must be reflected in your brand both intellectually and emotionally it is your courage to be different, to be distinct from your competition and to stand out from the crowd that is the soul of a market leader.

But, the most important aspect of your brand must be authenticity. That was Dorothy’s quest: to get back home. If you are not “at home” with yourself, if you are not totally comfortable within your brand because it does not reflect who you really are, you will not attract your ideal clients. Ideal clients are people like you who recognize that you are a match faster because you exposed and expressed your brain, your heart and your courage within your brand.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving. Painting by Jean Gerome Ferris

Once again we are at that time of the year that we take a break and celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. It is one of our favorite holidays because we pause to notice everything we are thankful for, and draw strength and pleasure as we reflect on the world around us. This is also our moment to thank all the readers of the LOL Blog. We especially appreciate your comments and discussions.

We wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving.

Cheers to your continued success!

Ron and Alexandra Seigel

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reputation Outperforms Google Ranking

As a luxury real estate marketing professional it is even more important to be the Google of your marketplace (the first to come to mind) than it is to rank #1 on a Google search results page. The world famous restaurant, Lawry’s –The Prime Rib, in Beverly Hills, California, over 70 years old, exemplifies this essential principle of branding. You may not have been to one of Lawry’s restaurants (now with multiple locations around the world), but you may recognize the ubiquitous Lawry’s Seasoning Salt brand found in most markets in the US today.

Growing up in West Los Angeles, Ron was fortunate to be a close friend of a granddaughter of the Lawrence Frank family. The family still owns the restaurants to this day (they sold the condiments business several years ago). Their first restaurant opened in 1938. For many years it was unique among restaurants because they just featured one entrée on their menu: standing rib roast. This was their uncontested market niche. Many restaurants copy their style, but Lawry’s still does it better than any other restaurant. And, their passion is palpable.

In 1953 Lawry’s added something special. Their menu claimed to be "the first to feature a green salad as an integral part of every meal." The salad bowl is placed on a bed of ice and spun by the server while she shakes the bottle of salad dressing and ceremoniously pours it into the bowl from about two to feet above the bowl. This ritual is a unique part the restaurant’s brand identity, in the same way that consistently and promptly, answering emails and phone calls can be a part of yours.

In 1956 just prior to the playing of the 1957 Rose Bowl Game between the Oregon State Beavers and the Iowa Hawkeyes, Lawry's entertained the two competing teams. This started an annual tradition of hosting a prime rib dinner for both of the teams bound for the Rose Bowls. By the early 1960s, the event had become known as the "Lawry's Beef Bowl." It is often covered by the media.

If you Google “prime rib restaurant in Los Angeles” all ten search results on page one refer to Lawry’s -The Prime Rib. They do not have an SEO strategy. The 9 results that follow their number one ranking on page one are all social media/restaurant reviews citing Lawry’s as the best prime rib restaurant in town. Lawry’s does not have a social media strategy. What they do have is an impeccable reputation and the mind share of the market leader. They occupy the #1 place in the minds of their target market: Prime rib lovers.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Monday, November 23, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Creating Customer Loyalty Offline

We are often asked by luxury real estate marketing professionals for some low cost, off-line vs. online, marketing strategies that produce high impact marketing results, especially client loyalty. We like to encourage our readers and our clients to think about what makes them loyal customers and clients of other professionals. Here are some ideas along those lines.

Recently we visited our local produce market. They often carry items that we cannot find in the outdoor Farmer’s Market. There was a sign posted at the entrance encouraging customers to bring their own bags. They launched a new initiative to contribute a nickel to one of four local charities when you save them the cost of a paper or plastic bag. When you check out they give you a ticket to place in one of the four boxes associated with the charity of your choice.

Many times you see a box at the checkout stand for a particular charity where you can deposit your coins or dollars. But, it is usually a national charity, not a local community charity such as the Girl’s Club, the local food bank, etc. There is something so wonderful about being able to simultaneously contribute to the environment (recycling bags) and also to a local cause here. It makes you feel good about yourself and about the store, thus generating customer loyalty. What was the price of our loyalty? It was five cents!

Later, the same day we purchased a hair care product from a local pharmacy. There are many choices in our neighborhood to find the same product. In fact there are many branches of the same company in our area. On this day, when we checked out, the clerk noticed that a coupon was available for the product we purchased and proceeded to cut it out of the paper for us. It saved us two dollars and made us feel very good about shopping at that particular store again. What was the price of our loyalty? It was zero—just 30 seconds more of customer care!

What are some of the ways your local stores and services are winning you over as loyal customers? What are some of the ways you can engender client loyalty at zero or next to no cost?

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Friday, November 20, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Jumping Off the Internet and Jumping On Your High Horse

Grace Sabeh, Executive Homes Realty, in jump competition

The mantra these days for luxury real estate marketing and real estate marketing in general is: focus your marketing on the internet. However, luxury real estate marketing professional should think about other venues of marketing. Your target market is not on the internet 24/7, and they do participate in all kinds of activities besides surfing the net. How about sponsoring a luxury event, in your marketplace? Here are two examples of event marketing. One is famous luxury brand that is thinking strategically in a time when retailers and luxury brands are cutting back their budgets. The other is a market leading luxury real estate professional who followed a hunch with event marketing that paid off very well, indeed.

The Luxury Brand

Hermes is one of the finest luxury brands known for their uncompromising craftsmanship. They started as a saddle shop in Paris in 1837. Because of their exquisite work and their royal clientele, they became known as the “saddle makers of kings.” Since then they have expanded into fashion, lifestyle and home products.

Recently they announced their return to their equestrian beginnings by sponsoring an equestrian event and competition. This is a revival of the first jumping event that was originally held in the Grand Palais in 1901. The event drew the fashionable crowds of Paris and its environs. By 1957, interest waned and the event was discontinued. Now, by sponsoring Saut Hermès (saut means jump) they are strategically placing themselves in plain view of their target market. No doubt, they will issue a limited scarf edition that will honor the event. This will help to reacquaint existing customers with Hermes’ equestrian roots and reaffirm their loyalty to the Hermès brand. Additionally, Hermès has become involved with a horse race held every summer in Deauville, as well as with an international dressage competition Equita’Lyon, held in Lyon, France.

The Luxury Real Estate Agent

One of our clients listed a home owned by a car collector. Based on the design of the home, the ideal buyer would also a collector. As a strategic move, she rented a billboard that showcased the home at the prestigious Concours D’Elegance car event in Pebble Beach, California, where her target market would be a captive audience. She not only sold the home to an attendee of the event but she also attracted several leads for other sales.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Is It Worth It?

Photo by Jorge Barros

In staying up to date with the new theories of luxury marketing in the global economic downturn, it seems to us that there is a denial, among the purveyors of luxury goods and services, about how consumers are now viewing luxury. The same holds true, in many cases, with sellers of luxury real estate. As we read the various reports and the advice from industry pundits, we are struck by the level of delusion that continues to characterize the industry. Many home sellers are refusing to price their homes in line with current consumer demand.

In retail, some advisors say, “Do not lower prices of luxury goods and services”. The fear is that this may tarnish the brand’s reputation. In the perfume industry, one solution is to sell perfume in smaller bottles, giving consumers the illusion of lowering prices. Have you noticed that store bought coffee usually comes in 12 once bags these days instead of 1 pound bags?

The hospitality industry is also attempting to maintain their prices while adding incentives such as food and spa credits which effectively lower the rate of the rooms. Consumers are not jumping at either offer.

The high end consumer is rejoicing at all the sales. Finding bargains has become a badge of honor. Waiting for items to go on sale has become a new national pastime. Most importantly, consumers are beginning to ask these important questions: Is this item worth it? Do I really need it? Do I have to have it at this price?

As soon as more homebuyers wake up to the new perception of value in the luxury realm, more luxury real estate marketing professionals will start to see significant momentum in their sales.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Luxury Marketing: Redefining the World of Luxury

Denali mountain aka Mt.McKinley national park service photo

As a luxury real estate marketing professional it is very important to tune into the new psycho graphic trends and changes that luxury consumers are exhibiting during current market conditions. Understanding the mindset of all-cash buyers, in particular is now an imperative. They are the ones who determine the purchase prices in today’s market. Aligning the thinking of your sellers with these viable prospects can significantly increase your volume of business.

Have you noticed that the price of name brand shoes from Italy have increased in price faster than changes in the exchange rate between the dollar and the Euro and also faster than increases in the cost of living itself? Assuming for the sake of this discussion that the cost of labor, materials, marketing and other cost are held constant over the past several years, where is the extra value coming from?

These and many similar questions are now being asked by affluent consumers who are re-examining their own personal values when it comes to purchasing luxury goods and services.

We recently attended the NAR conference in San Diego, California and came away with an interesting insight inspired by an agent from Fairbanks, Alaska. She mentioned that the highest priced luxury homes in her town are selling in the low $400Ks. Her personal residence, a six wooded acre estate with a spectacular view of the Denali mountain range is valued at $200K. And, the market is active, contrary to other markets in the US.

In Alaska you cannot get away with sub par construction given the rigors of the climate. Construction costs are certainly not less than in California, for example, and labor costs are higher because the labor pool is limited.

Clearly, luxury is value added to basic costs of manufacturing (and land n the case of real estate) which makes it completely subjective. Like all-cash buyers consumers therefore, are beginning to realize that they dictate the terms of the value added rather than sellers now that there is an abundance of choices. In our previous market we had a false condition of scarcity that was fueled by the competition of easy money and the ensuing escalation of unrealistically inflated prices. The inflated false value was non-sustentative. And, this is what consumers are now re-evaluating.

A top agent in downtown San Diego sold a high-rise condo unit, with sensational views that are permanently unobstructed, listed at $1.2M two years ago, for half price. This all cash buyer determined the value despite the developer’s insistence that there should be a premium of $50K per story, arguing that the higher the floor, the more value it can command. Was there actually value added between that floor and the one above? Consumers now make that value call as they redefine luxury on their own terms.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Friday, November 13, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Branding: Empower Your Silent Salesperson

photo by Shawn Lipowski

Venus de Milo in the Louvre,aka Aphrodite de Milo

Considered One of the Finest Examples of Classic Greek Sculpture

How important is aesthetics in presenting your luxury real estate marketing services? The answer is: very important. In fact, aesthetics represents an entire branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste. The aesthetics of visual presentation can be your “silent salesperson” and play a much bigger part than you may realize in the success of your luxury real estate practice.

There is a whole psychology of color alone; certain colors evoke very predictable emotional responses and personal values judgments of sentiment and taste. That means you can connect with your target market on a deep emotional level by incorporating the right aesthetics in your personal or company brand. What are the right aesthetics? The right graphic images are those images that represent your authentic brand.

If you neglect this essential component of brand strategy you are missing an extraordinary opportunity and you are vulnerable to potential competition. We live in a new online world where you have a nano-second to make a strong first impression and engage your website visitors through the emotional connection of aesthetics.

Think of walking down Madison Avenue in New York or any major retail street in cosmopolitan cities that feature luxury stores. Window displays must grab the attention of potential customers or they just walk on by. Now, think of the speed at which a website visitor, with a single click of their mouse, can move on to your competitor’s site.

So much attention has been paid to driving traffic to your website. You may be spending considerable time and money to get potential buyers and seller there. But, are you engaging them with the power of aesthetics when they arrive?

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Branding: Leaving the Plastic Flamingo Flock Behind!

Imagination and creativity is one of the cornerstones of a successful luxury real estate marketing practice. Imitation and luxury really do not belong together. Too often we see luxury real estate professionals copying the branding or marketing strategies of their closest competitors and forgoing the competitive advantage of being original and authentic. It becomes a case of the hot pink plastic flamingo!

One of the most beautiful birds on our planet is the flamingo. This brightly colored bird caught the imagination of Don Featherstone who designed a plastic hot pink flamingo as a lawn ornament, sold in pairs (one upright the other feeding.) This plastic creation was awarded the “Ig-Nobel Prize for Art (a parody of the Nobel Prize). Plastic pink flamingos have become part of the American pop culture. Original Featherstone’s are marked as such on the bird’s underside.

American Flamingo, Photo by Fritz Geller Grimm

However, copy cats swarmed in and reproduced the flamingos in mass. This caught the imagination of students at the University of Wisconsin who “flamingoed” (the verb) a hill near their campus with over 1000 plastic flamingos on the first day of classes one year. Their prank sparked similar episodes around the country.

Plastic flamingos are now considered in the art world as kitsch. " Kitsch is a German word denoting art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value."

Authenticity in personal branding will strike the right chord with your ideal clients. Phoniness will repel them like plastic pink flamingos. It is not that there isn’t a market for these hollow birds. It is just a question of knowing who you are and who you want to attract.

Is your personal brand original or is it kitsch?

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Authenticity vs. Masquerade in Luxury Real Estate Personal Branding

Authenticity is perhaps the most important concept in personal branding for luxury real estate marketing professionals. Without authenticity, you live in a masquerade. What is at stake if you forego authenticity? Quite simply, it is your own happiness.

Recently, Andre Agassi published an autobiography in which he admitted to be caught up in a masquerade. He was forced by his father, who recognized his extraordinary talent, to become a champion in a game that Agassi would come to hate. In his recent TV interview it was obvious that he suffered a life of quiet desperation during the time when his brand was perceived as being the “rock star of tennis”. Canon, the camera company, capitalized on his brand image of being a rebel (which was the brand name of one of their models).

Reactions have been mixed from his contemporaries and fans. Resentments have been expressed by some. At the root of these resentments is the feeling of having been duped by Agassi’s charade.

Many people might say that this is a sign of the times. But, there is a deeper lesson to be learned, which is what Agassi, the staunch supporter of education, is now trying to tell the world. That is, there may be much to gain by living a fake existence, but in the long run it is your own happiness itself that is at stake.

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, not 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 one’s father or the crowd at large.

It was only when Agassi admitted to himself that he was caught up in a masquerade that he shaved his head and discontinued wearing a wig (his mask). He chose tennis on his own terms and became passionate about the game. No one can minimize his extraordinary accomplishments. But, the best accomplishment of all was choosing an authentic life.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Friday, November 6, 2009

Attract More High Net Worth Clients with Abbondanza! -the Abundant State of Mind

The most successful luxury real estate marketing professionals have understood and acquired a mindset that matches the general state of mind of their typical clients. As a result, they attract more high net worth clients than their competitors do. That way of thinking can be summed up in a single word that sounds even better in Italian than it does in English: ABBONDANZA! (Abundance)

The holiday of Thanksgiving is a celebration of abundance at harvest time that is often symbolized with a cornucopia, the horn of plenty or harvest cone. Here in Santa Barbara, California we are surrounded by agriculture and are thus very fortunate to have a Farmer’s Market six days a week, all year long.

This time of year is particularly exceptional. The market is overflowing with colorful organic fruits and vegetables that are truly a feast for the eyes. Shrimp and Pacific lobster, caught right off the coast, near the Channel Islands, is also abundant this time of year and sold at the market. Just walking through the market and appreciating the profusion of bright, multi-hued flowers can send you into a state of abbondanza.

Evidence of abundance is all around us if we take the time to appreciate it. Have you ever just stopped to appreciate having hot and cold running water and water that is safe to drink? We often take it for granted. Have you ever noticed the ever present power that runs everything in our homes including our computers? How do you feel when there is a power outage?

Here are some fun musings about the abbondanza mindset and the cornucopia:

Did you know that a cornucopian is a futurist who believes that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by similarly continued advances in technology?

In Greek mythology Zeus was raised by a goat and accidently broke one of its horns. Feeling bad, Zeus returned her horn with supernatural powers that would give whoever possesses it whatever he or she wants.

Perhaps that is what defines the abbondanza mindset of affluent consumers: They expect to get what they want. They are more optimistic than pessimistic. If you want to attract more high net worth clients, isn’t it worth getting yourself in the abbondanza state of mind? All it takes is the time to appreciate the abundance that is already in your life. You do not need to wait for Thanksgiving!

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: The Secret Advantage of Being The Popular Choice

The advantage to being top of mind, as a luxury real estate marketing professional, in your marketplace is getting the lion’s share of the business. There is also a secret advantage of being the popular choice. Although, Cherry Garcia ice cream, from Ben & Jerry's, has many raving fans vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream are by far the favorite choices with vanilla winning hands down as "most popular".

Ranking top of mind in luxury branding is even more important that ranking #1 on a Google search, because the overwhelming majority of affluent consumers rely on referrals from friends, family and colleagues when choosing products and services. Any real estate agent with enough funds can hire a search engine optimization expert to help him or her secure the #1 position in a Google search query. But, will the website visitor who clicks through the top listing actually hire the top ranking agent on Google at the end of the day if they are not accomplished and competent--or popular?

There is a lesser known factor that influences the choices of high net worth consumers when selecting a luxury real estate marketing professional. That is, taking into consideration what others will think of them based on the agent they select. While some consumers are “inner-referred”, meaning that they rely on their own judgment more so than others, a significant number of people care more about what others think of them. The “outer-referred” consumer will bypass their gut instincts (and taste buds if they prefer Jerry Garcia) just to look good in the eyes of their peers, neighbors or family (who prefer vanillla).

Have you ever been in a restaurant when the server suggests a menu item and adds, “This is a very popular choice”? Studies have shown that when it comes to choosing brands of food to serve at a party the host will purchase the “popular choice”, e.g., Coke vs.. Pepsi even if the host prefers the taste of a generic brand that is cheaper.

To summarize, if you want to gain or sustain market leadership you need to stand out and achieve “top of mind” status for three important reasons: 1) most potential referral sources can only remember a few brand names (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) when asked for a recommendation for a luxury real estate agent ( see more detail on this); 2) Top of mind generates more leads than qualified search engine leads because affluent consumers rely on personal referrals more than Google, and; 3) The popular choice is a hidden influence in selecting an agent

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Luxury Real Estate Branding: Connecting through Emotional Branding

As a luxury real estate professional, it is important that your brand resonates emotionally with your target market. If you strike an emotional chord with potential clients and referral sources they will remember you much better especially if you tell a compelling story. Here are two example of what Pepsi has done to reach its target audience on an emotional level. One works better than the other.

This commercial is very funny, but did it connect with the people who are viewing it? Will they go out and be moved to buy Pepsi next time, because they identify with this story? Are there enough young people in ashrams practicing martial arts?

In contrast, this second commercial, produced a few years back, hits a bull’s eye. It also has a humorous side to it. However, it makes a strong emotional connection with its audience. Music is an important part of the lives of teens and young adult. This story also speaks to adults who grew up in the sixties and are still young at heart.

Do you remember the Pepsi slogan: “Come Alive—you are in the Pepsi Generation? Pepsi out-sells Coke in the younger demographic. They need to stay firmly on this sweet spot to continue this trend. The first commercial was nebulous about this important brand position which needs to be communicated and amplified with laser sharp precision in order to strike the right emotional chord.

Check Out Personal Branding Case Studies and Company Branding Case Studies