ALPANA PARIDA highlights the branding imperatives and opportunities for the real estate sector.
Gone are the days of Kanchenjunga and Upasana. The names today are Regency Park and Silver Arch. There is little differentiation in offerings and most brands are perceived as being very similar. A few brands have an advantage by virtue of being in the business longer, such as DLF, Hiranandani, Sobha; others have created a space for themselves through high-end projects and a media blitz, such as Lodha, India Bulls; some have leveraged parent brand credentials to promise trust, such as Godrej, Tata, Piramal; and many others have become known through word-of-mouth endorsements. Only a few have established themselves through a differentiated offering - Ashiana, Total Environment and others.
And yet there is no real distinctly differentiated real estate brand. A brand is what differentiates a generic product from others. Strong brands command a premium, ensure preference and consumer loyalty, and get higher valuation for investors. In highly cluttered and undifferentiated categories, branding becomes even more important and helps garner larger market share and higher profitability.
Trust, ability to deliver on time and ethical practices are the primary recognition of leading real estate brands. Time was, when most consumers complained of ethics and trust was a big driver. In the last decade or so, many builders have risen who follow transparent and ethical standards and practices. Trust is slowly becoming a given - not a key differentiator.
There are many opportunities for real estate brands to create a unique offering. Creating a robust brand is not about advertising alone. It is about creating a singularity of experience across all touch points. Strong brands build a set of positive associations, which then attach themselves to the brand. With a series of innovative actions - sponsoring a lecture series on urban planning, showcasing the work of innovative architects, creating visible volunteering by employees for slum dwellers, creating installations that become a citys pride, incorporating a style element across all properties - there are many ways of building robust brand with high recall. Consumer needs and preferences are changing across the category. The new customised bubbles of the gated community is a growing phenomenon leading to new neighbourhoods that will change the well-ordered social hierarchies based on geography.
Indeed, real estate brands will need to be consumer-led. In an increasingly competitive landscape, it is an imperative to identify consumer needs, create products based on these, and build customer-centric organisations that go beyond the selling of brick and mortar and stand out through differentiation.
About the Author:
Alpana Parida is the President of DY Works, a brand strategy and brand design firm that has worked across real estate brands such as Marvel, Peninsula, Tata Realty, Godrej Construction and Godrej Properties.
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