Falling in Love… with Real Estate
I bought a new home recently. As with most things in life, it’s one thing to research and conceptually understand a subject like home purchase; it’s quite another thing to experience it on a personal level. As a real estate branding and marketing expert, I’ve done years and years of research on this process. Still, I had a few surprises along the way – that I think illuminate key factors in any marketing program.
Here’s the thing: purchasing a home is the most significant financial decision most of us will make it a lifetime, and it can be scary as hell. So how do we convince ourselves to buy, and what makes us ultimately pull the trigger? Is it a reasonable, fact-based process, or is it bogged down in the quagmire of human emotion?
The crucial reality for home buyers (like me) – and for real estate marketers (like me) – is that it is both.
Rational Decision Making
According to the accepted wisdom on consumer behaviour, the stages of the decision-making process are:
- Problem/need recognition
- Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Purchase decision
- Post-purchase behaviour
In the case of home buying, this makes a lot of sense. We look for something that meets our needs. We find out what we need to know about the desirability of neighbourhoods, the affordability of mortgage rates, the qualities of good construction, and so on. Then, the house hunt begins, and we consider a variety of options and how they may or may not meet our needs. At some point, we decide what we can live without, what we just have to have, and at what price we can make it all happen. And then we make that great big purchasing decision. The combination of elation and panic that inexorably ensues is part of our post-purchase evaluation, and we might watch the real estate market closely for a while to reassure ourselves that we’ve made a sound decision. (Fair to say I’m in that stage now!)
However, when you tell your friends and family about your new home purchase, do you say: “I’ve just made a sound, rational decision that I believe will benefit me long-term,” or do you say, “Guys, I’m so excited! I’ve found a home that I absolutely love!” I can state for the record: I love my new home.
… Meets Emotional Response
MRI neuro-imagery shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions rather than information in their evaluations. We also know that emotional response to an advertisement influences a consumer more than the content of the ad – three times more, for television ads, and two times more for print ads. That is significant.
A professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California studied people whose connections between the rational and emotional areas of the brain had been damaged. His study concluded that these people were capable of rationally processing information, but they couldn’t make any decisions because they didn’t know how they felt about their options. They simply could not make a decision without emotion. Take that, left brain.
It’s a whole lot like falling in love. The metaphor applies whether we are talking about branding or home purchasing. Would you choose a spouse based purely on rational decision-making? Without love, why stay with your home, your favourite brands, or your life partner? Just saying…
The Reasons We Love Things
Let’s talk about why we love our homes and our favourite brands. (I’ll let you figure out why you love your partner!) There are a few, shall we say, rational reasons why we fall in love in a brand:
- Emotion: Consumers connect emotionally to brands. A brand is simply a representation of a product designed to elicit an emotional response from the consumer.
- Loyalty: The stronger the emotional connection, the greater the loyalty. Loyalty also means that our emotional connection grows stronger over time.
- Personality: Brands are imbued with personality, to which consumers respond as they would to personality characteristics in people. Our relationships with brands are not merely about consumer culture; they are about our relationships with our world.
- Story: A brand story or narrative communicates “who” the brand is. As consumers, we align those stories to our own, finding narratives that reinforce our own identities – the people we think we are, or the people we wish to become.
All of this is why branding is so important in real estate marketing – these are the major storylines to our lives. What’s really interesting is that it is the stories and emotions themselves that ultimately push us toward action. While the rational mind may begin a purchase decision-making process, it is the emotional mind that closes the deal.
As real estate marketers, we need to appeal to the head, but most important, we need to win over the heart. If we go back to the stages of decision making, that means we need to be pragmatic for steps one through three (need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives), delivering solid information and supporting reasons why a purchase makes good logical sense. Then, on step four (purchase decision), we need to drive it home with emotion that compels your target market to buy.
Give us a call to discuss the emotional needs of your current or future projects!