Stand out in a ‘Sea of Sameness’

Lots of names, few real brands – Steve Lees, Strategy Director at Aylesworth Fleming considers the importance of a strong brand for housebuilders.

The wider economic forecast suggests housebuilders are heading into a challenging period. The persistent political merry-go-round, the elongated looming Brexit and the real impact on property prices post leaving the EU combine to create a picture of uncertainty.

So, where do opportunities exist to influence buyer behaviour in a market which looks like a sea of sameness, where customers see you and your competitors as interchangeable?

It appears that people aren’t aware of new home brands and if they are, awareness of any differentiation is limited. Products tend to look similar and build on the same sites or in close proximity, but many find difference in shades of grey.

Communication approaches have compounded a lack of brand differentiation. Ads, emails and websites all look the same and follow similar campaign approaches. In our industry there’s lots of names but few real brands exist.

We can however take this a little deeper with the findings of a YouGov survey we commissioned, which evaluated the psychology behind buying a home. It was rather telling (albeit a little depressing) that more respondents (39%) thought none of the housebuilders had a good reputation rather than the highest performing housebuilder – Barratt (35%).

Developing a strong brand in the current economic climate is imperative, even when location is a major factor in a purchase decision. A strong brand will drive incremental sales by widening your appeal outside of the core “new build” buyers and increase the margin preference for your homes over others under consideration. However, it isn’t just a concept owned by the marketing department, it’s essential that everyone in your business owns the brand and all try to build a better brand experience.

This is amplified as consumers don’t simply trust company-generated messaging anymore and brands must prove their value through actions not just words. People are getting closer to brands than ever before and brands have to work harder. They expect brands to deliver a consistent experience every time they interact and bridge any gaps between digital and physical worlds. Consumer expectations are rising and their willingness to wait is ever declining and, as a result, consumers are shifting from ‘who does it best’ to ‘who does it best now’. Super empowered consumers don’t see just see one path available to them—they see limitless possibilities and find out what they need for themselves, not just what a brand tells them.

As psychology plays such a significant role in homebuying, it is crucial that this is recognised throughout the whole buying process and joining up all the possible points of engagement and interaction. A strong brand goes beyond any headline message. You have to connect on an emotional level and ensure audiences feel informed and involved, not just marketed to. Brands need to have a deep understanding of their decision making, priorities and media consumption behaviours and how to be useful in the moments before they take a step into your beautifully furnished show homes. You can’t always control the journey, but only once you have all the insights and intelligence you need to create and send relevant and contextual messages will you stand out from the sea of sameness.

As a result, Oliver grew 35% year-on-year and saw global revenue figures of $250m. The success was seen in the business’s pipeline too: 15 new clients and three expanded territories, in France, Ireland and Nigeria.

At a corporate level, the business has also this year pledged to become an “actively anti-racist organisation”. This has included giving every individual in the business anti-racism training, appointing a diversity and inclusion lead as well as a chief inclusion officer, enlisting the activism of key stakeholders and business leaders, and recruiting a team of 40+ global changemakers to help the business stay the course. It is also a sponsor of the brilliant Brixton Finishing School.

Crucially, it has protected the wellbeing of its staff this year with a programme to safeguard people’s mental and physical wellbeing in the pandemic, leading to some of the business’s highest employee satisfaction scores on record.

This means housebuilders are now under more scrutiny than ever before so there has never been a more important time to have a clear sense of your brand vision, brand promise (positioning), brand behaviours, and brand identity. But it’s vital that it’s leveraged throughout the full customer journey.