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It's critical to build an aura around the realty brand

Ajay Macaden, executive director of Nielsen India, says competition has forced developers to take branding seriously and brought differentiation into play

Published: May 11, 2015 06:24:42 AM IST
Updated: May 5, 2015 02:03:41 PM IST
It's critical to build an aura around the realty brand
Ajay Macaden

Q. Would you say developers are giving more importance to branding now than they did in the past?
The real estate market today has many options. There is a need to build brand image. In the past, there were very few players and word-of-mouth publicity was enough. But, given the plethora of brands that have come up in the real estate market, it is important to tie the mother brand’s values into the property brand and to build an aura around it. Economies have hit developers and made them realise about the importance of branding. In the past, they built, sold and didn't care much. They built some good properties, but as competition grew they have started looking at brand health too.

Q. What is the difference between branding in the FMCG and real estate sector?
Like in the FMCG sector, there is a mother brand and a property brand in real estate. Today, builders are trying to unlock land value; they are focusing on professional management and expanding beyond their regions. They have to get rid of property because they cycle money across properties. Branding therefore becomes important. Developers are looking at how they can imbibe the mother brand values into project brands. Differentiation and the need of consumers come into play here.

Branding in real estate is still a long way off from an FMCG perspective. There are key values associated with an FMCG brand. In the realty space, branding is diffused. If you look at newspaper ads or flyers about projects, you will be hard-pressed to say which real estate project is different. A whole bunch of developers will do garden terraces. This is what challenges builders. In the FMCG sector, USPs are clearly differentiated and also supported by mass media. This is not the case in realty space where advertising is primarily through hoardings or print ads because projects are regional.

Q. You mentioned it is a crowded market. In such a market, how can a developer differentiate their brand?

Positive word-of-mouth can make or break a builder. This is something they have started realising. They now understand that it is important to take feedback from buyers on their existing projects. Given the technology enablement, everything is just a click away. It is easy to write disparaging things about a developer online. A lot of people look at these reviews before buying property. It is not just about checking with friends or family anymore. Buyers look at all parameters of the project such as timely delivery, occupation certificate, quality of the project and so on. Customers even talk of the thickness of walls. People look at different needs. If it is an investment in a second home, they look at the return value. It is faster to get returns from good developers. Customers are a lot smarter and savvier.

Q. Can you give instances of how developers are positioning their brand?
From a developer's perspective, there is a lot of competition in this space. Each builder is trying to pull the other down. Segmentation is very critical. What the project is going to offer and to whom is the crux. A developer can't pander to the whole audience; you have to be very specific about whom you are targeting. A few luxury home developers target the NRI crowd. But there is a lot of potential in low-value housing as well, especially with banks like Axis offering “Asha” loans for small houses to people without a steady income. Making sure amenities around the project are developed will go a long way in building a better brand image. Developers are also allowing customisation of apartments in projects. There is a whole ‘customer engagement mantra’ happening. Developers have realised that they need to engage with customers even in the post-purchase stage.

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