Luxury Marketing on the Left Coast

jogging at Casa Estella

by Jay Zenner on March 30, 2010

Be impressed.

A lot of trends start on the west coast and eventually find there way to the good Old North State where I live, but you have to wonder about this one. Why? We’ll discuss that in a moment but first take a couple of minutes to view this video in full screen and then go to the property web site. You should be able to click through to it when a link appears at the end of the video. I think you will be impressed. I’ve never seen anything like this for a home in Durham…or anywhere in North Carolina for that matter with the possible exception of the Biltmore House, and that was to attract tourists, not buyers.

A few observations and thoughts…

The most obvious thing of course is that the production values are stunning. I came across this in a blog on real estate photography. The photographer, whose name is Scott Hargis, is quite proud of the work, as he should be.  I don’t know much about serious photography but this wasn’t done with a point and shoot camera.  Much of the blog I mentioned is about the use of software tools like Photoshop and not about what to shoot and how.

Did you notice that nowhere in the video or on the website is price mentioned?  I don’t think this was an oversight.  This reinforces the old saw that if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.  I did a little additional research and found out the price on Take a guess and click through yourself.  If the link doesn’t work it means the home has sold. Clue…the price is 8 figures and a nice round number. Do you think the price was set after a careful analysis of the comps? Can you imagine there would be any comps?

Another unusual feature…people.

There are rarely any people in property advertising. Have you ever wondered about that? I have. Virtually everything else uses people…cars, schools, soap, beer. Why so few people in property ads? Of course, there are plenty of people used in real estate advertising…mostly not-so-great photographs of agents. After all, the vast majority of real estate marketing focuses on promoting agents and companies, not properties.

The people used in the video and the photos for Casa Estella did not look like actors. If you read the copy on the site you may come to the conclusion that the people are the owners.  In fact, the copy is much different than you usually see in property promotion.  It has a blog-like conversational tone and in places conveys very subjective information from the sellers…about their favorite places in the house…which, very cleverly, it turns out, depends on the time of day.

There is no doubt that this was expensive to put together.  In the realm of multi-million dollar homes big budgets may make sense but who would you guess paid for it? I don’t know.  If you had a listing this spectacular would you front the cost or would you ask the seller to pay for it? Would you ask for an advance on a traditional commission or negotiate a separate  marketing budget separate from the commission? Would you take the same approach with a more modest property?

Overall impact

I shared the video with a California luxury agent that contributes to another blog I also occasionally contribute to.  She was totally blown away. Among other equally enthusiastic things she said, “Seriously….they are taking it to a whole new level! I loved it! It totally excited me!”

The photographer who took the pictures and collaborated with the video producer posted a blog with comments that run along the same lines as my friend. The comments also contain a discussion about the use of “talent”  or people in the pictures and why it is seldom done. The post is here.

I’m not quite that excited but my roots run deep in a much more conservative area of the country.   Or maybe I would much prefer a city local where good restaurants and convenience stores are always just a few blocks away.

But my primary concern is that maybe it is too good.  My issue  is whether the material creates such high expectations that some disappointment would be inevitable if you took the trouble to go see the property.  A cold overcast day might leave you totally bummed out.  Sometimes you just can’t Photoshop real life.

The goal of good property marketing is to get the home shown to qualified buyers. The promotional material should tease. It doesn’t have to show everything. In fact, it should tease enough to get the showings and then let a fabulous property sell itself.  The biggest “Wow!” moments should come on site…not  at a website.

I’d welcome some other opinions on this.  If you decide to contact the agent, go see the property, and then buy it, please tell them Jay sent you. I could use the referral fee.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michael Thompson April 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Dear Jay:

We appreciate all your kind words about our Casa Estrella video and web site. As you know, traditional residential real estate marketing is a thing of the past. The upheaval in the economy was the death knell to that. Our creative strategy for Casa Estrella (“House Beneath The Stars”) was to create a “day in the life” of this home through Scott Hargis’ still pictures and Quentin Bacon’s video.

We used no actors. The people in the video are family members who helped us depict what this home is all about: family life and entertaining. Traditional real estate advertising would not do this home justice. The missing element in traditional advertising is the emotional feeling which Quentin so aptly translated to video. Casa Estrella was custom-designed and built by members of the family who wish to sell it since they are now empty-nesters. It is the warm, family-feel which Quentin captured in his filming.

The beauty of what Scott and Quentin have put together is that it taps into what the home is all about: the combination of the beauty of the area, the orientation of the home on the bluff to maximize the surrounding views and the quality of construction to build a family home, not just a house.

Unlike any other traditional advertising media, Quentin’s video depicts what life is like at Casa Estrella during the course of a 24-hour period. It was Quentin who took our creative strategy and created a video like no other. Unlike traditional media, we have focused on social media avenues to help get our message out. It is interesting to me that this video is now playing around the world in languages I can’t begin to understand.

We feel that this video is a watershed experience for us, our clients, other Realtors and those who may be looking for such a home. Thanks again, Jay, for taking the time to comment on our Casa Estrella media advertising.



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