It’s Thursday, let’s buy a house!

Posted By on February 26, 2009

I’ve been in Marketing for over 15 years. I’ve worked for large corporations and with some of the most sophisticated marketers in business.  Two years ago, when I was offered the Marketing Director position for a Cincinnati home builder, I was thrilled with the possibilities.  A home is one of the biggest purchases we ever make!  A home is a direct reflection of our character!  It is where we raise our families and create the memories of a lifetime!  A home plants deep roots to our community. Consumer insights galore! Rich, meaningful advertising celebrating the spirit of home and hearth!

Um.  Yeah.  Right.

Two years later, I’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons. For example: home building does not follow the rules of branding. People buy homes from companies they’ve never heard of.  And people buy homes from companies with bad reputations. And, sometimes, people will wake up on a random Thursday and say “Let’s buy a house!”

Traditional Marketing would say a brand is crucial in a purchase this size. Who you are and what you stand for should easily trump silly gimmicks and promotions.  And reputation and quality should be more important than a free basement (that you are really paying for – trust me!)

But open the Sunday paper (a dying medium but still the most common builder advertising vehicle) and take a look at messaging in builder’s advertising.  Most feature monthly payment and location and phantom “free” upgrades. The vehicles and the messages are missing the opportunity to tell the bigger story and connect with potential customers. Why advertise this way?  Because builders believe it drives traffic.  And brand-driven advertising?  Well, that’s harder to measure. At any point in time, only a small percentage of people are in the market for a new home. To advertise to the world and hope you catch the few that are in the market is a silly strategy.  And yet, it is common place in home building.  So the gimmicks are geared to the few but marketed to the masses. 

Is there a better model out there? I think so. Look at the automobile industry (from a historic perspective, not just the past few years!).  Manufacturers invest millions (billions) of dollars creating their brands and the dealers create the “specials” to sell them.  A classic model of branding augmented with direct response.  And it usually works.  The brand advertising keeps you in the consideration set and the direct response motivates you to action.  Where is this model in home building?  If someone out there is executing this kind of strategy successfully, I’m not aware.

A final car buying analogy: Would anyone buy a car without knowing who built it?  No, but plenty would buy a home without knowing who built it.

So what is it about this purchase, the largest we’ll probably ever make, that doesn’t make it stick to the tenants of traditional marketing? I have some theories and I would love to share them with you.  And I’d like you to share yours with me.  Think about your last home purchase. Or your next home purchase. How do you decide who will build the place you spend the next 30 Thanksgivings?

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About the author

Carolyn Rolfes is the President of Potterhill Homes. And she's also a Rolfes - as in daughter of Dan Rolfes, the infamous Red Tag Man of Holiday Homes. So what does that say about Carolyn and who she is? Plenty. When you grow up the daughter of man who does commercials in his red underwear, you have no choice but to have a great sense of humor and humility from a very young age. Carolyn and Dan founded Potterhill Homes in 2001 and she has grown it to be one of the most successful home builders in Cincinnati. Home building is in her blood and she has a keen awareness of what consumers look for in a new home and how to deliver value at all levels. And while we don't make Carolyn dress up in green underwear for our commercials, we bet she would if we asked!

Comments

2 Responses to “It’s Thursday, let’s buy a house!”

  1. Fashion says:

    people are buying houses not for their own but to give it on rent to the third party. Fashion

  2. [...] We have a good site so that’s great for us, right?  Well…let’s go back to the first blog post I wrote so many weeks ago. While the internet is a wonderful starting point, we’re beginning [...]

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About Potterhill Homes

Cincinnati-based Potterhill Homes is a premier builder of affordable, environmentally friendly homes in Greater Cincinnati. Our homes are built with traditional Cincinnati architectural styles and are perfect for both urban infill and suburban development. To learn more about Potterhill Homes,visit www.potterhillhomes.com.


About the authors

Carolyn Rolfes is the President of Potterhill Homes. And she's also a Rolfes - as in daughter of Dan Rolfes, the infamous Red Tag Man of Holiday Homes. So what does that say about Carolyn and who she is? Plenty. When you grow up the daughter of man who does commercials in his red underwear, you have no choice but to have a great sense of humor and humility from a very young age. Carolyn and Dan founded Potterhill Homes in 2001 and she has grown it to be one of the most successful home builders in Cincinnati. Home building is in her blood and she has a keen awareness of what consumers look for in a new home and how to deliver value at all levels. And while we don't make Carolyn dress up in green underwear for our commercials, we bet she would if we asked!