The media in India simultaneously developed a beat on real estate about 10 years ago. However over the last few, there has been a sea-change in the way real estate is being reported. The boom can be traced back to the reduced interest rates in 2001, which fell later to 7.5% in 2004. It resulted in developers mushrooming all over the country. Realizing the value of creating a branded product, the market – especially regional players, looked at becoming more organised and corporatized.
Moving forward we see just how communication also developed for real estate and where it stands today. The communication from the developer’s side as well the reportage up until 3-4 years ago, was product centric. A lot of attention was given to the A-Z list of amenities the projects had to offer. With the primary focus being on features, the approach became very ‘me-too’. In between, the communication focus on both ends (company & media) shifted to formats such as townships, mixed used developments etc. Lavasa for example, carried out an extensive campaign on the need for mixed-used townships. It was lead by panel discussions with half page advertorials.
With changing editorial policies and the huge revenue potential of project-based real estate advertising, the media started putting in place some checks and balances before giving ‘ink’ to the developers. It was the ‘new and unique’ in projects that received preferential treatment while the focus on single projects parochially fixed on HIG and luxury developments. Realty communication also soon saw spurts of innovative marketing with Gurgaon and Noida developers going the FMCG way with ‘buy 1 get 1 apartment free’ or ‘ buy an apartment and get a BMW free’.
Today communication which is project specific for real estate is focused on luxury projects.
So what defines luxury real estate communication and how are luxury projects successfully positioned? Here are some strategies, with a few success stories to keep in mind whilst making your communication campaign:
- The first movers and never-been-done-befores: Ask incisive questions- why PR for this specific project. What’s so unique about it? Does it have a numbers story; is it a game changer, what’s the concept? Example, World One – the tallest (117 floors) residential building in the world. Messaging can be driven innovatively around this. Another example, South City Projects was building the tallest towers in Kolkata. The messaging not only was restricted to that but also spun around the fact that South City will ‘host the highest livable point in Eastern India’. This helped give the campaign’s communication a shift from a city-specific to regionally relevant.
- The global touch: International is aspirational; especially if its luxury. Suggest, strategise, plan and execute campaigns that factor this in. With the boom, many real estate businesses are evolving from the traditional family managed structure to professionally managed organizations. Rohan Lifespaces took a quantum leap in establishing a brand new identity when it joined hands with US star developer Donald Trump. Needless to say, the venture was an immensely successful PR move. Similarly the communication team of the Lodha Group used global association to cement its position as India’s most desirable ultra-luxury project. World One, the tallest residential building in the world, continues to create a fresh buzz for their projects through various announcements. Firstly, it announced that Jade Jagger the daughter of Rolling Stones star Mike Jagger would design luxury homes for them for the first time in India. This was followed by the arrival of Six Senses in India at World One. It created another talking tidal wave when it announced that the company is bringing Giorgio Armani’s interior design studio, Armani Casa, to India, for the first time.
- Inspirations: Concepts which are inspired have great value and media pull because there is a benchmark and historical value. For example Vijay Shanti Developers from Chennai launched the project ‘The Art’. The project attracted a lot of attention since the apartment designs claimed to be inspired by Picasso’s art. The Taj Vivanta in Bangalore positioned itself as a design marvel inspired by the Mobius principle for the first time in India giving the spatial experience of the infinite loop. This was one of the key talking points in the press to differentiate itself from the large number of international and national chains setting up shop.
- Technical superiority: Use safety as a communication element. It had hinged for some time on the Indian heroes like Hafeez Contractor. Projects can and have positioned themselves as technically superior, architectural marvels brining the credentials of structural designers and architects of international fame. To give an example of communication based on safety, Dr Jorabi, an earthquake specialist and structural design expert for Forum Projects, was positioned as a key team member for the Forum Project’s Atmosphere. The communication rub-off came with the enhanced credibility for the project when his views on earthquake proof construction and how he has made Atmosphere safe, were talked about in major dailies after the Sikkim earthquake in September 2011.
- Signature events: The communication team needs to conceptualise campaigns which are unique and connect with the target audience. In 2007 Lavasa launched an innovative campaign aimed at the Women of Today. – Lavasa Women’s Drive (LWD). Over 2000 women from Mumbai and Pune drove to one destination: Lavasa to celebrate their independence and womanhood, and support the cause of breast cancer.
- Awarding is rewarding: Track and recommend participation in various awards; both in the conceptual and after completion stages. Forum Projects is building spaces like club structures, un attempted so far given the height and size, and different from existing sky bridges like of the Petronas Towers. Its participation at the World Architecture Festival Awards, Barcelona created a buzz worthy wave as it lead the popular choice category and papers from London compared it to the Taj Mahal. For a Kolkata based developer it was a high return initiative with a national splash across major P1 dailies, including The Times of India.
- Great visuals: And finally be 100% prepared to showcase your promise, with great visuals, getting the media to stand up and say “oh wow”.