A focus on perspective rather than footprint
With their roots in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of selling property and land at auction, the world’s biggest property companies have grown up from similar roots. It should come as no surprise then, that they have since pursued similar strategies for growth, and that they are facing similar challenges today. Mergers and acquisitions between these property companies have resulted in giant global conglomerates – with diverse businesses and cobbled together brands – navigating the tide of change.
The internet has disintermediated access to information. The geographic centres of the property market have shifted and multiplied; but so has the number of people able to access information. The barriers to entry have been lowered, and the incumbents are now struggling to justify their fees.
You might well ask, what’s the problem with all this when some regions are seeing double-digit growth? There is increasingly less differentiation between what the property giants can do, and increasingly little difference between the giants and the young upstarts. The giants have doubled-down on size and reach, to play Goliath against the nimble Davids and the result is not immediately clear.
Despite big investments in scale, these giants haven’t sharpened their edge. Property firms are very similar in many ways to the big four, offering value in an industry that is increasingly commoditised. Like with the big four, the market needs insight and expert advice, not merely access to information, but without strong brands, it’s impossible to choose between them. The big four have created strong and distinct brands, and the property giants would do well to learn from them if they are to develop long-term sustainable growth in an increasingly saturated market.
Focusing on what they stand for, what their approach is and how their offer is differentiated – are the tools that haven’t yet been flexed in anything other than the individual developments.
An interesting example of how a strong property brand can work at the corporate level is our work for Christie’s International Real Estate. The brand had started to lose its impact and the language of luxury had become undifferentiated. However, the company had a very distinguished point of difference ¬– the connection with the world’s foremost auction house. We emphasised the connection between the two and the connoisseurial approach that sets them apart from the rest of the luxury residential market. The result is a brand that rises above the noise of the luxury real estate market.