Real-Estate: Changing the focus from advertising to branding.


The boom has come and gone. And it’s not that the demand has trickled down. Still, developers are grappling with a large unsold inventory. Many theories blame the surge in costs, taking most projects out-of-bounds for the average buyer. Yet, a look at the unsold inventory shows almost an equal amount of low-range, mid-range and luxury projects suffering.

Real-estate is at the cross-roads required for a paradigm shift in marketing tactics. It’s obvious desperate sale offers with free cars or interiors or delayed EMIs only hurt the brand. Brands that stayed away from offers and continued with normal advertising didn’t see much returns either.

A look at the Friday & Saturday editions of Times of India is a good dipstick. Real-estate advertising has waned considerably. The exorbitant prices charged by TOI during the boom, somehow doesn’t make sense anymore.

Experts look to other real-estate markets and economies to study ups & downs, and predict the same in Mumbai, Gurgaon, Bangalore, etc. It could not be further from the truth. Several macroeconomic factors are creating a landscape we’re all unprepared for.

One such contributing factor is the changing brand exposure. Every single buyer, English speaking or not, is exposed to world-class brands in every facet of their life. Spearheading this change are the mobile and mobile application brands. Loyalty lies more with the best designed, with the best interface and with the best experience.

Bringing this knowledge to real-estate is paramount to project success. Customers expect thoughtful branding and well-designed experience points from a product on which they are spending what is usually their life-savings. It’s time to move from a short-term strategy with flash sales riding on full-page advertising spreads to a long-term sustained brand building strategy.

Why should a project sell out at the launch or within a year from launch? These expectations are unrealistic in this market. Creating a brand takes time. Like any other brand, we need to create a differentiating strategy riding on insights backed by research. And when done right, fuels amazing advertising campaigns, social media activations, websites, brochures, etc. It creates amazing experiences for the customer. Which in turn creates a good word-of-mouth, the biggest seller of real-estate. More often than not, a brand built this way sells out a lot faster than others.

77 Place IconRead how we helped build a residential real-estate brand and continue to partner its marketing activities based on insights created at the very beginning. 

Kill your brand’s negative image using Facebook.

Maggi Dealer

What happens when a customer types “your brand” followed by “review” on Google? Unfortunately for a lot of brands, the negative reviews show up first. This can be extremely costly. You might try reaching out to the bad reviewers, will little to no effect, considering a lot of these are bogus reviews by competitors. Or you can take advantage of the knowledge that along with these reviews, your Facebook page also shows up first among search results. And it’s a lot more effective to use Facebook to manage your reputation.

Response/Complaint Management

The single most important factor that makes or breaks a page is the response management system. Brands usually hire social media agencies to manage their page and if they do respond, especially to complaints, it’s usually with a standard “Thank you for your concern. A representative will reach out to you shortly.”  In no time, every post is flooded with angry complaints and brickbats.

By integrating your customer service infrastructure with your page, you can turn every response into a brand building initiative. The brand should make sure a senior representative manages responses, while liaising with the agency, so that decisions are made and every complaint is addressed to the customer’s satisfaction.

AT&T is an outstanding example of effective Facebook customer service. With 1.6 million Facebook fans and 122 million customers, they are active, engaging and highly responsive on their page. They have a separate Facebook team that has handled complaints so well, that some of their most bitter customers have turned ambassadors.

There will always be tough trolls to deal with. Rather than get defensive and get caught into a verbal duel with them, humor can sometimes help diffuse the situation and take your brand even further.

Richard Neill posted this rant that went viral on Maxipad maker, Bodyform’s page. bodyform post

With more than 84,000 likes, Bodyform couldn’t have ignored it. And they didn’t, instead responding with this video featuring their CEO. 

The video garnered more publicity than the initial post from Richard and also went on to win a Cannes Lions. 


Be Original: Don’t re-post Top Ten lists or posts from other feeds just because they are remotely related to your brand. . Use original, entertaining content. This is the one space where you can forget about the serious tone your brand usually carries. Let people see a more accessible side of you. Make fun of yourself. Celebrate together with your fans on the good days, and cry with them during a crisis.

Design: The interface and design of Facebook is one of the best in the world. Users expect content to be designed to match the simple, clean look that has made Facebook so popular. Every post needs to be designed professionally.

Less Marketing: Selling your brand on Facebook doesn’t fare too well. This is a brand building tool, not a sales medium. Although, if done creatively through promoted posts, it can be successful. A brand page should have a healthy mix of creative and entertaining content along with marketing content.

Zomato regularly posts simple witty content related to current events, like this one when Jurassic World was released. While it doesn’t lead to sales, it softens up customers for actual marketing related posts.


Use Facebook’s in-depth analysis tools on each post to re-figure your social media strategy. What’s creating more buzz? What’s not? In due time, you’ll know exactly the type of content, the tone of voice, the time of day that makes your fans most responsive. And more often than not, the same learnings can be applied to any media.

A Christmas post on our Facebook page illustrated Santa as an agency and the unusual requests he gets from clients. The post went viral and more importantly, helped us reconnect with old clients and even got us a few new clients. Click here to read the story. Santa




How Brand Purpose is driving the new-age business


There’s a reason why the Brand Purpose is redefining the way businesses are thinking. It permeates brand strategy, corporate culture and even product positioning. We think it’s because the Brand Purpose distances itself from marketing objectives and management directives. It’s the simple essence of a brand. It’s not something created. It’s not aspirational. It’s defined collectively by customers, employees, management, products and services, geographies and everything else that are part of a brand. It’s emotional. And all we need to do is look for it.

The biggest branding agencies are spearheading the movement, leading their clients on a war footing towards a purpose-first approach. And it’s because the Purpose genuinely bridges the relationship between corporations and community. Which explains why we’re seeing brands all around us increasingly using social messages to reach out. Consumers are skeptical about blatant marketing, rather aligning themselves to brands that match their beliefs and values. The true connect happens when a consumer finds a brand with shared values, offering a product that satisfies their needs.

This immediately throws up a whole new, but complex approach to marketing. From focusing on advertising about the product, the focus is now on creating a world where the brand values come together with the product positioning. This, when done right, creates a unique message, reaching out to the right consumer.

The Nescafe ad featuring a stammering comedian was first released exclusively online, where it made so much buzz, it made its way to TV. Clearly an outcome of a well-defined brand purpose, merging perfectly with the product positioning. Here’s a brand that once had Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone as its face, now connecting with consumers through a stronger message.

What’s also important is how the Purpose makes things a lot easier for the brand. There is a certain science to the whole process. Market research becomes more defined. The questions during employee interviews and management workshops become more thoughtful. We’ve found that a simple question, “Besides the money, why do you come to work every day?” brings out answers that give a clearer view of the Purpose than pages of market research data.

Walt Disney started with a simple purpose of “Making people happy”. It boils down to everything they do. Unlike Disney, not all organizations start with a clearly defined purpose. Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t there to begin with. But unlocking it will help streamline a business, attracting the right employees and consumers to expedite growth.

Alok Logo Purple

Working alongside Astrum, we recently helped Alok Masterbatches bring alive their purpose and re-brand to align with the same. We used the insights generated by Astrum’s research which resonated the fact that Alok put challenging assignments needing innovation and technology ahead of volume and commodity manufacturing. This also supported the positioning of Alok being an innovator, creating unique applications that made plastics safer and more sustainable. Together we brought alive the purpose through the re-design of its corporate identity and defined the purpose as “Adding Good”. This demonstrated the power of combining science and creativity to create a holistic communication solution. Thanks to the Astrum team for this winning partnership.

  Alok Purpose


To view Alok’s graphic identity redesign project, click here.

The writer who became a copywriter: Things I learnt on the job – Part Two

Insight, Insight, Insight. What?

Are we still talking about advertisements? Yes, we are. The word might be a misnomer, considering the field, for the philosophers around the world, but it is this. Insight. The long and short of it. You can compare it with that miniscule flash of revelation that you grapple with while trying to write about a character, that hidden, almost-unseen bit of essence that gives him texture.

Eureka! So, that’s all you need and it’s easy. Not.

That gem is the needle in the haystack. Or a needle in a box. Depends, on how far you can go to find that spot. Depends on how fast you can hone your olfactory (yes, that) senses. Sniff it out. Go on a rampage.

And what after that?


An insight is a premise, an idea that leads to write some brilliant copy. But you will need to know how to knead the dough. Too much, it hardens. Too less, well, you know how it will roll then.

Ideas keep evading. Whattodo?

Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.

Henry David Thoreau said it, in case you were wondering.

Remember the basics. Know your mettle. Rehash your purpose. You are here because you chose to be or someone chose you to be. Confusion has sunk many a ship. You do not want to be that ship. You can appear to drown sometimes, and have people pounce on you and all that, but you can’t let that take anything away from you.

Some skills are acquired. Keep chewing the bone.

Outgrow yourself.

Ok. What’s next?

Get back to work.

The writer Sheenginee Bhattacharjee, is a published author (Itch: The Beginning) and a copywriter at Watercrab. 

The writer who became a copywriter: Things I learnt on the job – Part One

How Writers Work

So I read somewhere,

Creative without strategy is art. Creative with strategy is advertisement.

Can it be more apt? Not.

I was (am) a writer who chose to be a copywriter. Now, how does that work? An artist usually does not have a process. Or you can say that the process is the non-process. You can have spurts of maddening creativity while watching soccer, or wake up from the middle of a dream with a miracle. You have to wait for that sliver of brilliance to strike you, mostly unexpectedly. Externally, you look for inspiration at..say, strains of music, a sudden act of cruelty, a metaphor, doodles, a stray dog, leftover food. Internally, every artist is gifted with a gaping void. We work with this randomness, this complete sense of disarray to create blocks of text that should mean something. And it does, at least for the likes of us. Disorder can be inspiring for those who understand it.

Can a writer be a copywriter, honestly?

A more important question is, does the transition from a writer to a copywriter have to be tragic? Realistically? Yes.  Possibly? No.

How Possibly No?

First, let the word strategy not scare you. If you are a writer, can you say, without perjuring yourself, that you never, ever strategize your work? Do you not want it to have a certain specific sense of appeal? Invoke, this, that and those? Placate some feelings and invoke the other?

I do. I have.

Can we then, say, that this not a strategy?

It is but we never call it so. Free thinking souls will never call it so, but the truth of the matter is, it IS so. It has always been so, but only at our own discretion.

So, you become a copywriter. Now what?

Once you step into the shoes of a copywriter or intend to, it is important to accept the above-realized truth you may have evaded. No harm done, duality is but a way of life.

What changes? Instead of floating in the air, you are inside of a room.  You have a target group and an agenda to follow. What you write has to make sense to people, make you look good, make you stand apart, and most importantly, should be executable. Brilliant, non-executable ideas will go..nowhere. Remember, you are not acting solo anymore, you are with your peers, and coordination is mandatory. Art and copy will have to come together.

Any golden rules to remember?

Is it easy?

Yes and No.

You will have to know when to discard your verbosity and indulge in simplicity. Or the other way round. Reduce the ego, that always helps; remember you are learning something new, no matter your age. And understand that you have done this before, albeit differently, but you have done it in a different mould.

Be excited, because it is exciting. The science of this strategy is exciting, once you learn the codes. The magic of words is still there, everything is right there.

My list of what you need to do to fit in:

  1. Adapt
  2. Adapt
  3. Adapt

Darwin was right.

The writer Sheenginee Bhattacharjee, is a published author (Itch: The Beginning) and a copywriter at Watercrab. 

Theres more to real-estate advertising than an ad in Times of India:  Part 1

First things first. Theres no denying the reach power of a publication behemoth such as the TOI. It’s still one of the best go-to sources for a consumer. The same way a realty exhibition is also a good source. The same way a billboard campaign makes sense sometimes. The same way 20-second spots on the radio might reach the consumer. But these are your cut and dried solutions. It may work, it might not work and every realtor is doing it.

We’re here to explore other routes. Ways to reach the target consumer more effectively and more creatively, thereby being more successful in attaining your purpose: The Site Visit.

1. Interactive Radio Campaigns
It’s a simple thought process. No matter the pricing of a project, the buyer would be someone who already has a car. And even if they have the largest collection of their own music, they will still listen to the radio. Especially since the quality of the content and the choice available today is pretty damn good.
Forget the dialogue-between-a-couple-praising-the-features-and-pricing type radio spots. Also forget the creative ones. The former is forgotten and the latter is remembered only for the creativity. You know who your target audience is. You know what they like. Connect your project USPs to that. Radio is used predominantly as entertainment. So it has to be fun.
For a low-cost apartment project with location as one of the selling points, we created a radio contest where listeners had to drive from a predetermined location to the site, and the fastest time won a free apartment. It created a database, it sold the USP and it got people to the site.
While that might not work for the target audience of a luxury villa project, there are always creative routes to reach any buyer. Radio stations are more than glad to tie-up for such customised campaigns for extremely reasonable costs, and will also help create the content and provide manpower to coordinate it.

[This post is part of an ongoing series. More to come soon.]

Naming your company, product or service – Tips & Tricks

So you have that great idea and you just can’t wait to approach investors or roll it out in the market. But it needs a name. And it needs that beast of a name which’ll stand out immediately and create recall. Do you hire an agency or do you do it yourself? Whatever the case, the process is simple. More often than not, you won’t have the time to follow the process thoroughly. Enter the creative agency. But how do you take a call on the names they submit?

The Basics – All names need to do the following:

  1. Easy to remember: Yes, like the Googles and Apples and Vodafones of the world.
  2. Easy to pronounce: Especially in a country like India, it’s important that people from all walks of life can pronounce it easily. You don’t want the courier guy giving you a piece of his mind by the time he finds you.
  3. Propel engagement with your audience: A good name can help lay the foundation for your tone of voice, imagery, communication and even the advertising.
  4. Basics of basics: Trust your agency to do the very basic checks – does it mean anything negative in another language? Can it be broken up to sound like something negative? Can it be made fun of? And hundreds of other such hygiene checks.

The Process – A good agency should follow this process. Somewhat.

  1. Market Analysis: Who are the other players in your domain? What are the common trends in the naming of such entities? What is their positioning? And a lot more otherwise boring information. Here’s also where you can contribute by listing out some of the names you
    find inspiring. It’s important your agency knows your taste; after all you take that final call.
  2. Positioning: Most agencies will send you a questionnaire, through which they’ll be able to narrow down on your positioning. If you already have one, then let the agency fine tune it. Here is where you freeze on your USP’s, your market positioning, your target audience, etc. Do not, I repeat, do not breeze through this step. It’s what will define your name.
  3. Naming Options: The fun part. Using the positioning and analysis, your agency will get back to you with rounds and rounds of naming options packaged in a presentation with complex interpretations and reasoning. Remember! No name sounds good the first time around. When the name “Google” was first suggested, it probably would have evoked mocking laughter. Run the list with your friends and family. Look at it again the next day. Give it time to sink in before you decide to sack the agency.
  4. Testing: More for the bigger brands, at this stage you test it with a sample audience, maybe create sample logos or advertising material, just to see which of the shortlisted names make the most impact and what are the shortcomings.
  5. Final Name and tagline: The last step, of course could also involve creating a final tagline. Don’t let the agency tell you the tagline was not part of the costing. The tagline is standard on a naming project.

Nobody needs Advertising

Nobody needs advertising. Woe betides the brands whose managers place sole responsibility on advertising agencies to build sales. Pick up a newspaper. Retail and real-estate brands clamour for attention with full-page spreads cluttered with discounts and offers.

Why is advertising today aimed at short-term profits? It never builds a brand, and never brings in long-term, sustained and growing profits.

And everyone is more than happy riding the wave. From consumers with ever-increasing buying power to fly-by-night advertising executives to newspapers selling advertising space at over-inflated prices to brand owners with over-inflated egos. It’s a vicious circle with the blame resting on no particular group in particular.

Case Study: Ever heard of Vikram Chatwal? Popular from the great India wedding spanning three cities, guests flown in private jets. Bill Clinton toasting the couple for free. Also a millionaire hotelier. Seen his website? Until recently, their website was a horrible looking flash site. Imagine the number of agencies who would have sat across the table trying to sell the importance of building a brand new website, of course for a very large fee. The Chatwals were making millions before all this. They had a great product with great service and that was all it took. 

It’s a simple, but oft forgotten rule. If it’s good it’ll sell. If it’s not it won’t. Most managers are convinced advertising is the key to selling. So they expect immediate results on horrible ads which they browbeat their agencies into doing. They never stop and think. “Before I let Times of India rob me in four colour, am I doing something that will make me look good?”

That’s all advertising can do. Make people say “Hey, those guys look good. I’ll check it out.” You have to do a whole lot of other things to finally sell your brand. And advertising can’t help you out with that. Sure they’ll say they can. Don’t listen. You’re much better at selling your brand than a bunch of over-worked yuppies who are sleeping with ten other brands at the same time.