In India, cricket and Bollywood are religion. Name a cricket star or one from the world of cinema and you remember the advertisement he or she endorses. Although a latecomer to this phenomenon, realty companies are increasingly lining up to add that dash of glamour
With the gloomy weather looming large in the world of Indian realty over the last couple of years and with no definite and real signs of improvement expected in the immediate future, real estate firms are focusing on innovative marketing strategies to pep up growth in the sector.
And in a country where the brand worthiness and recall value of cricket and films is immense, it is only natural that the prominent names are pulled in. Not just national but international celebrities are also being convinced for endorsements to create the global impact.
Film stars like Shahrukh Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Twinkle Khanna, Kangana Ranaut, Rajeev Khandelwal, Prachi Desai, Sushmita Sen; cricketers like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Praveen Kumar, to name a few, are the faces of different realty companies.
Sanjay Dutt, executive managing director, South Asia, Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), says: “In the current economic scenario, both buyers and developers are taking a cautious approach not only towards residential real estate but across all asset classes of real estate. Thus, many developers have taken to innovative marketing and pricing strategies to ensure better responses.”
According to a latest report by international property consultants C&W, there has been a drop of 12% in new residential project launches in 2013 as over 2012. The total estimated unit launches were recorded at 172,500 units across major eight cities of India with Bengaluru recording the largest number of units launched recording a rise 15%.
Integrating the spirit of a brand into amenities and features is what makes a project truly branded. Many developers believe that the role of branding shouldn’t be only limited to promotions and it must also elevate the lifestyle and status of residents.
Ankur Aggarwal, director, JM Housing, says: “The print media has been preferred by most of our partners in the real estate market as it has maximum impact on the target audience. We have been very successful through their use as the retention factor played an important role for recalling our brand value. As our industry deals with the projected images, we have also taken on other promotional mediums such as television and other outdoor media. These have also proved to be an excellent medium for us.”
“Exclusivity with a solid twist of glamour has always attracted people. Celebrity endorsement is no doubt one of the strongest marketing tools for the realty sector to project itself and pull desired eye balls for their projects and to create unique brand identity in the market. But at the same time, it adds on to the actual cost of the project which ultimately affects the customer’s pocket,” says Anil Mithas, chairman and managing director (CMD), Unnati Fortune Group.
“We believe more in delivering the quality to its customers than adding a glamour quotient to the brand. Quality speaks loud at all the projects of the Group”, says Mithas.
However, some advertising professionals are of the opinion that communication of real estate must move more towards a two-way channel with the brand ambassadors.
Advertising professional Suhel Seth recently said during FICCI’s ‘Brand Talk’, that marketers who resort to celebrity endorsements of their products are the laziest people in the business. “How prophetic is the statement in the context of the real estate sector, which is banking heavily on ambassadors to carry the brand forward and pay them a premium at the same time… Facts speak for themselves,”
When asked if the role of branding is only limited to promotions, Ashok Gupta, managing director, Ajnara India, says: “We agree to this that the role of branding be limited to promotions. In today’s scenario, the customers are well informed and educated, irrespective of the brand ambassador, they do their research and due diligence before investing their hard earned money.”
“We believe that amount given to celebrities is better spent on giving something extra to our customers at the same cost,” adds Gaurav Gupta, director, SG Estates.
However, Sushant Muttreja, managing director, Cosmic Group, puts this endorsement business differently. “Currently, we have not gone ahead with any such collaboration but we may connect with such a celebrity who is in sync with our branding strategy. Organisations and celebrities grow hand in hand and we do not see such a trend halting. We wish that stars keep on shining on the real
estate skyline,” says Muttreja, adding that endorsing an external celebrity may definitely attract a specific segment of the society, but at the same time there is a revenue impact attached to it.
The year, 2013 has witnessed a trend of star endorsements, will the trend continue in 2014?
Honey Katyal, CEO, Investors Clinic Infratech, says: “Indeed. The growth story will only get better now with the sector getting more organised and standardised. Luxury residential apartments and homes are more and more in demand. Rapid urbanisation and rise in income level is providing the necessary thrust. Star endorsements may see an increase too, but only for so long as the trend is not
over-exposed. At the end of the day, exclusivity is treasured for only as long as it is exclusive.”
The competition in branding activities is also expected to boom up with the booming market conditions in the real estate sector which is expected in the near future. Vidya Basarkod, president (sales & marketing), Jaypee Greens, says: “It totally depends on the number of new brands or products entering the market and also on how the previous endorsements have benefitted the brands.”
Some developers also disagree with this kind of promotions to grow their business. LandCraft Developers is one of them which have not endorsed any celebrity for their brand.
Says Manu Garg, director, LandCraft Developers: “For us, our customer is our celebrity. As a policy, we believe in building the brand name and goodwill through word of mouth. Landcraft strongly believes that real estate is a regional phenomenon and there is no better brand than our customers and their positive opinion about us.”
“For us our celebrities and our brand ambassadors are our customers. If I need an endorsement, I would use our customers. The amount of money I will spend on a celebrity, I will spend that on improving my specifications, in giving a better product to my customers. So that our philosophy, we do not believe in celebrity endorsements,” says P Sahel, vicechairman, Lotus Greens.
“We rather spent that money in CSR initiatives or might associate ourselves with NGOs rather than putting a big advertisement with some big name,” adds Sahel