Two brands that support the home buying process are trying their best to stand out this year.

When you’re a company whose product or service — is literally interchangeable with your competitors’ — you have to work really hard to stand out.

RE/MAX is arguably one of the most recognizable brands in home sales. With their attempt to accomplish differentiation, the brand puts up a valiant, creative effort in their latest campaign. We’re afraid they just didn’t quite hit the mark.

At the same time, another home purchase brand, Rocket Mortgage, scored an improbable victory during the Super Bowl ad race… with its two spots being named first and second by USA Today. While the ranking of the spots may be dubious (more on that in a bit), the brand’s presence alone marks something of a milestone.

Before we get into that, let’s take a closer look at each marketing effort. After all, the audience targeted by both are the same influencers who are traditional advocates for selecting building product brands.

Clever Execution Doesn’t Make Up for Unremarkable Messaging

The name of RE/MAX’s campaign is “The Right Agent Every Step of the Way.” According to the brand’s press release, the campaign “showcases the value RE/MAX agents provide buyers and sellers, leveraging technology, tools, experience and skill to support them in what is likely the biggest financial transaction of their lives.”

Here’s a little exercise: substitute the word “RE/MAX” in the statement above with “Coldwell Banker,” “Century 21,” or any other Real Estate brand. Does the statement still sound plausible?

Because that’s more or less what every Real Estate brand claims. Real Estate agents of every stripe all accomplish pretty much the same tasks. In fact, agents from competing companies will often split responsibilities — on a single sale — as representatives of the buyer and seller.

Certainly, there are differences between individual agents based on experience and capabilities. But as far as the brokerage brands go, the differences are negligible.

So right off the bat, we can tell that RE/MAX’s campaign is not likely to be differentiating. But the devil is in the details, so let’s look at the actual execution of the campaign.

From a creative standpoint, the marketing is well-executed. The ads take the many individual elements — facets and scenarios of the home buying and selling journey — looking at everything an agent does behind the scenes, that the buyer and/or seller doesn’t often observe.

One ad explores the work that goes into preparing a home to sell. Working with contractors and inspectors. Negotiating with buyers. Yep, all the things that agents do.

Another ad lightly pokes fun at the DIY home-seller by showing the “horrors” that can happen when sellers take their own photos. The ad clearly demonstrates the benefit of having an army of pros at your disposal. Or at least ones with better cameras.

There are several more ads… and they are all clever, well-written and produced. And, to be fair, there is certainly the potential to make an impact.

But in the end, we feel the messaging is simply not different enough. No matter how cute the creative is.

Untapped Potential

It’s a problem that many brands, including yours, face. Marketers typically think that what they do — and how they do it — is head-and-shoulders above the competition. And they will argue that if they say it in a memorable way, people will believe it.

The reality, however, is that often audiences view brands as indistinguishable from the competition. No amount of chest beating can change that… and brand awareness studies validate the metrics.

In RE/MAX’s case, they are offering a clever, humorous look at the Real Estate buying and selling journey. But the claims they are making could be — and are — made by any number of other brands in the space.

What could they have done differently? Well there are, of course, many innovative possibilities. One that comes to mind is following the GEICO or KFC model and developing a memorable spokesperson character… that endlessly makes a simple claim. Perhaps while riding in the highly recognizable balloon to bring the logo “to life”. What better vantage point, than being above the rest?

We think RE/MAX would have been well-served to remember one truth about Real Estate. People don’t choose to work with brands. They choose to work with people — individual agents.

And, in fairness, RE/MAX did remember a piece of that. Another component of their campaign is their RE/MAX Hustle website… which allows agents to make their own commercials and other marketing materials. The site has clips and additional assets that agents can use to create something that’s more uniquely theirs.

Sort of. There doesn’t appear to be much room — on closer examination — for much creativity. People don’t get into Real Estate because they’re good at writing and acting, after all. Yet just maybe, RE/MAX has begun to realize that potential is there to tap into the stories and personalities of their agents, to create a future content program… that’s truly different.

Will that actually happen? The lawyers and their compliance departments might argue that it’s very difficult. But don’t count out the brand’s marketing potential — when they merely channel the same energy into that type of branding — as they did into their main campaign ads.

Rocket Mortgage – Fun & Momentous

One of the traps that Super Bowl advertisers fall into is being creative — and funny — for their own sake. To a degree, the ads become more of a showcase for agencies… than for building brands or selling products.

At first glance, you might say that about Rocket Mortgage’s ads. The use of comedian Tracy Morgan was clearly designed to capture attention on advertising’s biggest stage.

Still, the ads were particularly well executed. They made good use of Morgan’s irreverent comedic style. And ridiculous scenarios to drive home an important point about the brand’s offering — addressing a key pain point when it comes to home mortgages. Being “certain”. Rather than, “pretty sure”.

So, the ads strike a good balance between being entertaining and being effective. But were they the best ads of the Super Bowl?

That’s a subjective assessment… and there was indeed a coordinated campaign behind getting people to vote for the ads. Morgan and others urged social media followers to go to USA Today’s survey to vote for the campaign. That’s hardly an objective indicator of true efficacy.

Regardless, the Rocket Mortgage ads were clearly big winners on Super Bowl Sunday. And that is significant in itself. Advertising during the Super Bowl used to be the exclusive playground of big beer, soft drinks and snack-food brands. The kinds of consumable products that demanded huge brand recognition.

Now, it seems like brands that support the home buying process have become big players on Super Bowl Sunday. And we’re thrilled that child-bearing age homeowners represent some of the most important audiences for building product brands too. Whether it’s because of the pandemic or due to the self-employed having mobility and looking for extra space outside of urban areas, American’s obsession with “home” has only intensified during the last year. 

We’re confident that this trend will continue.

And this trend will serve to raise the bar for other brands and advertisers, Super Bowl or not, as they compete in an increasingly crowded playing field.

Want to learn how the right messaging can set your brand apart in a competitive playing field? Send an email to Steve Kleber at sk@kleberandassociates.com.


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