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Response Issue

Building a ‘Better’ Real Estate Brand

23 Nov, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response

Sherry Chris and Camilla Sullivan use direct response methods to launch Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate to the top of the market.


Sherry Chris and Camilla Sullivan“Because real estate as an industry is going through a transformation, the relevance of direct response marketing is rising. Consumers are so informed, and technology now allows micro-targeting and one-on-one marketing,” says Camilla Sullivan, senior vice president, marketing, for Parsippany, N.J.-based Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC. “Like the PC business 10 years ago, if you don’t have a direct connection to consumers — through whatever media — there’s a challenge to stay relevant. Relationships are the glue that keeps the real estate market together. Everyone is now getting religion on direct response.”

Sherry Chris, the company’s president and CEO, agrees. “There’s a lot of relevance for direct response marketing in this business today. Think about this statistic from the National Association of Realtors: 80 percent of consumers that list a home for sale do not list it with the agent they purchased the home from. This trend comes from the real estate boom, so obviously with the bust that happened, a lot needs to change. Direct allows agents to maintain customers and continue communication with consumers.”

Chris and Sullivan are part of an exclusive team put together by the brand’s parent company, Realogy Corporation — the world’s largest real estate franchisor — to recreate the Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate brand, which it had licensed from Meredith Corp., the publisher of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The brand had been out of commission since 1998 after Meredith sold its real estate business to GMAC.

The venture was announced in October 2007, but the brand wasn’t available — thanks to the terms of GMAC’s 1998 deal — until July 2008. That gave Chris and Sullivan nine months to build an entire real estate franchise brand and network.

It seems like a daunting task — if you don’t know Chris and Sullivan. However, with their shared backgrounds in real estate and marketing, this duo should never be underestimated.

An International Flavor

According to Chris, Realogy knew that the Better Homes and Gardens brand was coming available when the company contacted Meredith Corp. in 2006 to discuss ideas for licensing the name and putting it out in the market again.

The original Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brand operated from 1978 until 1998, and Meredith built it into one of the most respected names in the real estate world. However, when the company sold its real estate business to GMAC, it maintained control of the brand name but agreed to a 10-year moratorium on its use.

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About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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