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How COVID is driving the whole economy

(MARKETING) Coronavirus is turning the traditional consumer-model on its head. How are our changes in needs purchases affecting the economy?

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Woman grocery shopping, showing economy changes

The consumer landscape has shifted since the start of COVID-19. Americans are going out less frequently, which means less money is being spent on eating out and travel. As a result, consumers are splurging more on luxury foods, clothes, and other items. The logic is: When you don’t need to fill up the gas tank to commute to work or bring your children to school, that money can be used on other things that you might not have had the disposable income to buy before. But there is more to this new COVID-era economy than a simple reshuffling of what we spend our money on.

There are indistinct, whole-sector trends regarding what Americans are now buying or not buying. For example, there was a massive e-commerce push in the fashion industry when brick-and-mortar stores began to shut down, but since people aren’t going out as much, there is less incentive to buy new clothes and keep up with fashion trends. There has been, however, an increase in luxury athleisurewear sales, such as Lululemon yoga pants ($105) – the demand for which has increased, driving the price up. If you’re going to be spending most of your time at home, might as well do so in luxury comfort.

The money that one would have typically spent on going out to eat a few times a week, or for purchasing a daily coffee on the way to work, is now increasingly being spent on at-home alternatives. Americans are now spending more on coffee, eggs, and ketchup – to name a few.

These changes in consumer culture are also affecting how manufacturers are packaging items. For example, Cal-Maine Foods Inc.– the egg market leader – has reported a shortage of cartons. Pre-COVID, Cal-Maine was mostly providing powdered eggs to restaurants whereas now their focus has shifted to egg cartons for grocery stores, as COVID-19 has elicited higher rates for household egg consumption.

This trend can also be observed in the condiment industry, where there has been an increase in demand for domestic, fridge-sized bottles, and a decrease in the gallon-jug sized products intended for supplying restaurants. In the case of market giant Kraft Heinz, consumers are spending 10% more ketchup, mayonnaise, and vinegar this year – a price mark-up that many see as opportunistic and profit-seeking during a pandemic, but which the company claims is due to increased difficulties in manufacturing during this time.

Amidst mass layoffs, many Americans are actually doing quite well financially, all things considered. Along with decreased overall spending, the majority of Americans are either working from home or collecting unemployment. With the added cushion of the first stimulus check – which was distributed in the spring – some Americans are even more well-off monetarily than they were last year, which typically drives the economy.

However, the first round of COVID-related benefits expired on July 31st, which left around 30 million unemployed Americans without the additional weekly $600. As of now, there is no solid federal plan to continue the COVID-19 benefits. With many Americans adjusting to life without the disposable income they had in the spring and early summer, analysts predict recessionary spending behavior in the fall and winter.

Because so much is unknown about government assistance, the economy, and the coronavirus itself at this time, it’s difficult for economists to predict future market trends. While it’s not good for business, almost all remains uncertain.

Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

Real Estate Marketing

Using the right colors in your marketing can make all the difference

(MARKETING) Simplistic assumptions about colors aren’t necessarily true when it comes to choosing a color for your brand, website, or marketing campaign.

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Woman with colored nails typing representing colors used in marketing.

You may have heard that red is the color of passion, that yellow is a happy color, and that orange makes people hungry. But a detailed analysis of the available research on colors and marketing, compiled by Gregory Ciotti, reveals that these simplistic assumptions about color aren’t necessarily true or useful when it comes to choosing a color for your brand, website, or marketing campaign.

How important is color, anyway?

The way that different people respond to colors can’t be dumbed down to simple associations. Our personal experiences, likes and dislikes, the culture we were raised in, and the context in which we see the colors all influence how we respond. These factors are complicated and ever-shifting, so don’t trust any kitschy infographics that tell you that pink means cute and white means pure. It’s just more complicated than that.

But is there any research to help marketers make smart choices when it comes to color? Of course. Most of the studies show that color makes a big impact when it comes to marketing.

In fact, one study showed that 90% of first impressions of a brand were based on color alone.

Studies have also shown that people respond more strongly to brands whose logos are immediately recognizable, and color plays a big part in that recognition.

It’s more complicated than you think

But it’s not as simple as certain colors evoking certain feelings. It has a lot more to do with whether or not the color seems to “fit” the product. You’ll sell yourself short if you choose a color based on some arbitrary notion that it evokes a certain emotion. Instead, choose a color that reflects your brand’s personality.

Also, be sure to choose a color that differentiates you from other brands. If your color scheme looks too much like your competitor’s, you won’t stand out.

There is some research indicating some gender differentiation when it comes to color preferences – but remember, gender is highly specific to place and culture, so these broad generalizations apply to the Western world, but could change easily over time and may not apply in other countries. However, generally speaking, Western men and women both like blue. While women like purple, men generally don’t. Men are more likely to select products in their favorite colors, while women are more open-minded to a wide range of colors, and to lighter shades of their favorite colors.

Tips you can bank on

For marketing materials and websites, keep in mind that contrast can make a huge difference. One study showed a 21 percent increase in conversions after a website changed the color of its “get started now” button from green to red. But the increase isn’t because red in and of itself is so powerful – conversions likely increased because the rest of the website was green, making the red button stand out more than ever.

For websites, it’s a good idea to have a base color, then a contrasting accent color that draws attention to actionable items.

Finally, studies have found that consumers prefer descriptive names for colors to plain ones. “Sky blue” will sell better than “light blue,” and people prefer “mocha” to “brown,” even when the color itself looks exactly the same.

In a nutshell, when it comes to color, don’t rely on simplistic stereotypes. Think about your brand’s personality, and choose colors that will help you stand out.

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Real Estate Marketing

Vanity metrics exist everywhere, even real estate

(MARKETING) It is often easy to fall for vanity metrics, everyone does it. But “being number one” is so stupidly subjective, don’t cave.

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Man working on laptop representing vanity metrics in real estate.

How many times have you seen or heard “#1 in sales,” “x number of satisfied clients,” or “highest-grossing broker?” Probably more than once. What do these phrases mean? Are they even really measurable? More likely than not, phrases like these come under the heading of “vanity metrics.”

Vanity metrics are things and data sets that are easily manipulated. For tech, it can include things like the number of downloads, page views, and registered users; rather than components that are truly important, such as profits and customer retention.

Vanity Metrics in Real Estate

Real estate, like any other field, has its share of vanity metrics. “Being number one” is ridiculously subjective.

While some associates/brokers/offices have absolutely earned the right based on hard data, many have not.

“Being number one” could mean receiving an award from a random blogger friend, buying an award online, or just plain paying to have the title printed on business cards and in the newspaper; it really doesn’t mean there’s anything tangible or concrete behind the statement.

Nothing tangible

Take for example the person that might say, “over 2,000 satisfied clients.” Sure, that sounds great on the surface. They must be doing something right if they’ve made that many sales. Wait? Does that mean they’ve made over 2,000 sales, or does it simply mean they’ve met 2,000 people?

It doesn’t say, “I’ve successfully sold over 2,000 homes and I have the documentation to prove it.”

It’s also another vanity metric that is intensely subjective. You need more concrete information to make a judgment on the validity of blanket statements such as these.

Also, should you really choose a Realtor® based on something so subjective?

Show me a Realtor who has been in business for more than ten years with no marks on their record (ethical or otherwise) with their local association, and has the documentation to show they’ve successfully sold homes to “happy” customers (read: they come with many recommendations) and I’ll show you someone I’ll put my faith in.

What you can focus on instead

Every team is different. This isn’t to say that major (and minor) sales milestones shouldn’t be celebrated, because they should. Rather, this is meant to be a reminder to us all the vanity metrics are so easy to fall for; we’ve all fallen for these lines, likely more than once.

Instead of looking to data sets with no meaning, teams should focus on internal metrics.

How many clients do you have right now? How many of those clients have bought a home from you? How many showings have you done in comparison to sales? Are you getting positive recommendations and feedback? How much money are you making?

Things like this can tell you where you need to improve; it is concrete data (the recommendations might be a bit fuzzy, but you get the idea).

Listen to your team. Listen to your clients. Set attainable goals and reassess them as needed. Don’t worry about those catchy little phrases, because you know what you need to do to close your sale and keep everyone happy.

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Real Estate Marketing

Real estate pros, never use Facebook stories for this reason!

(MARKETING) Facebook Stories are a fantastic marketing tool, but open up a huge Pandora’s box – and it’s better to nix them.

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facebook stories on iphone

For over a decade, we’ve been touting the importance and merit of social media, educated the industry on best practices, pioneered the culture, and played a role in so many of your campaigns.

This may confuse some of you who are thinking we’re out of touch old folks, crapping on social today, but that’s not the case at all. We care about your rear end. Hear me out…

Last night, I saw an amazing Facebook Story (which disappears, just like Instagram Stories).

A Realtor friend of mine in Texas was sharing the interior of a new listing he had, and it was absolutely stunning.

But he made some mistakes.

Most of them were rookie mistakes that you know not to make (calling a neighborhood “safe” which is subjective and makes you legally vulnerable), but others were pretty serious. He noted that the listing was near a mosque, so it was perfect for his “fellow Muslim friends.” Can you say steering? Fair Housing violation?

I reached out to him to learn his process. What did he say?

“They’re gone in 24 hours, it doesn’t matter.”

Okay, but it could matter to the person who screenshot all of the Facebook Story whose calls you never returned, and because they’re Protestant, they now believe you’ve discriminated against them because they aren’t Muslim like you.

It matters to the person who watched and thought “my car was broken into on that street, it’s not safe,” and shares your Facebook Story, mocking it.

Of course this can happen on any social media platform, in any format. It can happen in email. Why are Facebook Stories so unique?

Because they aren’t archived (unlike Instagram Stories where you can turn archiving on).

In the practice of real estate, you are required to keep copies of all communications, files, and marketing for a specified length of time, depending on your location.

How can you keep record of something that disappears, leaving you completely vulnerable, especially if someone else has saved a copy of it? You’re saying “who cares if they saved a copy?!” but I’m saying that if someone else saved a copy and you didn’t, they can edit it any way they wish with no records to compare it to, and a judge may not see your side of the story.

Skip Facebook Stories altogether.

Do Instagram Stories and archive them, if you must, and if you’re ultra tricky, turn on archiving on Instagram Stories, then cross-post them to Facebook Stories. That way, there’s a record of you that proves whether or not you’re liable.

You already have Groups, Pages, and your personal News Feed to update – put Stories on the backburner, even if they’re a great promotional tool. Future You Being Sued will thank you. #cya

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