During a 2013 interview held in Omaha, Neb., Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said the eponymous real estate brand would prosper for years to come.
“Berkshire Hathaway wants to be in businesses that are enduring,” he explained. “Real estate brokerages will be around 100 years from now and [Berkshire Hathaway] HomeServices will be around 100 years from now. It will always be a very important business.”
At the time, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices hadn’t officially launched, but the brokerage network—now one of the fastest-growing in America with more than 46,000 network agents—was gearing up to become a brand unlike any other. Mr. Buffett’s prophetic words would serve as the foundational mantra to fortify Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices with the strong, everlasting heritage of each organization—Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Berkshire Hathaway Energy and HomeServices of America, Inc.—that creates its namesake.
“We will always find inspiration in the ideals of trust, integrity, stability and longevity, which are the core values of Berkshire Hathaway,” says Gino Blefari, network president and chief executive officer. “Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is the ‘forever brand‘ because endurance is the cornerstone of our legacy.”
When marketing worldwide, this core values-first philosophy translates into an emphasis on meaningful storytelling and narratives that evolve with real estate customers as they encounter life’s triumphs and challenges.
“Essentially, we’re leveraging a new approach to value creation,” says Chris Stuart, chief operating officer of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. “Our marketing initiatives constantly reimagine our immense brand value relative to the wants and needs of network agents and the clients they serve.”
One impressive initiative that showcases brand value is about 55 pages long and bound by an elegant, matte cover. Prestige magazine, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ luxury publication, showcases the versatility of the gorgeous properties listed by network agents and provides 16 pages of engaging editorial.
The brand also recently forged a content alliance with another respected name: The Wall Street Journal. Working with WSJ. Custom Studios, a unit of The Wall Street Journal’s advertising department, the brokerage network created several videos in a new series called “Behind the Listing.”
The videos highlight the all-inclusive experience of a luxury property, told through the lens of high-quality storytelling: a well-known Montecito, Calif., philanthropist is selling her prized, custom estate; a successful Georgia businessman lists his resort-style rural mansion; and renowned architects put their chic desert oasis on the market in Las Vegas. With insightful commentary from the sellers, each video goes far deeper than what you’d expect to find on a property microsite or uncover through the MLS.
“This series is a visual representation of the real-life magic at work to transform a spectacular house into an unforgettable home,” says Wendy Durand, director of Global Marketing at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. “These are real sellers speaking candidly into the camera about why their homes are so special.”
In addition to producing videos with WSJ. Custom Studios, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices also brought on VaynerMedia as its agency of record to reinvigorate brand advertising across social media, voice, streaming and new media platforms. Ads for television, a medium in arguable decline, were replaced by highly-targeted Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest content as part of a new marketing campaign, #GoodToAsk.
“Longevity, one of our core values, doesn’t just mean long-lasting,” says Stuart. “It also means being smart about the iterative ways in which we evolve our strategies to stay ahead of trends and capitalize on new technology. It’s a real balancing act when you step back and think about it: To sustain long-term success, you must have one watchful eye on the future and one eye on the now.”
The synergy of a longevity-focused brand like Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the hustle-centric VaynerMedia was immediately recognized by VaynerMedia Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Gary Vaynerchuk.
“I’m thrilled that VaynerMedia is working with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices,” he says. “In our first meetings, it was immediately obvious to me that our organizations were a DNA match. I’m proud of the steps they are taking to unlock the power of digital, and excited for all of the important work ahead of us.”
Of course, as Vaynerchuk alludes, there’s more progress to be made to achieve the digital domination Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices seeks, but a lot has already been done. Included in #GoodToAsk: docu-style videos to inspire sellers and buyers to shift from making do to making it happen. Additionally, the brand put together thumb-stopping vignettes—snackable, smart content sent to millions of potential clients.
And as #GoodToAsk proved, a successful ad campaign isn’t just about the content you produce. It’s also about packaging that content for use by network brokerages and agents. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices leadership made sure to equip all network members with an effortlessly-implemented blueprint to replicate the #GoodToAsk campaign in their local markets.
“We want our agents to be savvy social media marketing experts,” says Durand. “However, we recognize that their predominant role is to serve their clients, so we made it as easy as possible for them to have a detailed strategy and content to quickly produce a professional-level campaign powered by the expertise of VaynerMedia. On a brokerage and agent level, the campaign promotes their services and, more importantly, their incomparable skills.”
The dichotomy of skills versus service is one contemplated at length by Allan Dalton, newly appointed senior vice president of Research and Development at HSF Affiliates. Dalton, the former chief executive officer of realtor.com® and once named one of NAR’s 25 most influential thought leaders, is a real estate veteran and veritable oracle of marketing. To Dalton, both the industry and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand must emphasize the skills that make agents irreplaceable in the transaction process and beyond.
“As a ‘forever brand,’ Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices agents must promulgate the concept of ‘forever loyalty,’ which is built through the trust clients have in the skills of their real estate agents,” says Dalton. “We don’t go to a brain surgeon and laud their excellent customer service; we go because we understand their expertise and skills are unmatched and wholly trusted. Real estate agents must market themselves as skill-centric professionals in their markets.”
Adds Blefari: “From Prestige to Pinterest ads to podcasts…it’s all part of the narrative Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is relating—marked by trust, integrity, stability and longevity. We know every home has a story and we’re here to tell that tale today, tomorrow and forever.”
For more information, please visit www.berkshirehathawayhs.com.
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