‘Brand-Engagement’, you’re doing it Wrong

Imagine for one moment you’re in a Broadway audience in New York. You’ve come a long way to see a play. This is going to be the highlight of your trip to the ‘Big Apple’.

You’re seated. Excited. Anticipating a great show. So are the rest of the audience. You can feel their excitement. The theatre is filled with the buzzing sound of 1,000 people. Imagine that. Can you hear their excitement?

Behind the curtains, the stage is set. You can’t see it, but you can imagine how amazing the set decoration will be.

“BING, BING, BING, 2 minute curtain call, please take your seats” the PA system announces. The last of the late-arrivals hurriedly squeeze past. “Excuse me. Sorry. Oops. Thank you” they say trying not to step on your feet while you pull in your knees to facilitate their passage to their seats.

…And it’s show time.

The house lights dim. The audience is quiet. You could hear a pin drop.

The curtain raises with a velvety “swoosh”.

The darkened stage is slowly lit. One spotlight shines, and through the darkness, a man, shoulders hunched over, his face filled with grief, holding a human head in one hand, a sword in the other. He looks up and screams… “W-H-Y?”

…And BINGO, you and the audience are hooked.

We all love a great story.

That’s why we read novels. Go to the movies. See plays. Watch TV shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ (one of my favourites by the way, LOL).

We get ‘engaged’ with the drama. With the story. With the journey the hero or heroine is on.

The tension of what’ll happen next keeps us engaged, holds our attention, pulls us deeper into the story.

That’s what stories are meant to do. They’re meant to engage us.

They do that because of one little trick the author uses. A little trick that engages our every sense. A little trick which holds our short attention span.

It’s called ‘SHOW, DON’T TELL’.

Have you heard of that?

It’s not new. Advertising agencies and marketers have been using it on us for a while now.

It’s about the power of engagement….

My little “Broadway play story” was written to engage your senses, to get you wondering what’s going to happen, to engage your imagination. It was written to engage you and pull you further into this article. It’s an example of ‘Show, Don’t Tell’. (Maybe not the greatest literary example of it, but you get the picture.)

I’m assuming you’re still reading right? Yes? You’re engaged then.

That tells me your mind must be somewhat intrigued with what I’m sharing.

Wondering where’s this heading, what’s Peter about to show me? What can I learn from this for my real estate career? For my real estate brand?

That’s the power of ‘Show, don’t tell’.

Show, don’t tell, enables the audience to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarisation, hyperbole, superlative and description.

It causes your audience to think. To react. To question. To stay engaged.

Ernest Hemingway said “Show the readers everything, tell them nothing.”

Such is the power of ‘Show, don’t tell’, Hemingway once wrote an entire story using this technique in only 6 words. His famous short story, which is known as the world’s shortest story ever written was this…

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Hemingway’s story works so well, even with just 6 words, because he engages the reader’s imagination and curiosity. The reader wonders, “Why weren’t they worn? What happened to the baby?” We get engaged in the drama, in the mystery.

OK, I hear you ask, “So what’s this got to do with my Real Estate Brand?

A hell of a lot. Let me explain…

You see, there are really only 2-Ways you can market yourself (as in your personal-real-estate-brand) or your real estate agency brand. (I’m talking about how you go about selling you, selling your brand to your prospects.)

Your ‘selling-you’ marketing will either be…

‘Telling’ your audience about how good you are. (Or trying to at least.)

Or it will be…

‘Showing’ your audience about how good you are, about your capabilities and expertise.

When you’re ‘telling’ your audience you’ll be saying stuff like: “We offer the best service.” That’s a claim nearly every agency foolishly makes. It’s an example of trying to convince the audience using a ‘superlative-laced description’.

Do you think this engages anyone? Nope. It certainly does not.

Fact is, because everyone is saying the same thing, like ‘superior service’, prospective property sellers, your audience, get completely turned off by it. That’s why it’s foolish.
Take a look around at real estate agents and agencies in general. Is their self-promotion ‘telling’ or ‘showing’?

From my 20 years of brand-building experience, most are likely to be ‘telling’.

Don’t believe me? Just look for yourself.

Here’s a quick test…

Go on to a half dozen real estate agency websites. Click on their ‘ABOUT US’ tab. Read their ‘story’. Are they ‘telling’ or ‘showing’?

For the purpose of this article, I went onto to do a bit of research. I searched for agents in one suburb. I looked at the first 6 agencies in the search result and clicked on their ‘view agency profile’.

Here’s how each of the 6 agencies described what they offer (remember, this is an opportunity for them to sell themselves)…

  • “…offers a highly personalised service combined with integral knowledge of the area” (that’s an example of ‘tell’)
  • “…offer personalised service and individual marketing programmes to suit each and every property” (that’s ‘tell’ also)
  • “…our experienced agents give the service you deserve” (yep there it is again, ‘tell’)
    “…offer exceptional service, coupled with care and professionalism to achieve a successful result” (same again, ‘tell’)
  • “…name is synonymous with exceeding your expectations” (starting to sound a little same old, same old? Yep that’s ‘tell’ again)
  • “…providing outstanding service to clients” (are all 6 of these agencies using the same crappy copywriter? That’s another for ‘tell’)

A summary of my findings:

  • Five of the six talked in glowing terms about their ‘service’.
  • All six chose to ‘tell’ their audience how good they are.
  • All six used superlatives to exaggerate their claim.
  • Not one used the ‘show’ technique. They all used ‘tell’ instead. Continue Reading  >>

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Peter Hutton

Peter Hutton is the Director and CEO of Hutton & Hutton Real Estate. Peter brings over 25 years real estate experience as well as a wealth of expertise to the industry through his book, ‘The Love Price’.