A simple postcard, with a really bad message went viral and created the kind of “buzz” you don’t ever want for your business. Here’s the story and what we can learn from it.
Here’s the picture from David Kaufer’s Twitter page. Thanks David for sharing it. Click the below link to view the image of the postcard on his Twitter page.
This is a real ad produced by a Seattle real estate brokerage firm. Wow – really guys? pic.twitter.com/F5oUcYorU7
— David Kaufer (@DavidKaufer) September 14, 2015
A Really, Really, Bad Marketing Story
In late September of 2015, the Costello & Costello Real Estate Group from Seattle ran a postcard campaign which was done in very poor taste and it completely backfired on them. The Costello & Costello Real Estate Group appears to have been a team headed up by two brothers and they had several agents in the team. They used to hang up their license at a Re/Max bro
Soon after this postcard was sent to homes in their target market around Snoqualmie Ridge, Washington local residents and fellow agents began voicing thier opinions on it . They then began to take those opinions and images of the postcard to social media channels and it went viral from there.
Local, national, and international news outlets picked up on the story and now everyone knew who the Costello & Costello Real Estate Group were.
On social media, comments from mom’s and fellow real estate agents lit up the messageing behind this postcard and the Costello & Costello Group went immediately into a public relations nightmare.
There were many news outlets online that picked up the story, including the Huufinton Post. Here’s a link to the story there. CLICK HERE
Locally, this story was picked up by all the major local news outlets. Here’s a link to the story on local news station FOX13. Check out thier piece here (watch the video). CLICK HERE
The Backlash and Aftermath
I did some digging online to find out more about who the Costello & Costello Group were. However, a lot of their social media pages and their website have been taken down now so I couldnt find too much. NUTS
They took down their Facebook Business Page and I can’t find them on Twitter anymore. I did find one of the brothers still had their LinkedIn Profile up. CLICK HERE to view it.
Their website for the Costello & Costello Real Estate Group, www.costellonotcostello.com is now taken down. At the time this postcard was sent out they we’re working for ReMax on the Lake, but now they are no longer listed as agents at this brokerage any longer.
Finally, their reviews on Yelp are still up. They received over 40 reviews in the days since this advertisement became an international story and they are very telling of the anger and sentiment brothers created with the ad. You can check out their Yelp Page here. CLICK HERE
What You Can Learn From This
Their are a lot of lessons which can be learned from this public relations and marketing disaster.
What I want to do is go beyond the obvious problems with this marketing postcard and get to the root of why this type of marketing message was doomed from being successful even before it was printed.
Print marketing can work, but you have to be able to produce creative print materials which can capture your audience’s attention and provide them with some sort of value.
You may ask WHY? Why can’t you just put out more postcards and mailers and hope that 2% to 4% of them will call you back. (seriously, when do you ever get excited for 2% of anything)
I would say this is not marketing. This is just pure advertising, and it’s advertising of the worst kind. Flooding an area with your advertisments until someone responds is not a marketing plan nor an effective way to reach people.
What We Can Learn from This
There is so much we can learn from this huge marketing and public relations disaster that every real estate agent can benefit from.
We’re going to dive deep into breaking down this marketing postcard campaign and identify all of the DO NOT’s and lessons from it. Then, we’ll break down what should have been done in the first place.
Part 1: Don’t Go Negative on your Competition
Good marketing is all about executing one single thing very well, which is, communicating your message clearly.
To execute this properly you need a valuable message to send.
There’s never a reason to go negative on your competition. If the first thing to come out of your mouth is something bad and/or negative to say about your competition when you first meet someone, what does that say about you and the type of business your running?
More importantly, what kind of a message does it give the other person your trying to communicate with?
That person is much more likely to view you has jealous, insecure, or incompetent if the only thing you can think of communicating is how “bad” your competition is. It works the same if you have to say how great you are. Giving yourself “props” for how awesome you are can be “unbelivable” by the people you’re trying to convice of it.
This postcard goes negative on working moms and any real estate agent who is part time.
Basically, the message in the this marketing postcard is saying: “We are great because we are full time agents” ,plus “Everyone else is part time and that means they are not great”. Furthermore, “these part time agents are working moms and they can’t handle giving you the service you deserve.”
Even if the image of the working mom being taken over by her kids wasn’t used, the overall message in this marketing postcard is extremely ineffective because it goes negative.
Part 2: The Power of Visuals in Marketing
The human brain is wired to process visuals very efficiently. Therefore, we prefer seeing visual and using visuals for communications. In marketing we use visuals to help deliver our message.
If it’s done correctly our message is delivered and it’s received well on the other side.
The power of visuals in our communications can be demonstrated in this simple excersize. In the slideshow below there are two slides for you to look at.
- First, look at the first slide. Then pause for 20 seconds and think what runs through your mind. Think about what the first slide makes you think of.
- Second, look at the next slide. Now ask yourself the same question. What do you think about now?
Using Visuals in your Marketing – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
In Slide #1 the simple message was just the word BOY. Not much else can really be inferred here other than a BOY, and probably a baby boy since the color used is a baby blueish tone.
In Slide #2, we see a happy boy, having fun, it’s summer time, and he’s probably playing with other friends and family and there’s a pool or water sprinkler invovled. We see an image like this and we dive in deeper to our own past experiances. You either had a baby brother at one time in your life or you were the baby brother.
Used in the right context this image can be used to deliver a message of joy, youth, and just having fun. For example, this same image could be used in the promotion marketing materials for a local community pool.
Now let’s take a look at the postcard used by the Costello brothers.
First we have the image of a mom being taken over by 3 kids. Now in the right context this can be a very powerful message with something positive behind.
For example, if this were an add for Spa Getaway and the message read like this… “NEED A BREAK, COME VISIT THE SPA FOR RELAXING GETAWAY THIS WEEKEND”. In this type of context the Spa would be using a bit of satire comedy to communicate this message…. “WE ARE ALL BUSY, WORKING, RAISING KIDS, AND SOMETIMES THINGS JUST GET CRAZY AND WE ALL NEED A BREAK, SO HAVE A DATE AT THE SPA”.
However, the context this image was used for in this postcard places a working mom in this position as not being professional enough and without time to “REPRESENT YOU”. And then placing the two male brothers in suits and looking like they are just doing a photo shoot because “THEY ARE FULL TIME AND WILL REPRESENT YOU”.
Not a good comparison, and this is exactly why so many working mothers and other fellow real estate agents were so upset and offended for.
There are some basic rules out there and one of them is don’t point fun at, or belittle working mom’s. There’s just nothing good that can come out of that.
Images and Words
Just a handful of words and a very powerful image created a “shit-ton” of heat for these agents in Seattle and rightfully so.
The whole point of my article is to demonstrate just how powerful visual communications can be. In the right context you can create a home run with your marketing pieces, but in the wrong context and with the wrong message you can create the same marketing and public relations disaster that the Costello & Costello Group experianced in September of 2015.
There is an old saying about Public Relations (PR), that all PR is good PR. This is a very old school way of thinking about it. Not all PR is good PR, and in this case it’s very, very bad PR.
What makes all of this even worse is that it didnt need to happen in the first place. Your marketing should always be expressing value to the people you’re trying to reach with it. Unfortunetly, this marketing postcard did the exact opposite of that.
Creating a Marketing Postcard that Actually Works for Real Estate Agents
It’s a simple formula.
Create marketing pieces which deliver value to the people you’re trying to reach with them. When creating postcards most agents and gurus don’t do this and have it completely wrong.
Typically, agents will send out JUST SOLD, JUST LISTED, and pure ADVERTISEMENTS in the form of postcards in a particular zip code they are trying to do business in. Using the USPO’s Every Door Direct Program is popular for this. The problem today is that people dont read their mail anymore.
Junk mail is tossed into the garbage often without even getting a second glance at it. Therefore, if you’re going to send out a mailing piece then it’s going to have to deliver value to the intended target.
There are many different ways to deliver value in your mailers. It can be humorous, information, or have an offer to it. But you’re going to have to be creative with how it’s created. Create a message that’s worth reading into and checking out.
Be creative with your Images, Colors, and the postcard Copy.
Once created ask yourself this: Would I take a look at this if I recieved it in the mail, or would I also toss it into the trash before even looking at it?
In this example a Chicago real estate agent, Emily Santos, used a local offer at a popular restaurant tied to some home value/real estate stats in the same area. There was a good use of images and good clear copy. It’s easy to read what the message is in this postcard and what the offer is.
Be creative, have fun, and don’t make fun of working moms and you should be ok with putting together your next mailer. Plus, make sure you’re ready to invest into sending 3-5 mailers in a single campaign. Just executing one and done campaigns are very ineffective.