Bottom Line: In the process of brand rating team Track2Realty has encountered many critical reactions, often emanating from the dissatisfied developers who would like to define the brand metrics as per their convenience to stand at the top. Track2Realty Brand X Report 2016-17 hence tries to decode what is brand perception audit for the better understanding of the stakeholders.
The real estate developers in India are, more often than not, having inwardly obsessed approach to deny that a study is a relative study. They live with the illusion that they understand exactly what their brand represents. However, such mirage may be more reflective of their aspirations for the brand, rather than the reality of public opinion.
Brand perception is owned and shaped by the consumers and not brands. Regardless of your medium, message or misunderstanding, whatever people are thinking and saying about your brand, that is your brand.
The problem with most of the real estate brands in India is to perceive their customer’s perception as unreasonable. They maintain that consumers are only aware of a limited information about a brand when they are thinking about making decisions. This is myopic view of the brand and the market.
This school of thought fails to understand how conducting a brand perception survey is to assess the reality of market view about your brand, what brand attributes are preferred by the customers, and to identify how the customers competitively position your brand with the other competing brands in the marketplace.
Track2Realty, on its part, tries to decode some of the myths surrounding the brand perception analysis. We are taking up some of the most common grouse & arguments and are offering a reality check for the better understanding of the brand perception. This may not be enough to stop the cribbing voices but nevertheless helps in making them understand about the study of brand, something that can help them if only the custodians of the brand are open to introspection and course correction:
Argument: Brand rating is just a perception.
Reality Check: Oh yes! Branding is always intangible and can’t be measured in absolute terms. So, basically it is about perception about a given brand than the measurement in terms of tangible and absolute numbers. Moreover, in a business where the large universe of the companies are not listed and even the debt is not reported on the books, any metrics applied will not calculate it in absolute numbers. We hence call it Brand ‘Perception’ Audit Report and not Brand Audit Report, since brand itself is all about perception.
Argument: What is the basis of this ranking?
Reality check: The basis has been clearly defined through the metrics that has been employed to assess the performance of the brand. If only the developers look at these metrics and work out what causes spikes in the conversation around their brand, the perception will definitely change over time. Of course, the developers have to accept the reality that the brands rarely exist in isolation. Measuring the brand perception of your competitors can help you understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie. The methodology and the metrics of evaluation are same for all the competing brands in the business.
Argument: I don’t think this brand rating has done justice with us.
Reality Check: Any study is a relative study and it is all the more challenging to evaluate something that is not tangible. Brand, after all, is not something that can be measured by any standards. It is a collective experience & perception of the public at large and hence we factor the public perception as the most important benchmark. Our jury board just evaluates what is already in the public domain and, more importantly, in the public perception.
Argument: Just look at our scale and what all we have achieved & sustained for such a long period of time.
Reality Check: Our brand rating in any given fiscal year is not about tracing the historical legacy but the performance of the brands in that fiscal year. While a sound track record definitely helps in having better top of the mind recall and positive public perception, the study on its part is always cautious to evaluate the performance of the said period only. Moreover, scale of operations is just one of the USPs of a brand.
Argument: No one has delivered more than us.
Reality Check: Size is not brand; failing which probably some of the largely sold FMCG products (say for instance, Patanjali) will be labeled as better brand than most of the multinational quality products. In terms of the real estate business also, size alone cannot determine the user experience or aspiration for the project or the developer. Delivery in the past is definitely no claim to fame when evaluating the performance of the brand in the given fiscal year.
Argument: Our sales figure shows who is Number One?
Reality Check: It is not the sales number that alone defines brand at any school of brand management and our brand study is no different. A developer might have sold a record number of units/spaces, but if the post purchase experience of the buyers is not positive then the developer does not stand as a credible brand. This is all the more true in a business like real estate where the product is sold much before it is manufactured. Sales figure indicates more about advertising clout and is critical linkage with the sales channel than the trust quotient of the brand.
Argument: We have won so many awards.
Reality Check: Excuse me! You are just a publicity hungry real estate business that believes in ‘beg, borrow or steal’. Most awarded does definitely not mean most trustworthy in this business. Who does not know that in the business of real estate every award has a price tag and these are not credible endorsements? If you still feel buying so many awards entitle you as the best brand, please go ahead and display it on the billboards across the city. Please excuse us. Out brand study is not bothered about your award trophies.
Argument: Public perception is misleading. Our buyers are so high profile that they would not speak to such surveys.
Reality Check: Any survey is subject to random sampling and definitely not door-to-door survey among your high profile buyers. Hence, it does not necessarily mean that the researchers will speak to those buyers who have volunteered to be your brand ambassadors. If your brand is really strong and performing then the word of mouth publicity should be strong influencing factor beyond the only metrics of user experience. By the way we are open to suggestions, if any, for better methodology to evaluate the brands.