REAL ESTATE: 'Be Mine' ad pitches foreclosure sales
Feb 13, 2013 (The Press-Enterprise - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A Valentine's Day email prompt by RealtyTrac, a respected online real estate tracking service, got the pulse racing on homeowners here, and one nationally known marketing guru, because of its "sweet foreclosure" pitch.
"Fall in love with these romantic repos," the RealtyTrac email prompt suggests, directing readers to free, seven-day access to RealtyTrac.com, a website with more than 1.5 million foreclosure and Multiple Listing Service properties.
"You're sure to find a sweet foreclosure that won't break your heart -- or your pocketbook!"
"Besides, a new home beats a dozen roses or a box of chocolates -- any day," the ad goes on to suggest.
With California in the No. 2 spot as a state where "savings are the sweetest," some homeowners agree this slant on Valentine's Day could rub folks the wrong way -- primarily because so much pain is involved when owner-occupied homes wind up distressed.
Thousands have lost homes in the Inland region because of unemployment, lost businesses, lost equity or that an adjustable mortgage signed before the bubble burst could not be renegotiated at better terms five years down the line.
Now, homes largely selling in the high $400,000s and $500,000s are going to market at half the price.
The average foreclosed home price in California -- $250,778 -- currently represents a savings of 40 percent, the RealtyTrac promotion said. Florida ranks No. 1, with an average foreclosure price of $115,032 for a savings of 29 percent. Arizona ranks No. 3 with average foreclosure prices of $140,549 for a savings of 23 percent.
"It's the equivalent of grave digging," a colleague who owns a home opined. "Its like, 'Here honey, I just got you some flowers -- from someone else's yard."
Another longtime homeowner who has ridden out the storm thought the "Be Mine" candy heart-coated pitch was clever.
"Sure, it might be a little tacky and it's a touchy subject; but hey, it's better if someone buys it. I'd rather see a home occupied than languishing on the vine," she said.
"If my husband bought me a foreclosed home, I wouldn't send it back," another said.
What did Los Angeles branding expert Rob Frankel have to say
The author of "The Revenge of Brand X: How to Build a Big Time Brand on the Web of Anywhere Else" called the ad "sophomoric" and said the puns that were strung together for self-serving purposes distracts from what the real message is.
"It insults consumers' intelligence," the marketing guru with a portfolio of clients that range from Re/Max to SeaWorld said.
If RealtyTrac wanted to tie a strong thread to its website through foreclosures, Frankel said a Valentine's Day prompt that might be more effective and sensitive to the impact of foreclosure on the American psyche might be one designed to strike a deeper, more meaningful chord, like: "Let's take the next step, and plan our future together; what better way than to find a dream house "
Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, said the company's intention is not to belittle or mock the foreclosure problem.
"We know there is a line there we don't want to cross," he said. "We don't feel like this ad did that."
Blomquist said the prompt actually was tried last year, and it achieved a good reaction in terms of people clicking through the website to search for foreclosure listings over the Internet. The response was so favorable, the data was updated and the ad put out again.
Sub-textual messages like these pop up frequently, Frankel said. What I see with my clients is they are extremely good at what they do; and not always so good at telling people what to do: This is where there is a lot of breakdown" in branding a product.
To Frankels' point, Blomquist said he liked the idea of striking that other chord. It's something to think about for next year, he said.
RealtyTrac wasn't alone in putting up out-of-the-box prompts for Valentine's Day.
Here's another headline pitch made days before Feb. 14 from Organic Bouquet.com. The subject line read: "This Valentine's Day, Stop and Smell the Pesticides."
The philanthropy-based, eco-floral company -- with its turnkey solution for "certified sustainable and organic products" -- made a pitch for customers to call attention to its website on this ground: Of the $20 billion floral industry, more than 70 percent of the flowers purchased in the United States are grown in Colombia and Ecuador. In these countries, many farmers are forced to grow in unsafe environments, damaging not only their land but also their health.
"It might as well have been written in Greek," Frankel said.
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