Coldwell Banker Combats 'Listing Zombies' With New, Narrative-Rich Website

Marketer Says Home Sellers Aren't Getting Enough Love

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Coldwell Banker is launching a new digital initiative meant to engage home sellers, a group the marketer says isn't getting enough love in real estate transactions.

"Everybody is doing a really, really good job focusing on buyers," said Sean Blankenship, Coldwell Banker's senior-VP of marketing. "But there was this unmet need with the sellers, and even as a sellers' brand, we weren't really doing a good job putting it all together."

The effort features a newly designed website that allows sellers to market their own homes by posting personal stories, photos and videos. Sellers can also access real-time feedback on how their listing is performing.

Coldwell Banker is not cutting off agents -- they still must approve the seller-supplied content. But the idea is to get sellers more involved by letting them share information about the house that only they know. Content could include anecdotes about the neighborhood, or that "amazing barbecue you had at Fourth of July, or about how the kids learned to swim in the pool," Mr. Blankenship said.

The company in recent years has sought to bring that kind of emotion to its TV ads. In one ad, Tom Selleck waxes poetic about homeownership during scenes showing happy children playing in the yard and a parent tending to an infant in a cozy bedroom.

"We really changed the conversation from a financial lens to an emotional, lifestyle lens," Mr. Blankenship said. "We are now going to bring that to the digital platform."

The site will include one section called "homeowners notes." An example provided to Ad Age came from a real-life listing for a home near Aspen, Colo., which is being sold by celebrity couple Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy, Jr. The couple wrote that "we've spent hours on the back deck watching the fantastic colors as the sun sets over the ranch."

A dashboard allows buyers to rate what they like or don't like about a particular listing or even certain parts of a listing, like a kitchen or garage. The buyer can invite family and friends to view their preferences. Sellers and agents can then view anonymous buyer feedback.

The approach seeks to move away from what Mr. Blankenship described as the typical kitchen table conversation in which an agent simply derives a home's worth using recent sales in the area. Then, he added, they take pictures and "push a button and syndicate your home to 68 websites."

The industry has been taken over by "listing zombies" -- agents who want to get the listing and "move on to the next seller," he said. "We think there is a better way. And it's through the personalization and the storytelling [of] the seller."

The site was designed by Nickelfish. Other agencies working on the rollout include CooperKatz for PR and Siltanen & Partners for creative. The new site will initially be promoted with digital advertising. Coldwell is considering adding traditional ad support sometime next year.

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