September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. That means we’re talking to the chief marketing officers at major brokerages about how the pandemic is changing their jobs and what it means for agents. We’re publishing a suite of tactical Inman Handbooks for marketing on digital portals. And we’re looking at what pages of the traditional marketing playbook still work. Join us all month long.
Production quality on real estate listing videos has made progress by leaps and bounds in recent years. So much so, that the casual viewer may not even realize they’re watching a piece of real estate marketing until a few minutes into the video.
Some real estate agents have taken their video marketing to the next level by producing MTV-worthy music videos, and even commissioning musicians to create original works to help sell specific properties.
“It’s very competitive, this business,” Tim Allen, team leader of Tim Allen Properties at Coldwell Banker, told Inman. “It’s competitive agent to agent, but also for sellers and getting their products noticed, because online, it’s worse than junk mail. So if you’re going to put something online, you need to make sure it’s engaging and memorable.”
In order to differentiate his listings from the rest, Allen hired Billy Schmidt as his marketing director about a year ago, and since then, his marketing videos have been making waves.
Schmidt, whose diverse background includes work both touring as a musician and leading video production at iHeartMedia, has created several of what he and Allen call “music lifestyle videos” to promote Allen’s properties. Allen, Schmidt and the team first “try and understand the property, what makes it special,” and then Schmidt takes it away by envisioning a story for the video, shooting, completing all editing and post-production and even composing original songs to accompany the videos.
Schmidt and his wife Rachel DuVall-Schmidt make up new indie folk band The Whiskey Wasps and together the duo compose and perform the music for Allen’s videos, and occasionally make appearances in them too, along with other members of Allen’s team.
“My thought process behind doing these type of videos is to sell the lifestyle,” Schmidt told Inman. “I think that’s been done a lot of times, but creating a feel and a piece of content that you would want to watch just purely for the entertainment value was really where … That was the direction I wanted to go.”
Schmidt added that the quality and entertainment value of the productions has been reflected in the loyalty of their followers.
“We put them on our Instagram and Facebook, and get tons of views and hits on there. People love them,” Schmidt said. A recent video posted on Facebook marketing a $32.95 million home in Pebble Beach, California, currently has 29,000 views, as well as dozens of comments and interactions. “The engagement, the loyalty, the people who follow us is much better with that kind of content than us just hitting them with new listings and solds every day. They feel like following us because they enjoy what we’re posting. That’s way more effective than just sticking to business all the time.”
Although there’s a fine line between creating a clever listing video and one that might be perceived as pushing too many boundaries, some agents like Tim Smith, leader of the Tim Smith Group at Coldwell Banker, have toed the line with success.
While the quality of Smith’s films are of a consistent caliber — he has an in-house production company that also creates films for businesses in other industries — the tone of the films can vary widely from classy to playful to irreverent.
Smith made a splash last year when his team rewrote the lyrics to “Teach Me How To Dougie” by Cali Swag District in order to market a waterfront property. By swapping out “dougie” with “Duffy,” Smith made the music video center around Duffy-branded electric boats that ultimately brought the viewer to the edge of the property for sale by the end of the film, which cost nearly $50,000 to produce. The video also featured Cali Swag District members Smoove da General and OFB Yung.
“Within the first four days of that [film release] I think we had like 3 million views, and we had over 50 local, national and even international media sources pick it up,” Smith told Inman. “And what was great is, we had agents and people from all over the U.S. saying, ‘That was fantastic, and because of that, I know all about your house.’”
Quickly after Smith started getting more creative with his films, he noticed a direct correlation between the catchiness of his films and the response among other real estate agents.
“The better the film, the more agents, throughout California and throughout the United States that would actually engage in the comments,” Smith said. “So the film is not just to get to the buyers, the film is actually to get to the agents.”
Creating content that’s more creative or unorthodox (like this recent film featuring an unconventional family dynamic during quarantine) is the first step for Smith to generate energy around a listing. The second step is getting that content in front of the right people.
One way Smith does that is by often enlisting social media influencers or other well-known creatives to perform in his films (he recently hired contestants from So You Think You Can Dance to perform in this video, which also features original music), and then having them share the films on their own social channels at the time of its release.
“Anything we can do to boost the launch, whether it’s the right eyeballs or the wrong eyeballs, we want energy,” Smith told Inman. “And social currency creates energy.”
Smith said he and his team are constantly brainstorming ideas to use in their next innovative film — it’s just about finding the right property to use them on.
Although Smith said his eye-catching marketing tactics have earned him attention from producers of shows like “Million Dollar Listing,” he’d rather keep the focus on his properties, not himself.
“I don’t really want to become a celebrity,” Smith said. “I want my homes to be the focus of attention.” He added that he has six full-time, salaried marketing people on his team because “at the end of the day, it’s all about my sellers — getting them the highest price, best terms and biggest outreach on their house.”
There are some agents out there who are really pushing boundaries with their music video marketing content — all in the name of selling homes.
“They’re a ton of fun to make, and I enjoy doing it, so my thought on the process is like, hey, what’s the worst that’s going to happen?” Matt Pittman, team leader of The Pittman Team at Keller Williams, told Inman. “Let’s say these videos are a complete flop — we still had an awesome time.”
Pittman is referring to “Sellin Homes” and “Realtors,” two rap music videos he made a few years ago with a band he’s a member of called The Fold. (The Fold has also regularly created songs for Cartoon Network’s “Lego Ninjago” television show for about eight years.)
One day Pittman’s broker told him about an app that auto-tuned a person’s voice. When his broker was subsequently having a bad day, Pittman decided to make a funny auto-tuned recording to cheer him up. After his broker dubbed Pittman a “real estate rap artist,” inspiration struck.
“All of a sudden, a light bulb went off in my head, and I’m like, holy cow, this could kind of be something funny,” Pittman told Inman. “Why don’t you just write the lyrics, write the music and then go from there?”
Pittman and his bandmates Dan and George Castady met up and started “vibe-ing,” and initially created “Sellin Homes” in 2012, which pokes fun at the ‘hard core’ nature of a Realtor’s business. Then, they enlisted former bandmate Aaron Green, who’s now a videographer, to create the “ridiculous” music video to go with the song. “Realtors,” a song that parodies “Regulate” by Warren G, was made in 2016 and also collaborated on with Green. Both music videos have received about 50,000 views on YouTube.
“I think they’ve grown my business exponentially,” Pittman said of the music videos, which cost about $5,000 each to produce. “I do a lot of my business just based on my sphere of influence and referrals, so for me, it definitely secured that spot with a lot of my friends, family and the people that know me. Some people that may not know me, potentially could be like, ‘This guy’s nuts, there’s no way in heck I’m going to use him as my Realtor.’ But for the most part, I would say it really has been very, very beneficial to my business.”
“Sellin Homes” in particular, has some parts that Pittman says have been off-putting to a certain demographic of older Realtors who thinks it puts the industry in a bad light. At one point in the video, for instance, Pittman grabs a female office worker and kisses her on the mouth. But, Pittman maintains that if he was going to make the video at all, he felt he had to go all the way. He also got some of the more racy parts of both videos cleared by his then-broker and real estate board in advance to make sure they wouldn’t get him into hot water — however, in today’s era of #MeToo, it’s hard to see anyone condoning a video that makes light of unsolicited touching or kissing.
“I kind of kicked back and forth the idea of like, I might be offending some people with this video, so I definitely walked a fine line there,” Pittman said. “But I thought to myself, ‘hey, this video’s totally tongue-in-cheek, goofy humor.’ If you see this video and you really are like, ‘Oh I hate this guy, I’m never going to work with him,’ there’s probably a good chance that we’re not going to vibe anyways.”
Although he didn’t reveal details, Pittman said another parody music video will be coming soon.
“These videos are just kind of a real fun way for us to have the best of both worlds — be able to play music and have fun and just do our thing,” he said.
And, ultimately, get more leads in the process.
Email Lillian Dickerson