Harald Steiner

CEO / European Real Estate Brand Institute


The moral of the story

The perfect wave

“Das ist die perfekte Welle. Das ist der perfekte Tag. Lass dich einfach von ihr tragen. Denk am besten gar nicht nach.” (“This is the perfect wave. This is the perfect day. Just let it carry you along. Don’t even think about it”).

If you follow German pop music, you’ll probably remember the upbeat chorus of the debut single from Juli, a German speaking pop-rock band. In autumn 2004, the song’s happy, life-affirming message helped the band storm to number 2 in the German charts. A few weeks later, on December 26, 2004, the day of the devastating tsunami catastrophe in the Indian Ocean, most radio stations stopped playing this joy-filled song. Overnight, the image of “the perfect wave” had become inextricably linked with death and suffering. The song and its message were overtaken by a new reality.

Changed perspective

In 2020, it is the coronavirus “tsunami” that has swamped the world. We’re struggling to stay afloat – and it looks like we’ll be fighting to keep our heads above water for some time to come. It is one of those events that is so drastic that it fundamentally alters people’s perspectives on life. In order to make it through these stormy waters, we need to develop adaptation strategies and rethink, reinterpret and redefine our attitudes. Messages that inspired positive images just yesterday (“the perfect wave”) sound cynical and wrong today. Values that previously only touched us marginally are now taking centre stage.

Thorough self-examination

Over the last eight months, the collective experience of the coronavirus pandemic has rattled the foundations of social and economic cooperation everywhere. A strict focus on economic measures such as “growth” now sounds like hollow mockery to those struggling for survival. Our priorities have shifted to plac greater emphasis on “health” and “solidarity”. Along with the struggle to find new ways to live and work together. For companies, this means facing up to a thorough self-examination. Do the messages your brand conveys correspond to the new realities of your employees and customers? Does your company’s positioning still resonate in this new situation?

The moral of the story

The notion of a crisis as an opportunity has rarely been more true for companies and their managers than it is today. Why? Because one of the greatest characteristics of the current crisis is the general longing for leadership and security. So the task is quite clear: companies must now lead the way and take authentic action and communicate authentic messages – to their customers, their employees and stakeholders in general – to credibly convey that they are the guiding light to steer unsettled people to new shores. This requires ethical principles that create lasting trust. It all boils down to responsible brand management. In the real estate world, brand messages focus on living socially, whether in houses, apartment buuildings or neighborhoods that promote community. As opposed to ghettoised isolation. The emphasis is on ESG-oriented investments and ecological construction methods for a healthy, safe life. This is the ethical “wave” – you can use the word again – that needs to be ridden.

The essence of data

But be careful, it is not as simple as it may sound. If companies pursue the ethical path when it comes to their brand management, they need to make sure they do not limit themselves to superficial pseudo measures. No one is interested in the loudest voices in the market, those who hit the nerve of the age and abuse it until they become so annoying no one wants to hear from them anymore. What companies really need is a strategic approach by based on precise analysis of market data and their own operations. Data on KPIs, analysed in such depth that they provide precise information on current market sentiment and the brand’s position, the company’s own image and that of others, as well as strengths and weaknesses. It is only once this basis has been established, only onceyou have a solid foundation on which to stand, that you can map your future path. It’s not about slogans, it’s about a (data-)based attitude.

With branded regards
Your Harald Steiner 

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