All apologies to Yogi Berra, but buyers have cold feet these days and builders have an overabundance of new housing on their hands. So what's a big builder to do in this market? If you listen to the economists–and most home building veterans of downturns past–it might feel as if the only recourse is to let the cycle follow its course.
On the other hand, we thought it couldn't hurt to tap into the thinking of consumer psychologists who study human nature and ask them to offer advice on how to appeal to a fear-wracked public that is crowding the sidelines of the housing market.
"If there are basic ideas and assumptions in a person's head, it's very difficult to change those ideas," says Laura Peracchio, a consumer psychologist and a professor of marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
It's tough to find an inviting tune or slogan that would stick in a potential home buyer's mind. But there are plenty out there that do the job for other products. Folgers has been selling coffee for years with its jingle, "The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup." Ikea, the Swedish furniture store, made it big when it plastered public buses with signs declaring: "It's a big country. Someone's got to furnish it."
So we asked an ad critic, an observer of human nature, and two university professors what sage offerings they would give to builders to get potential buyers to come to the table.
Let's Make A Deal
Bob Garfield, advertising critic for Advertising Age, says that, every once in a while, the truth is the best medicine to getting the sale. In fact, he says, Bill Ford is trying the truth with ads that acknowledge the Ford Motor Co. has to try harder and make better designed cars to be able to survive in the increasingly competitive auto market.
But houses are not cars. Garfield says the challenge for home builders is to conquer consumer paralysis. One way to do that, he says, is by stressing that today there are low interest rates and a correcting market that may not be here tomorrow. "Don't let this opportunity get away, you will regret it later," an ad might say.
"I'm not suggesting that builders go on truth serum," Garfield says. "They have a story to tell. They are at your service. 'Have it your way or have us your way.'"
It also might be the right time for builders to take advantage of what is widely known as buyer's remorse. Using a little bit of psychology, he says builders can flip that psychological factor with ads that imply, "You have the advantage now, so grab it."