Profile picture for SoCal Engr

Big difference between "marketing" and "puffery"?

From Wikipedia...

Puffery as a legal term refers to promotional statements and claims that express subjective rather than objective views, which no "reasonable person" would take literally. Puffery servers to "puff up" an exaggerated image of what is being described and is especially featured in testimonials.

Also from Wikipedia...

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers.

I have no issues with marketing. I'll even agree that it's always "the best time to buy"...for some people, as long as we can also agree that even the best market conditions is not "the best time to buy" for those who are not ready to (financially or otherwise).

The blanket statements, on either side of the argument, are flawed. As a consumer, and speaking with that bias, I just have issues with puffery thrown out with disregard - simply to "drum up business".
  • July 24 2013 - US
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Be a Good Neighbor. Be respectful and on-topic. No spam or self-promotion! See our Good Neighbor Policy.

 
 

Answers (126)

Profile picture for Dunes ..
"communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service"

Haven't really noticed a lot of that communicating the value stuff..a lot of Huff & Puff about the right to Huff & Puff but not a lot of actually "communicating the value"


  • July 24 2013
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Shouldn't this be a blog post?
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
No, I don't think this should be a blog post. I believe that how REAs market their services, or hype their product, is a valid topic of discussion between REAs and consumers.

For example, the latest NAR advert on tv really says nothing about planning, value, stability of communities, etc. The message I received from it is...
 
"Wait to think about your decision, and watch the-house-of-your-dreams be bought by someone else."

A nice buy-now-before-it's-too-late theme, but doesn't exactly align with the notion of promoting the services REAs provide. Then again, it can be argued that "pushing product" is a different marketing campaign than "justifying cost of services".
  • July 25 2013
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Silly me. I thought a question was a question, and a blog post was a declaration.

Anyway, here's a bump.
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
Blog posts are only done by Zillow employees, or at the request of Zillow staff on Zillow... http://www.zillowblog.com/

Consumers and agents and other site users on Zillow only have a choice of "discussion" or "question" on Zillow's forum... this thread was posted as a "discussion", which is what it is, and what it should be.  It has absolutely nothing at all to do with "blogs", which only means a "web log" of a given person; kind of like a diary entry on a given subject the owner of the blog cares about.

Yes, there is a big difference between marketing and puffery, but when people have no experience with marketing, they usually result to puffery.  And certainly, NAR has been encouraging that for their members for decades.  I see the puffery in other advertisement and sales industries too, but the so called "competition" between "independent contractors" that typically only have a high school diploma, 160 hours "training", and a few dozen sales transactions experience seems to encourage more of the "best" and "top agent" puffery as they don't seem to have much other qualifications to market.
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for Dunes ..
Zillow always has Blogs posted disguised as questions under the yadda yadda we don't have spiel that's dug out on occasion...
Not a silly question or view imho

nor is

Posted as "Discussion"..conveniently find category to post "Discussion in so it will make All Topics page
No no no nope my discussion isn't General Discussion..
If it was I might have to deal with or actually question Zillow about their placement of the General Discussion category
(Doesn't make the All-Topics Page)

Naw none of my discussions/questions/threads belong in General Discussion..
Nope, not mine, no no nope

Definitely one of my main pet peeves lol

I counting my post/this post as a bump also ;)
Bump
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
If the discussion is about "marketing" in general; then it appears that "pro to pro" is the right category; though I don't think you will find many "professionals" that consider their marketing tactics "puffery", even if they do use words like "best" and "top agent".

Personally, I prefer "no marketing"; but perhaps that is why I don't have 3 dozen employees.
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for Dunes ..
I never doubted for 1 second that you felt this discussion belonged exactly where it was placed..the All Topics Page ;)
Think any Discussion posted by any non-agent regular (including me..well maybe not) placed in any All Topics category would be.
it's exactly where it belongs
The All Topics Page lol

How many Discussions have Regulars posted since Zillow Questions
Answer..a bunch
How many General Discussions have been posted by Regulars since Zillow Questions?
Any discussions posted by regulars except discussions that belong on the All Topics Page?

Puffery? ...or Puffed up?...or just full of Puff? ;)
I gotta lay off the coffee lol



  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
I'm thinking there is a good reason that "Cheesy poofs" are a favorite snack of many Realtors...  on the other hand, maybe it is just a meaningless correlation, or maybe there is no correlation at all since a small random sampling is not sufficient for any verifiable study.  As they say, "testimonials" and "case studies" may have helpful insights, but they don't meet FDA guidelines for efficacy.

  • July 25 2013
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Bump.

Well, it's been 24 hours, and the Public has Ignored this Topick.

We coulda discussed this in the bar . . .
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
Public ignored the topic?  I don't think so... not with 121 views in just over one day; not with only 12 posts...

There are good reasons that agents may prefer not to post on such thread topics, but it doesn't mean they didn't read it.
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for Dunes ..
Why the Bar instead of here? ...

122 views so far..
Someone hasn't ignored it and if I keep bumping it just for fun, yadda yaddaing then this Topick on the the All Topics Page will be seen by that "Public" when they do pass through

I honestly think 122 views is more than the Tavern got on it's first day..gotten a few more views since then

  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr

It's a personal opinion, and I may be the only one who holds it, but...

-- Appeals to emotion are the heart-and-soul of "sales".
-- What I consistently hear is "we are professionals, and provide services"
-- Most professionals I deal with (leastways, those I respect and will do business with) market services, and avoid emotional appeals.
-- When I hear appeals to emotion, I assume there is nothing else of value to market.

I understand, and can even appreciate, appeals to emotion when marketing a specific product (or, in the case of RE, a property). But, the use of emotional appeals at the "industry level" can have negative carry-over when an attempt is made to transition to discussing services.

  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for hpvanc
I agree with a lot of what has been said already, let's keep bumping it. It is same topic that agents avoid and/or try to avert on so many consumer threads.
  • July 25 2013
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Isn't it fabulous that you have a forum of thousands of viewers for expressing an opinion that only you hold?
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for Dunes ..
I don't know..is it fabulous?
  • July 25 2013
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Profile picture for Dunes ..
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for Go Huskers
Aargh, Darn, Shoot... too bad there wasn't that perfect, definitive example of "puffery."

"Cynthia is recognized by her peers as one of the leading experts in garden homes in the region, and consults with agents throughout the Northwest on the marketing of special garden homes."

PS, "One of the leading" is a dead give away to PUFFERY! 

I think EVERYONE qualifies as "one of the leading" something.

One of the leading experts in wetting themselves.
Prince George Alexander Louis.

One of the leading experts in dirt.
Worms, snails, ants, TMZ.

One of the leading experts in real estate.
Zillow? 

One too many?
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
"Isn't it fabulous that you have a forum of thousands of viewers for expressing an opinion that only you hold?"

I think it's nice (don't know I'd go so far as "fabulous") that there is a forum where consumers can ask questions, post opinions, and try to engage pros on topics of interest. I don't know that I'm the only one who holds to any opinions I express (others may share them), but I'm just trying to be realistic and not make any grandiose claims that I speak for some "greater, silent masses".

"Now is a great time to buy", to me, is puffery.

Marketing, and demonstrating one's RE skills version...
-- Inventory is at X months
-- Prices are at Y
-- Local market trend for inventory/price at X, X+6, X+12, X+24 months are

Even if the numbers can be easily derived (I'd be surprised if they're not already in some canned report), it at least provides the consumer with a baseline set of information...even better if the trendlines go back 5-10 years to support curve smoothing.

Most NAR designations are, in my opinion (again), puffery. A one day seminar, a few hours online, a few multiple guess tests...and, wallah, a certified "Short Sale Specialist", or "Senior Advocate", or whatever marketing flavor NAR is pushing. Missing something... Oh, yeah. NAR membership, dues, and a processing fee.

Overly cynical? Perhaps. But, would be much more impressed with...
-- X successful short sales, Y in past 12 months
-- X days-on-market for listings, compared to local average of Y
-- Sales average X% of listing price

This may all be the sound of one-hand-clapping, but it never hurts to try.
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for workabee
Difference is that marketing is what professionals do, puffery is what agents do. They get paid to lie on commission.
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
"You wouldn't do surgery on yourself would you?"

"You wouldn't hire a painter to do brain surgery would you?"

"Call a local Realtor®, they will give you the 'exact' value in their CMA"
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
"Difference is that marketing is what professionals do, puffery is what agents do. They get paid to lie on commission."

Unfortunately, that's the type of comment that discourages any meaningful discussion.

#1 - It paints all REAs with one broad brush.
#2 - It differentiates "agents" from "professionals", in a derogatory manner. "Professional", irrespective of profession, is a matter of how a person conducts their business.
#3 - "They get paid to lie on commission." Consumer puffery? Actually, may go beyond that into completely unfair generalization. I've met many REAs who were completely ethical/truthful. Doesn't mean I agree with everything they promote, but...

Thanks for posting an example of how not to engage in any meaningful discussion. I may not be posting thoughts that REAs will heartily endorse, but neither am I universally slamming them with outlandish accusations.

It would be nice to get REA input other than Mack's "you're a tool" posts, but it may well be that there's still no room/impetus for a conversation on the topic (especially since, to be fair, I am asking the REA to turn a critical eye on their own profession).
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for Dunes ..
SoCal
I'm gonna be serious for a moment with ya....oh no!!!!!

This topic is anything but frivolous, the laughable suggestion that it is of no interest to the public or unimportant or doesn't belong here is just self-serving tripe imo

That being said...
Obviously I feel it's an important Topic and it's been discussed often, NAR &* RE Marketing "Experts" ;) have held seminars to address it, articles have been written, people have complained, the American Bar Association has published opinions and info about it (I'll post some of those as the discussion grows)... as others might
Studies about it's impact, use, the practice have been done by Companies, corporations, Psychologists and yes..even the Government, DOJ, FTC

Puffery Defense is a Legal Defense that's used as the Links above show..must be a reason it's used or felt to be needed


So?
 Let's not worry about the sound of one-hand-clapping cause that's not the case and let's instead stick to "communicating the value" of this product/topic
It's your thread, excellent Topic, worthy and important issue/discussion for Consumers..take charge

Hopefully all of us (alright mostly me ;) will put aside the rants, the sweeping generalizations, pet peeves and give this Topic, this discussion, this Forum and the consumer the respect they deserve


  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
To me, the issue would be so easy for NAR leadership to "correct" simply by redoing all their talking points, making it clear what plagiarism  is and warning their members to avoid it, and by realizing that exaggeration is not needed for "sales", and making that clear to their members.  Even such simple things as not over-reporting the number of annual housing sales in the U.S.  NAR leadership does a disservice to their members with the distortions.

But so far, I've seen no movement on NAR's part to correct this issue.

For the most part, the Realtors® didn't trash the registered trademark and title "Realtor"; NAR leadership did; both the elected leadership and the paid leadership (including their economist).
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
"For the most part, the Realtors® didn't trash the registered trademark and title "Realtor"; NAR leadership did; both the elected leadership and the paid leadership (including their economist)."

Okay, let's assume the premise.
 
Then, what do consumers want to see from the individual REAs? More importantly, what type of marketing will consumers reward with their business? Because, after-all-is-said-and-done, it's unrealistic to expect anyone to sacrifice their income for our "wants", and it's also unrealistic to expect a business to not utilize successful approaches.

Personally, when it comes to an individual REA (vice a house), I respond to one who knows their value. That means that they can demonstrate a strong awareness of the local market, as well as an awareness of the value of their services. Where I believe my "wants" departs from the REA's is that I also want them to understand that not all of their services have value to all of their customers.

As an engineering type, it'd be nice to have objective measures of quality-of-service, other than "it sold, didn't it?".
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for Dunes ..
I think you could replace "Nar" with "Zillow" in your post Pasa and it would be just as true ;)

Puffery isn't just an RE Industry issue (we discuss it in the RE context because this is an RE Forum)..it is a Marketing issue, a practice used by Zillow, the Government, Starbucks, Lawyers, Financial institutions..all who advertise and/or sell

If RE is unique in anyway or it seems more prevalent imo it's because you have 1,000,000 + Agents Marketing and Agencies marketing and NAR marketing and the RE Marketing experts selling Leads, ways to get clients, get rich, get a niche, get get ;)

All aren't gonna Huff & Puff, maybe only a small % Huff & Puff but that small % is still a lot of Huff & Puffers with multiple easily accessed platforms to use for Huffin & Puffin.
and
Many (even according to NAR Profiles/Reports/Claims) don't have a lot of "-- X successful short sales, Y in past 12 months-- X days-on-market for listings, compared to local average of Y-- Sales average X% of listing price" to market
  • July 26 2013
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Sorry, SoCal, I must have misread "It's a personal opinion, and I may be the only one who holds it, but..."

This pretty much looks like a tavern. Where's Debbie Rose?

I have to say, I'd be much more interested in y'all's opinion of how real estate agents "should" market if y'all were anywhere near typical and representative of actual real estate clients!

Oh, by the way - any chance that any of your claims against the RE industry could be construed as, "puffery?" Nah. What was I thinking?

Sidecar, please.
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
"I think you could replace "NAR" with "Zillow" in your post Pasa and it would be just as true" -

I think I could not... Zillow publishes their tolerance range on the estimates they do, and specifically notes the limitations of their calculation methods, and Zillow never claims to represent anyone other than themselves (about 500 people).

Yes, they have through Zillow Academy suggested some "lead generation" strategies that are exceptionally questionable, even to the point of intentionally violating Zillow's terms of use of the website; but it is not like they have any authority on that.  Nor is it like they represent sales people other than the advertising sales they sell for the website.  They are nothing more than a Newspaper classified advertisement section with some editorials, and nothing else, and they won't ever be anything else, in spite of them having a broker's license in Texas.  They also don't spend millions of dollars of members' money lobbying the federal government for really bad housing and lending policies, nor lobbying the public to vote for selected politicians to support really bad housing and lending policies.

Zillow is not a trade organization, and never pretends to be.

Yes, I am a member of several trade organizations... but they don't seem to be run the way NAR is, in spite of the political aspects of those organizations as well.  And at least two of them have substantial monopolies in this country, and even extending to other countries.  At least the trade organizations that I'm a member of do not do things to embarrass their members.  And no, I don't use any registered trademark owned by the trade organizations as any kind of "title" for promoting business.
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
"Then, what do consumers want to see from the individual REAs? More importantly, what type of marketing will consumers reward with their business?" -

I've learned a long time ago that I'm not a typical consumer, and that typical marketing people are not marketing to me, but to "average" or "typical" consumers.  Certainly I don't reward people that claim to be "best" with any business.  Likely I was overly influenced by the book "The Hidden Persuaders" years ago.  Yes, I want statistics, but that is probably already obvious.

No, I don't want any "hand holding", or pretend "education".  No, I don't want them interpreting standardized forms and contracts for me.

For "listing", I want to know their success rate (average days on market, list price to present market value ratio, and average sold price to list price ratio).  And I want to know how little of my money they will be taking out of my pocket to do so.  And I want to know what security measures they will be providing when strangers are in my house uninvited by me.  And I want to know what moving prep and cleaning prep and curb appeal prep they will be providing.  And I want to know where they will specifically be marketing, and what kinds of updates I will be receiving.  And I want to know the tolerance range on their CMA's.

For "buying", I want absolutely no opinions of any kind on anything I'm looking at, other than the detailed CMA with line item adjustments for each home prior to looking at it.  Nor do I want them recommending any "professionals" to me.  Nor do I want them asking personal questions about me nor my family.  Nor do I want them generating any barbershop "small talk" on any subject.  Nor do I want them to try to pretend that I will now be a friend for the next 50 years, and false promises of how they will take me out to dinner 3 times a week.  Nor do I want them trying to interpret any inspection reports for me.  Nor do I want them doing any "negotiations" for me nor on my behalf.  I simply want them to give me as much access to the local MLS as I need, and access to the homes I want to see on my schedule, with as much time as I need to see what is important to me, and for them to coordinate entry for my inspectors and appraisers and any other facilitation required.  I also want them to file my offers and counter offers in a timely manner and to follow them up with phone calls.  And I want them to keep me updated on status changes of properties I've expressed interest in or made offers on.

What I want is not "too much to ask", but it is not what most agents posting on Zillow seem to be offering.  Nor is it what most of the agents I personally know seem to provide either.

  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for hpvanc
Zillow is just as guilty of puffery in their selling and marketing to agents, lenders and other advertisers as agents are in using puffery with the general public.  The agents at least seem to have a different take on it than what at least the subset of the public I belong to has.  The only similarity is that they have extremely limited regard for the services Zillow offers to the public, they don't seem to take umbrage over the misrepresentations that are used to sell premier agent services and other advertising to them.  Personally I'm not sure why, whether it is simply a different personality type that focuses their anger exclusively against the product/service, or a "professional courtesy" that gives the representative a pass for pushing it in a misleading manner.

I'd also bet Zillow is spending on lobbying. My take on lobbying, you can't take on only the lobbyists for agendas you dislike, you have to take on all lobbying. Lobbying for what you believe in isn't itself a problem, it only becomes a problem when you make it your life work and start trying to make a living it it. I content the same thing is true of puffery, those that make a career of it are a bigger problem than the puffery itself.  You can't and shouldn't eliminate it entirely, but we need to take a hard look at whether we should support even tacitly someone who makes it their life work.

Can someone who has made selling/marketing their career remain above puffery?  I'm sure their are a few that can, but a vast majority will not be able to stay in without becoming primarily a pufferist, you would have to blind, deaf, and in total isolation to miss how much peer pressure their is within those occupations to resort to puffery.
  • July 26 2013
  • 2Yes

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