The Hero vs The Villain – A Formula for Success When Selling Your Home. – April 2015

Remember the hilarious television ads that ran from 2006 to 2009 that featured 2 guys? One guy was a young, cool dude in casual clothing, the other dorky looking guy, slightly overweight and with glasses. They would talk about each of their features. The ‘cool’ guy would talk about what he could do, how user friendly he was, how he never got ‘bogged’ down. The ‘dorky’ guy would try to counteract each point of the cool guy but would fail miserably. Each guy represented a company. The cool guy was a smaller underdog taking on the big corporate giant.

Who was the brain child behind this ad campaign that featured Mac vs PC? That’s right Apple, run by Steve Jobs.

See what Jobs knows is that every good story has a hero and a villain. Good versus Evil. The classic Antagonist versus Protagonist. You introduce the Antagonist (the problem) and then you rally the audience around the Hero. This is exactly what Jobs did with the famous Mac vs PC ad campaign that was a smashing success and even evolved into having famous people endorse Mac saying they were Mac users. The genius behind this campaign is that it ‘rallied’ the audience around the Hero (Apple/Mac) against the big, evil, giant PC.

The same formula is used all the time in Novels, TV shows, corporate branding strategies, comic books, and movies. What would Batman do if there was no Joker? How about Coke vs Pepsi? Nike vs Reebok? Verizon vs Sprint? Avis vs Hertz? FedEx vs Postal Service? When competing for the same dollar from consumers you need to build your brand and gain a rabid, loyal following. The best way to do this is to have a villain with whom you are competing.

Presenting the Hero/Villain strategy correctly can have immediate and long lasting benefits when introducing products.

You introduce the villain. Talk about the villain’s features. Then solve the problem that the villain causes by introducing the Hero.

Another example where Jobs brilliantly used this Hero/Villain scenario was when he introduced the iPhone. [Jobs made the following points, and others during his unveiling.] Before the iPhone revolutionized ‘Smart Phones,’ the state-of-the-art phones at that time (Blackberry, Palm Treo, etc.) all had these awkward keyboards. Their user interface was tough to navigate. They had 40 buttons, and you had no idea what half of them did. Some had a stylus that you would lose or break. (Trust me, I went through a number of them).

Jobs built up the Villain/Antagonist as an outdated, slow, awkward phone with limited capabilities. Then with each point, he would introduce a new, modern, sleeker, more efficient solution to the problem. Each solution built on the last until he introduced the iPhone. If you remember the iPhone was the breakthrough Smart Phone that changed the industry. Gone were the awkward keypads. The keyboard was removed from the exterior of the phone and placed within a full-size screen. Gone were the unnecessary buttons and flimsy stylus. In place of the stylus you’d use your finger (a man-made stylus). The iPhone had the capability to hold music, so like the iPad, and you no longer had to have 2 devices for communication and music. Plus the browsing (internet) options on the iPhone were also revolutionary.

Jobs knew exactly what he wanted to do and how he wanted to position the iPhone, and thus he was wildly successful in differentiating Apple products from the competitors’.

Think of your home as ‘The Hero.’

Subconsciously when purchasers are looking at homes they fall back to this principle of comparing one home to the next. Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion, refers to this as the Contrast Principle. In the field of psychophysics the contrast principle is well-established and common knowledge. There is a principle in human perception that affects the way we see differences between objects, and if the second object is vastly different than the first, then the ‘perception’ of the difference between the two objects is magnified. There was an experiment done (and you can do this at home) which starts with 3 buckets of water: one ice cold, the other hot and the 3rd at room temperature. Stick your hands in the hot and cold water individually at the same time. Then put both of your hands in the room temperature bucket. Even though that water is the same temperature, the hand that was in the cold bucket now feels hot and vice-versa. This is an example the contrast principle using your sense of touch.

The contrast principle can also be just as powerful visually.

Visually, the contrast principle, is the one that you should focus on when selling your home. The house should ‘stand-out’ against the competition (the Villains) so that when a potential buyer sees your home, the ‘perception’ of your home is so different than everything else they’ve seen that they MUST buy your home.

Apple does this with their products and technology, but they also do this with their packaging. Have you ever received an Apple product? The presentation is simple, yet sophisticated, and you feel like you are unwrapping the future.

You want to accomplish the same thing when unveiling your home to potential buyers. Make them feel that they are unwrapping their future, their new home. There are specific steps taken to make sure buyers see your home in a positive light compared to the competition, the other homes they could purchase instead of yours.

Two of the ways to make sure that your home is presented conveyed correctly to the potential buyers through what is called the Continuity Principle. The first is visually. You home’s photos must POP, must entice buyers to drop what they are doing and call to schedule a showing of your home. Second is through the written word. A properly written ‘Story’ can create an emotional attachment to your home, and once the buyer is emotionally invested the obstacles to making an offer are eliminated.

Humans learn and retain information differently.

Some are visual retainers; some retain better with written words. That is why it is important to not only have your photos pop, but to also have a unique, descriptive, emotionally enhanced Story written about your home. A study by Dr. Richard Mayer of the University of California concluded that when combining words and pictures, the retention rate was 65% better than just one or the other. Mayer says, “The Continuity Principle is not surprising if you know how the brain works.

When the brain is allowed to build two mental representations…the mental connections are that much stronger.”

Your Home’s Story is not only visually told through amazing photos, but also with a corresponding Property Story that is written to create an emotional attachment. One without the other eliminates half of the population because everyone retains information differently.

Recently I had a seller who wanted to test the upper limits of the market. They wanted to try and price their home $20,000 over what everything else in the area was selling.

I knew these sellers would follow every piece of advice, so I was willing to give it a shot, without making any promises to them about the outcome. I explained to them that IF there is any chance of getting the price of what you want to get, then we have to do A, B, and C. They did exactly what was outlined by the Stagers and when we took the pictures, the home photographed amazingly. These were some of the best pictures that I’ve ever seen and were definitely magazine worthy. But not only that, the sellers kept the house as clean as a whistle. I even joked with them every time I went over, “Are you sure that you are still living there?” Their home was clear of clutter, kitchen always spotless, bath rooms perfect, hardwood clean, and carpet vacuumed. It was Leonardo DaVinci that said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Their Home’s Story was also written in a four page article format that could have also been in a magazine, so both bases were covered, and their home was delivered to the market both visually and by written word.

We had 12 showings during the first two weeks on the market, and the feedback was always the same that the house STOOD OUT from the competition and people fell in love when they entered the home. Within 3 weeks we had 2 offers, accepting one and then a week later received a back-up offer from someone else who just ‘had to have it.’ The contract price shattered every other home sale in the area because of the presentation and the fact that, when compared to every other home in the immediate area, their home blew away the competition.

This example demonstrates the power of the Contrast Principle and how when presenting your home, it is import to differentiate it from the competition.

Much like the Mac vs PC Ad in the late 2000s, your home sale should be viewed as your home (Hero) versus your competition (Villain). Make sure you are the Hero and not the Villain by using the strategies outlined here.