It’s Time to End Discriminatory Marketing in Real Estate
Housing, and specifically, home and land ownership is a fundamental right. The preamble to the National Association of Realtors Code of ethics includes the phrase “Under ALL is the Land”. Home ownership is important to ALL. (All races and religions.) Home ownership is the cornerstone to our industry and is key to growing wealth in our great nation. Yet, this fundamental building block has not always been in place. It’s almost ancient history – yet was a primary reason for changing laws to allow women to own property, and for former slaves and people of color to also obtain property ownership so they too could grow wealth.
The US real estate industry has contributed greatly to the wealth, growth and success of countless families and businesses. However, the impacts of a very negative and troubling history continue to linger. There are three key issues that continue to plague the housing industry: equal housing opportunities, redlining, and steering. We have some ideas on how we can help solve them.
Niche Marketing vs Discriminatory Marketing
As a marketer, and as a human, most of us are good people and most are aware of social issues from a high level. Most of us would not want to intentionally cause harm, prevent someone from buying or to define who would or could live in a neighborhood.
However, as a data company, we get requests from people that are not trying to “do bad” but who have just not flushed out their logic. But also, I’m not naive, there are others who definitely are trying to work the system to the detriment of others.
For example: we have a product called Reside. Reside provides our clients with a database of contacts who live in a specific geography. We frequently receive inbound requests and are asked to only provide a specific racial group, or to omit a racial group.
But it goes further – we’ve also received requests for including/excluding specific religions. Marketers request this data to enable niche marketing and segmentation of their hyperlocal neighborhood. (Hyperlocal marketing is marketing that focuses on a targeted audience within a local area.) This tactic zeroes in on only a small number of consumers, but can significantly increase brand awareness and buyers.
Niche marketing seems simple: a segmented geographic area or demographic is specifically excluded. But choosing one group of people over another can cause long term negative effects. Marketing just to specific people that look like you omits others from even having the opportunity. Geographic farming smells a whole lot like (unintentional) discrimination if you are picking who you market to based on home prices and likely income levels.
This is a grey area that needs to be discussed in the industry. How should marketers focus on key demographics while not discriminating? What are our industry standards that should be adopted? This needs to be discussed more publicly to get a wide variety of feedback so we can formulate more of the map for the conscious marketer that I’ve written about previously.
For the record, Revaluate does not give race or religion data to marketers. This has been our policy since day one. Yet – we wanted to do more. We wanted to take a stand and draw a line and help marketers do right. We’ve been thinking more and more about being “conscious marketers.”
Today, I’m pleased to share that we’ve shifted our official stance to deepen our commitment. We want to plant a flag that not only works for Revaluate, but that can be used by members of the Industry at large in an effort to move forward. So today, I want to share it with you in order to get your feedback and input.
Covering our eyes and avoiding the situation like a scared child hiding under the bed is not a solution. We are the adults in the room, and it’s up to us to look for problems and fix them. It is tough, and it’s indeed difficult to grasp the enormity of the situation as I sit here today, yet I believe together we can make a difference.
Please share with me your thoughts, feedback and concerns.