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Diversified corporates entering real estate changing marketing perception of the sector, says DLF's Karan Kumar

In a conversation with, Kumar, the Senior Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer of DLF talks about using storytelling, digital engagement and experiential marketing to reach out to high-end consumers. He shares the marketing strategy of the real estate company

Karan Kumar

There is a notion that real estate campaigns often lack creativity and are not clutter-breaking in nature. Karan Kumar, Senior Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, DLF, wants to change that outlook.

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In an interaction with, Kumar, who's the first-ever Chief Marketing Officer of the realty major, said that India's real estate industry has now completely evolved as several corporates from diverse sectors have entered into the field. He said such players are also changing the way the industry has been marketing and advertising.

"There are certain groups that are traditionally non-real estate players and have now ventured into the real estate sector. They've brought varied knowledge to the real estate sector from other businesses such as consumer durables, automobiles or lifestyle businesses. This clearly says there is an opportunity to learn the best practices from outside the real estate industry," he said.

On the other hand, he said, "I also appreciate the dynamics of the real estate industry and work with those advantages, making those advantages bigger, so it's a fusion. It's like trading a new recipe for a new dish where you work with the current understanding of the benchmarks of the industry that you come into, and you also infuse a lot of new ideas, new energy and fresh momentum and a lot of experience from the previous industries that you worked for."

The overall DLF business is split into two buckets of business verticals. One is the development company, which is responsible for the construction of real estate projects; the other is a rental company responsible for leasing out and renting various commercial and retail properties that it owns. Marketing efforts have happened individually in both these businesses across various projects and at the levels of product, brand and marketing managers. But the realty brand officially had no Chief Marketing Officer before. It's a position that's been created for the first time when Kumar joined DLF.

Kumar said, "At some point of time, DLF, which has a legacy of almost 74 years, realised that it needs to have a core marketing function, a core marketing team which is project- and geography-agnostic. The core marketing team will not just take care of the individual projects as they come along, but also build along with the overall DLF brand and further the equity of DLF as a corporate brand. I think that realisation must have been a trigger to create a core, central, marketing function."

While the brand was already doing the regular below-the-line and above-the-line traditional marketing across projects at individual levels, it will now increase its focus on new-age marketing mix, including digital, social, influencer and performance marketing.

Kumar added, "The emphasis on PR, experiential engagements would also be areas that require a more concerted, single-minded plan to be in place. I think there would be a need to centralise a lot of things and bring them under one umbrella where common templates are created, benchmarks are set, baseline performances are marked, and you always end up doing work which is the new industry normal."                   

Talking about the marketing plans for DLF, Kumar said the group would focus more on the digital and experiential space. Kumar wants to change the notion that the industry lacks creativity in communication. He said the lack of importance given to new-age creative methods of communication in the real estate sector is also the reason people think the industry is not creative.

"Maybe traditional players have not looked at storytelling and content marketing as strongly as some of their peers in the other industries. But if you ask me, I cannot understand how storytelling and content marketing cannot play an important role. Has it played a part in the past, the answer is probably no, and that is the reason there are these notions that the real estate industry has not been up to the mark in communications."

"My counterpoint is very simple. If you need string powerful storytelling to sell a pack of chips, you have a space for storytelling, content marketing, consumer engagement, interactions and conversations to sell a residential space worth crores. We will see this as an opportunity area, and we will be working very strongly in the digital storytelling space," he said.

He also highlighted the importance of experiential marketing when it comes to selling luxury properties. Kumar said, "Any product that is in the super-luxury space is a product that is best discovered by discerning clients and customers, rather than it being brushed broadly. Anything that is super luxurious has to be experienced, it has to be seen, touched, felt and heard. Because no amount of photograph or illustration will be able to do justice."

"Luxury marketing is not about marketing on the rooftops. It has to be very individualised, personalised and one on one," Kumar added.

Having a strong foothold in Chennai, Bangalore, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Panchkula, Kasauli, Shimla. Kolkata, Delhi and Gurgaon, Kumar has a huge task ahead of building up the marketing team of DLF. Currently, the team consists of 10-12 people. Kumar is in the process of hiring more people for DLF's core marketing team, which will be ready in 3-4 months to create campaigns cutting across mediums of communication.

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