I’ve spent much of my time this weekend looking for a place to rent for our holidays next summer. It’s one of the most enjoyable bits for me and I just love looking around at who’s letting what and how much they want for it.
But this weekend, I noticed something else altogether and that is how few decent platforms there now are offering a good access to rental properties and how undifferentiated some of those competing have become.
The one we used to use all the time was Holiday Rentals. These have now either been taken over by, or are changing their name to Home Away, which I have to say is a sightly weaker name than they have already.
The .com name takes you to a more US based site and the old UK name takes you to the interim UK (ish) site.
The site that seemed to have the most property in the area we were looking was actually another one called Holiday Lettings. I didn’t realise at the time, but this is part of Rightmove and works very well indeed.
But the one that really shocked me was Owners Direct (UK).
It may be my imagination, but this is the one that started the direct rental revolution many years ago (even though Holiday Lettings claim it is ten years old!).
They are in a situation where the four simple combinations of their domain name are owned by different people with totally different sites.
http://www.owners-direct.co.uk/ is dreadful holding page.
http://www.ownersdirect.com/ is an individual trying (unsuccessfully I assume) to sell their house in Virginia for $599,000
And http://www.owners-direct.com/ is another portal style site that doesn’t really have any stock.
But, for a market to be this confused is terrible for customers. It’s a simple lesson to any brand or business owners as to why you need to be really clearly differentiated in the market you address.
It’s not always important to say exactly what you do in your name (the Ronseal, does exactly what is says on the tin school of thought) but it’s absolutely vital that it is very clear who you are and what you stand for.
The alternative school of thought (the Egg, Orange O2 model) is one that has an equal place but is perhaps now done to death in certain markets as we run out of fruits, colours and fluffy animals with an available domain name.
It’s a basic fact that If you look the same as your competitors, your customers will not know who you are and why they should talk to you.
Perhaps that’s why all those years ago we called our business Purple Circle and not the very forgettable Fisk, Lyle, Slack to join the army of three name acronym design agencies that dominated the early 90’s.
The rules are still the same now, and I’m truly amazed that there are still some site/brand owners, like Owners Direct who haven’t learnt them.