The Coldwell Banker CMO sat down with Inman to discuss some of the highlights from the real estate company’s Gen Blue event this year, which included a highly unscripted interview with NBA giant Shaquille O’Neal.

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This week, Coldwell Banker held its Gen Blue 2023 event in Atlanta. The theme was the power of storytelling, and how agents could implement stories into their business.

Inman caught up with Coldwell Banker Chief Marketing Officer David Marine to dish on the key takeaways from the conference and highlights during the three-day event, including a very free-wheeling interview Marine conducted with NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, in which the former Lakers center urged Marine to “relax” and “just be loose like we’re in the club or something” while alternately complimenting and ribbing Marine for his “hot” white pants.

As the event comes to a close today with a series of breakout sessions throughout the day, Marine shared some of the high points. The following interview is lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Inman: I wanted to ask you about the theme for this year at Gen Blue, which is storytelling. Why do you think storytelling was an apt theme for this year’s event?

David Marine | Coldwell Banker

David Marine: Storytelling is something that is near and dear to my heart as well, and I think that the value of telling a story, especially in this market, is more critical than ever. We’re in an industry that is a growing sea of sameness, the ability to showcase what it is that you do differently and how to communicate that to your customers, both from a brand, but also as an individual agent, is critical and we know that stories sell they have the power to persuade and to even provoke purchase. And so to me, it is one of the classic skill sets that never goes old and is recession proof and will be valuable in any type of market.

Excellent. There have been so many sessions and panels happening over the last few days. What are some of the things at this year’s event that have excited you or energized you the most?

I’ve actually been energized by people’s excitement around the theme of storytelling and their desire to learn how to do that better. Whether it’s telling the story of global luxury to the brand itself to formulating their own local one, that to me has been exciting. The No. 1 excitement from everyone leading up to the event, and even here, has been Shaquille O’Neal’s appearance, and just really enjoying this larger-than-life character and just the kind of excitement and the culture-building moment around that.

And then obviously, the breakout sessions. There’s the variety of them from whether it’s AI to social media best practices, to mastermind sessions, to breaking into the luxury markets. The real success of this event, and basically every event that we do is the ability for our global network to be able to connect with each other. And so there’s an agent from Cyprus, connecting with someone from Atlanta. We’ve got our friends in Monaco ownership with our Miami teams, and everywhere in between. That’s really been the greatest value that we can provide to our network.

Very exciting. I did catch Shaquille O’Neal’s conversation with you, which was fun and seemed kind of off-script. How did you feel about that? And how did you roll with the punches?

Oh, you noticed that? [Laughs] Yes, it was completely off-script. And you know, you send his team questions ahead of time to approve and all that kind of stuff. But then once we got to that stage, it was crystal clear that he was running the show. And I needed to just follow suit, but that was a lifetime experience moment for me, just to be able to do it and go with it. He is a character. He’s a cultural icon. And so I know that even when he’s poking fun, that he’s doing it to entertain, so I just wanted to go along with it and make it a good experience for everyone there. And personally, I was thrilled to be able to do it. And as I walked offstage, he turned to me and he said, ‘Thanks for being such a good sport.’ And he does a lot of these, and not everyone is [a good sport], but I thought it made it a great closing out of that general session and the network in the audience here has responded well to it.

Absolutely. It was a lot of fun to watch.

I did wear my white pants all day yesterday, just to prove him wrong.

Good for you. And, I know you mentioned that AI is one of the topics that has come up over and over again across the event and just wanted to see how your marketing department is using AI or how you yourself are finding ways to implement it in your business now.

Yeah, the AI landscape right now is very reminiscent of social media in the mid 2000s. Where it was like ‘What is this? This feels like it might be something, but not everybody’s buying into it yet.’ And when you look at social media back then versus now, it’s completely different worlds. And obviously there’s outlets that didn’t exist back then and now are the largest ones that are there.

So we’re looking at AI, I think it’s a very similar situation where you have to be aware of it. You have to start figuring out an understanding of it, but it may not have the full impact that it will eventually have, but you know it’s coming. So very much taking the philosophy — and I think it’s even what we’re sharing with agents here — of starting to get an understanding of it. Dabble in it. It doesn’t mean you have to implement it into your full business activities, but start getting a grasp on it because this is something that is going to impact this down the road.

From a brand marketing side, we’re using it to help craft search engine marketing copy, to refine what works and what doesn’t. We’re looking at it from a visual standpoint of finding the right visual imagery. But the AI sessions here at Gen Blue are about educating our network on what is going on, showing them some of the capabilities of it, but it’s not like this has to immediately be impacted to every area of your business. But you should have a grasp on what’s to come because in two to three months from now, it could completely change the landscape. That’s how quickly the space is evolving.

Right. Just as you’re thinking about the event as a whole. What do you think are one or two of the biggest takeaways that attendees should be going home with this week?

First and foremost, they should be going home with the ability to tell their own story. And so the goal of this event was really for them to walk away not only to tell the Coldwell Banker story, and their own story, but what’s the story of the market? What’s the story of the luxury space? So everybody should be walking out of here equipped with some aspect of how they can craft that and then what are ways that they can execute it as well.

And then really, the point of these events is also just to unite the network in a moment of time and make those personal connections as well. You can’t walk down the halls here at Gen Blue and not run into someone who’s like, ‘I hadn’t seen this person in how many years and now I got a referral for them.’ ‘I was looking for someone in Tallahassee and I found them here was able to make that connection.’ And so this is often a jumping-off point for those referrals and those lifetime connections.

Interestingly enough, there’s one gentleman — I’ve been with the company for for 21 years now — his name is J.R., and I’ve seen him at every conference, every year that I’ve been with the company, and we don’t really talk that often in between, but I get to see him here. And this is the first one he’s missed in my entire career. But I ran into one of his one of his marketing people [who is] here. She came up to me and she said, ‘J.R. wanted me to find you. Let’s take a picture and I want to text it to him right now.’ And she did, and immediately J.R. texted me back … But it’s those types of things which are just small moments, but it speaks to the quality of the brand and the people that are part of it. Where even if you only see them once a year, or you don’t see them that year, those are relationships that can last and that’s what draws people to Coldwell Banker, and that’s why we’ve survived for not only 116 years, but succeeded for 117 as well.

What a nice moment. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One of the other highlights that we’ve been talking about here, is our Dream Campaign on Thursday Night Football with a new aspect that we call the ‘Move Meter Matchup,’ where we take a customized version of our creative and allowed our network to customize and compare the cities of the teams that are playing, whether it’s on Thursday night football, or on Sunday or even their local college or high school teams. It’s been a fantastic campaign to start off, and in fact, Thursday Night Football has seen record breaking viewership. Week 2 of the NFL was the most viewed streaming game on the NFL ever. And we also have a great custom video tool where our agents can customize these ads for their own markets. And we just opened it up for agents to customize this past week and we’ve seen over 10,000 videos have been customized to date. So we’re really excited about seeing this continue, not only throughout the football season, but how we can continue to use it through 2024 as well.

Email Lillian Dickerson

Coldwell Banker
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