BUILDING A BRAND
FOR YOUR REAL ESTATE BUSINESS
First, What is a Brand?
There’s so much more to real estate branding than a logo. Your brand is who you are, everywhere you are. It’s the entire persona of your business. It’s the look, the voice, the message, the style.
Think about the personality of a friend. They are more than just their name. What makes them unique is their intelligence, their sense of humor, their story, their style, their history, their family, etc. A logo would be akin to a jacket. An element of the total style, definitely. But not the entire persona.
When we build a brand we work through styles, graphic elements, image styles, font choices, writing style, print layouts, and more. The logo is one element of the overall identity.
Why Does it Matter?
Real estate is a relationship business. Relationships are built on trust. A cohesive brand sends a message to people who don’t know you yet, as well as those who do, of who you are and what to expect from you. Back to people, think about being at an event. There are two men that meet. One is in a crisp suit and tie, has a short well groomed haircut, is clean shaven, and is wearing dark leather loafers. The other is in dark wash jeans with a button down shirt tucked in. He has a modern haircut, a bit loose and wavy, and he’s wearing stylish athletic trainers. Without knowing who is who, or what they will say, you’ve already begun to form an opinion. If I told you that one is a CEO and the other is the founder of a tech start up, I can guess which you’d assign to each role. Likewise, if I added a third man wearing very worn and dirty jeans, a crumpled t-shirt, with untamed hair and several days growth of facial hair, you would form an opinion of what to expect from him, also. All of this before you’ve even been introduced.
We quickly assess whether or not we want to engage with people. It’s human nature. Your business has a persona of its own (or it should). Your audience will judge whether or not they are interested based on what they see.
Elements of a Brand
Seth Godin has the definition that I like best (although there are others). “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”.
Note that he didn’t say it’s a logo. Your logo, your design style, the fonts you use, your colors, your message, your voice, the style of the photos that you use, etc make up the brand image. It’s the image part of branding that most people think of as “the brand”. It’s your brand identity.
Your brand identity should appeal and be relevant to your current audience and the people that you want to attract. It should reflect who you are and how you do what you do. There are other aspects that I won’t dig into here (because it would turn into a thesis and not a blog post) like your brand promise, experience and other less tangible elements.
What Happens if It's Not Cohesive?
What would you think if you walked into an Apple store if it looked like the old Radio Shacks used to? If you went into a McDonalds and it looked like a pizza place? It would be offputting, in the least. When your brand is all over the place, people don’t know what to expect so it’s harder to build trust or name awareness. It takes more time, too, or at least in my opinion. If, for example, every social post you create has to be made from scratch versus using one of a handful of branded templates, each post will take you longer to create. The same goes for your listing brochures, postcards, print ads, and other marketing materials. When you know exactly what your brand image is, you don’t waste time playing with fonts and colors in your listing presentation. You already know what to do.
What About Broker or Franchise Requirements?
I believe that if you’re an agent or a brokerage within a brand that you should follow all of the rules all of the time. Yes, it’s a compliance thing, but it’s also an integrity thing. There are some real estate brands that allow quite a bit of leeway and others who allow very little at all.
Given that I just spent the last 6 years within the brokerage environment, I get that what the company provides doesn’t fit every situation. Even with one of the strongest brands in the business, I ran into situations where there was not a company provided template that fit the immediate need. If you need to have something created, it’s in everyone’s best interest that it’s done with brand integrity in mind.
What do I mean? Agent logos are a big one. Agents want their own logo, and I understand why. But if your brand colors are red and blue and you want a lime green logo, it’s going to clash. If you insist on the lime green logo, your brochures will look weird. Then you’ll find yourself creating those, too. Add postcards, social posts, listing presentations, and website headers. Before you know it, your branding is totally disconneded and looks nothing like what it is supposed to for compliance purposes. Creating all of that custom marketing costs time and money. You’re probably also in violation of your ICA and/or the franchise agreement,, too. Honestly. Think before you go down that road. Whatever you create, follow proceedure to get it approved. To me, veering that far off course from a company brand tells me that you don’t value what they’re offering, or you don’t recognize the value that the company is providing. That’s an entirely different conversation.
If you feel that you need a team logo and you are working within a franchise company, it’s best to work with a layout that isn’t color specific. I did a how-to post here on how to do it. It should work if it’s white on red, grey on blue, black on white, etc. That means that the design is about the design, and not about the colors. It should also have neutral fonts that are easy to read and that won’t clash with the most common branding font styles. A company agnostic agent logo is much easier to get approved through corporate channels it can move with you if you change companies later on.
Custom brochures, print materials, and other common real estate branded items can be also created within a franchise or brokerage brand framework. If you’re working with a designer, provide them with samples of other company materials and have them build something similar but that suits your needs. Most franchise comanies have a branding guide, but if you have questions, ask your brokerage marketing director or franchise support team. They’re there to help you. Please make sure, again, that you’re complying with company approval requirements.
Where to Start?
Not sure where to start with your branding? Take the Brand Archetype Quiz to define your style.