Leverage your brand, don’t differentiate from it

2 minute read

What separates great marketing from good marketing is simplicity and consistency. The easier you brand is to remember and recall the more people will be drawn to it and, ultimately, the more people will respond to it.

In real estate terms this simply means that if you tamper with your branding and advertising, even a little, fewer potential buyers will be attracted to your listings because there’s less chance that they’ll remember which brand your property is listed under, and there’s less chance they’ll be able to find the listing online.

Regardless of which product or service a company provides, smart, cut through and (most of all) consistent marketing is absolutely critical.

It’s no accident that some of the world’s best businesses not only have the best brands, but the most consistent and doggedly defended brands. It’s a rule that applies to the professional services sector as much as consumer goods. Think for a minute about which bank you use. I can guarantee that every letter, monthly statement or any marketing materials that you receive from your bank will be perfectly branded and reproduced to a very high, and highly consistent, standard.

Can you imagine an employee of a bank or a law firm sending you a letter (full of spelling mistakes) on photocopied paper instead of a perfect, original letterhead? It just wouldn’t happen, wouldn’t be allowed to happen, and for good reason.

Employees of banks, solicitors and law firms, just as much as retail outlets and consumer goods manufacturers, wouldn’t dream of taking their company’s brand into their own hands and changing it in any way, and this makes me wonder why so many real estate agents do!

I see a lot of real estate agents making the mistake of trying to differentiate themselves or, worse still, their listings from their brand. This is usually by just tweaking the layout and design of a press ad, a sign board or an online listing, changing a font here or an icon there, moving the logo. It might not seem like much, but it will eventually inflict a death by a thousand cuts to your brand and, therefore, your business and ultimately your own income stream.

The power of your brand is your best friend. Every agent should embrace the brand that they’re working under and leverage it to its full potential, not strive to differentiate from it.

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  • Peter Ricci
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 2:31 am 0Likes

    A great start Pete. I could not agree more. You see agents a lot more careful with their print ads in newspapers, possibly because they are sitting alongside the brands of others. Then it deteriorates in mail-outs, websites and signage.

    A good start for anyone is to begin with a Style Guide, this is a brand guide for anyone who wants to use your logo or brand in any medium.

    Here is a Style Guide example from our product Zoo Property. If anyone wishes to give this to their designer to use as a guideline for your own brand – go for it! It is an expense at first, but it will save your brand and gives a guide for anyone who uses your brand.

  • Ryan O'Grady
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 6:00 am 0Likes

    Very useful advice Pete not only for real estate but also non real estate businesses. In recent memory there have been two large networks revamp their brands CBA and LJHooker. In my opinion they are both better for it now but (assuming the transition was painless to the networks and customers) is there a downside to an overhaul like this?

    Also, welcome to B2!

  • Pete Richards
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 6:47 am 0Likes

    Thanks Ryan, it’s great to be involved. In answer to your question I’m a big fan of plentiful, incremental (and sometimes almost unnoticeable) improvements to a brand, rather than the very occasional major overhaul. It’s possible to keep a brand looking and feeling fresh if you’re constantly looking to build on it, try new things, add new tools to your offering, improve the functionality of your website, and maybe review and improve your templates and ads once or twice a year. Your brand improves, and gains all of the positives that brings, but without losing your brand recognition, which can sometimes happen with major overhauls (and that’s the potential downside by the way). Companies tend to “need” the major overhaul if they’ve neglected it for a long time and allowed it to go stagnant.

    I take my hat off to the companies you refer to, I think they’ve done a great job of reinventing their brand without losing recognition, which isn’t easy.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 9:32 am 0Likes

    Welcome Pete – really enjoyed your article as branding is such an amazing topic. Many businesses have been forced to re-brand simply because they had to focus more on their online position ie Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC.

    I watch with amazement how in recent times business names have been rebranded (for the better in my opinion) to logos. Sporting teams are another example NSW (Waratahs), Queensland (Reds), Brisbane (Broncos) – designers are having a field day and doing a great job also.

    I wonder if the internet had not evolved would we have seen such radical re-branding?

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 10:11 am 0Likes

    Hi Pete, great advice. Great to see you on B2.

    The marketing world is so interesting but as you say there has to be some sort of uniformity & consistency in your message.

    It’s one thing to try to be unique & different, it’s another thing to end up looking like something so different that everyone thinks you’re brand new.

    re: Uniformity: I understand that even the signboards within McGrath have little cross hairs printed on them to help keep all the sold stickers uniform across the group. Is that right?

    This sort of attention to detail plays such an important role towards creating a professional impression in the marketplace.

    PS: Talking about attention to detail. It’s appauling to see how many typos there are on property listings both online & offline. ( in print media if it’s gone to print then there’s nothing that can be done, but online there’s no way that a typo should remain on a listing for weeks & weeks).

  • Lara Scott
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 12:15 pm 0Likes

    Great first article Pete and it is an interesting dilemma not only within the real estate industry. I have worked on healthcare industry product launches where millions of $ have been spent on developing global brand guidelines, style guides and templates to have local product managers and ad agencies completely ignore them to ‘inject their own flavour’. Insanity.

    The issue within real estate is the amount of agent movement between brands. Most agents are effectively entrepreneurs running their own SME and so want to develop their own identity within the franchise or business. However, changing a font, colour or executed corporate identity is not the way to do it.

    There are many outlets for personal profiling and community-building on-line. The question is: Do you develop a protocol/guide for the way these are used by agents too?

  • Leanne Pilkington
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 11:20 am 0Likes

    Thanks Pete – I enjoyed the article and will send it out to all of my agents. A lot dont seem to really understand the importance of the consumer being able to connect us to all of our marketing material, so will produce brochures for example that dont feature the same colours as the print ads. Its nuts! Consistency across all material is the absolute key.

  • Pete Richards
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 11:44 am 0Likes

    Greg, that’s right, every one of our signboards has two very small dots on the artwork to enable our signboard guys to position the top left and top right corners of the sold sticker in exactly the same spot….. every time. The quality of copywriting is almost worthy of another post it

  • Pete Richards
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm 0Likes

    Hi Lara! Fancy seeing you on here! I think the answer’s yes, most definitely. Too many companies neglect their brand online and tolerate errors and faux pas in the online world that they wouldn’t dream of tolerating in print format, and that’s a real shame.

    Social media in particular is a minefield for real estate agents. Often they try to use their personal accounts on facebook/twitter etc as a business tool, with disastrous results. All companies (in all sectors) should have policies and guidelines on this. We’re working on a directional document at the moment.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm 0Likes

    Great Post Pete!

    It’s no secret that some of the most successful businesses in our industry are also those with the brands that are controlled and regulated.

  • Lara Scott
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 6:01 pm 0Likes

    Oh yes I am here there and everywhere. So true re: online reputation management and good to hear you are working on a policy as McGrath have worked so hard in the past to establish the brand would be shame to see it undone with a simple Google search on an agent’s name with potentially harmful results as blog posts/comments, twitter accounts and facebook profiles rank highly in search engines.

    I don’t know that many companies are looking at protocols yet as the uptake rate of social media is relatively low in AU but it is something I am keenly interested in following locally.

    Kodak Eastman have worked up a document for their employees which is being suggested in social media circles as an excellent corporate policy model. Might be a great additional resource for your documentation.



  • Lara Scott
    Posted November 26, 2009 at 6:07 pm 0Likes

    Sorry bad link info above. Have a bitly instead.


  • Rachael Lord
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 8:57 am 0Likes

    Interesting post – we were just going to change our colours for a signboard for a development. After reading this – we are sticking to our brand!

  • Mac
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 10:34 am 0Likes

    Yes, Rachael. I have seen so many strong, well-known brands change their style on development boards. And these then just become more non-descript boards (with a bunch of phone numbers on the bottom). I have always wondered whether the developers have requested it. However, my experience suggest that part of the reason the agency is being used in the first place is because of the strength of their brand. It’s the agency that washes that value away thinking they will ‘give’ the developer some of their ‘power’ when in fact they are doing themselves and their client a grave misservice!
    Stick with your brand. Be proud of it and don’t let anyone mess with it; (unless it really does need some graphic attention 🙂 Look at Coca Cola, Kraft, Cadbury, Toyota …. the value and meaning is in the service and product.


  • Mac
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:07 am 0Likes


    That Kodak article wasn’t much really. There is just a lot of guff about Youtube, Twitter, Facebook etc
    I think the main thing to get out of it is on page 10 about how to refer to your relationship with your employer. And the last sentence below really sums it up. (I think the , ‘The Kodak Business Conduct Guide’ is what would be much more interesting. Do you have access to it?
    …be upfront and explain that you work for Kodak (your employer’s name);
    however, if you aren

  • Pete Richards
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:10 pm 0Likes

    Rachel, glad to hear that you had second thoughts on this.

    Mac, your points are at the core of the issue I think. Firstly, anyone who’s selling a property through your brand is, in part, paying to leverage from your brand and it’s identity, recall power etc (as well as the IP and skill of the agent).

    I do think that a lot of agents concede a “special design” for a board or advert to their vendors, thinking that they are giving them a “win”. What you say is correct, in doing so they’re damaging the campaign.

  • Lara Scott
    Posted December 9, 2009 at 11:43 am 0Likes

    Agree Mac, it is really more of a starter article than anything else, which is where I see a lot of the Australian real estate industry are at in terms of incorporating social media strategies into their marketing mix (with the general exception of the commentators on this site).

    A site dedicated to Social Media Governance (http://socialmediagovernance.com/) which includes a database of policies from across a board range of industries (primaily US) will offer more comprehensive reading.


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