Branding. It’s one of those words that most people know and understand (to varying degrees). We have found over the years that many real estate agents across North America seem to grasp the meaning, but not completely. It can be subtle. We found a good working definition and wanted to share it with you as a starting point for this discussion:
BRANDING: The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer’s mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.
In the over 26 years we’ve been training countless agents on Personal Marketing at our training seminars and then creating branded marketing materials for tens of thousands of those agents, we have found varying degrees of understanding of the branding process. The challenge for agents is that in the wake of our quarter century tenure, there have been many companies and individuals who have sprung up and claim to offer branding and marketing campaigns, often at highly discounted prices.
The problem is this. Branding, when done correctly, is an involved process. It is much more than choosing pretty colors, coming up with a clever type treatment and icon for a logo, crafting a pithy slogan and generally, putting together a pleasant graphic look and feel. That is the easy part. Any junior designer with a page layout program and Photoshop can do that. Many are, unfortunately.
That is the problem. Branding, done correctly, involves digging deeper. It is about discovering what it is that makes the particular product (in our case real estate agents) stand apart. What does it stand for, what makes it unique? How will it speak/relate to the intended target market. What is that target market? As professional marketers, we want to determine that agent’s core beliefs, core values, what life experiences have shaped him or her into the person (and business professional) they are today. In essence, our goal is to define that person’s/agent’s story. To coin a phrase, “people like doing business with people they like.” It’s about “owning” a piece of that prospective listing client’s mind so that when they think about real estate, they think about YOU.
We work hard to craft a story that defines the agent. Speaks to others who may be just like him or her. It has to be on an emotional level that resonates with others to truly work its magic. We have developed a personal questionnaire we have refined over the years to help us dig down and find that story. We have perfected the interview process to find the nugget of a story, a belief or an attribute that we can build the brand around.
When you take the time to carefully build and develop and refine a brand, magic happens. Your story resonates with people in your farm. They identify with your beliefs, values or your life experiences. You aren’t JUST ANOTHER REAL ESTATE AGENT. And if you go back to our working definition of branding, if you build that brand with CONSISTENCY and quality, you will attract and retain LOYAL clients.
Time and time again, clients tell us that they go on listing appointments and the excited homeowner tells them, “we knew you were going to be our agent when it came time to move.” Through the careful branding process, that emotional bond was created, and sending that message consistently reinforced it. How exciting is that idea of having devoted fans living in your farm who because of your expert branding have already decided you were the agent for them, sometimes years before they make a move?
During the market downturn of the past few years, many of our clients who have diligently put their materials and brand out there have not only sustained business during that downturn, but more importantly, their business is going gangbusters and they are getting listings in a tight inventory over other agents…because they built a brand and a story that resonated deeply, and didn’t just put together pretty colors.
We hope this discussion helps you understand the difference between real branding and desktop publishing design. If you want to do it right, find your story, define your brand and consistently build upon that important foundation.