Marketing Academy
Building Your Brokerage Branding for Growth

Building Your Brokerage Branding for Growth

12 min read
Building Your Brokerage Branding for Growth

Your brand is how your customers recognize “you” (or your brokerage) instantly—and ideally without wholly realizing exactly how or why they’ve identified a piece of advertising or social media banner as yours

The most famous brands evoke a specific feeling or emotion when you see a logo or an advertisement style that immediately evokes the company and what it represents. The best examples are also some of the biggest companies in the world: Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple, to name a handful. When you see the Nike “swoosh” on an ad, or the minimalist styling of an Apple billboard, you know what’s being sold to you even if there are few or no products in the image or video.

If you’ve been working with a franchisor and are just now going independent, or if an indie approach was your intention from the start, then you may be tempted to try to build a brand a la Nike or Apple or Coca-Cola right out the gate … and although that’s a lofty goal, remember that those brands took decades to lay the foundation of emotion and association that will inspire a lightning-fast connection between, for example, the phrase “athletic shoes” and the broader concepts of pushing yourself to your limits, achieving your goals, and becoming better than you were yesterday.

You’ll also want to think about the future when you’re building your brand. A brand that’s very specific to one local area won’t necessarily translate to the surrounding metro landscapes and even states—for example, a brand that evokes a college or university that’s a big draw in your area, or even a daffodil-yellow effort that’s really cute and well-known in Daffodil City, but doesn’t make a ton of sense outside the region.

Maybe you don’t want to expand today, but rebranding tomorrow because you didn’t consider the possibility can be expensive, and sometimes not all that effective. After you’ve spent years trying to associate your brand with a certain “look,” your clients might find the affiliation too strong to shake.

There are a few different things to consider when you’re putting a brand together for longevity and expansion. A branding expert or consultant can also help you understand how different components of your brand work together to create a cohesive effect that starts to produce strong associations in the minds of your brand targets, how to iterate on your brand for individual agents or teams within your brokerage, how to tweak (but not reinvent) your brand when you expand to a new market, and more. 

If you don’t feel comfortable or confident around your brand strategy and creation, and you’re not sure where to turn, many vendors (Placester is one!) offer services and support that can help you understand the decisions you need to make and which path will work best for you.

Ready to get started? Ask yourself these questions about your business and what you represent.

Who are you?

Ideally, you’ll know more about yourself than a straight list of likes and dislikes—though that actually is not a bad place to start, especially when it comes to aesthetics! If there are certain colors or styles that you know just don’t speak to who you are (or that look terrible on you), feel free to eliminate them from your brand options. 

You’ll be surrounded by your brand, if not literally wearing it; some brokers like to build a deliberate wardrobe that coordinates with and reflects their brand identity. You should be not only comfortable with the brand, but eager to immerse yourself in it. So it should be something that really does reflect who you are, whatever that means.

Maybe you’re known for a quirky style choice, such as your glasses frames, bow ties, a certain brand of shoe, a color you sport frequently or constantly. Even if your style is more classic and understated, that in and of itself is a statement that speaks to the clients who want to work with someone like you! Instead of going with the brighter colors or funkier designs of someone who owns “quirky” as a badge of honor, you might be more comfortable with neutrals and understated (but undeniable) elegance.

Beyond the personal style choices that you like and dislike, you could ask yourself additional questions to try to get to the root of “you.”

  • Where did I grow up? Do I still identify with that place or area? Is it relevant to my current market?
  • Where do I live now? Why did I move there? What communities have I joined?
  • What do I do for fun or in my spare time? What’s important to me? (Sports, crafting, family activities, animals or pets, cars, fitness, church or mindfulness, nature and the outdoors—you know how you like to spend your time when you aren’t selling houses!)
  • Why is real estate important to me, and why did I want to get into the profession?
  • Do I have a favorite type or style of home?
  • Is there anything else I would want a stranger to know about me?

This is your professional face that you’re putting forward, so think about the fun facts you’d share with a stranger at a cocktail party or while sharing an airplane row. You don’t need to get too intimate and specific, but you do need to provide a general sense of the kind of person you are. It might even be a useful activity to draw a picture of how you see yourself, or to try to find a character in a movie or book who you think is a good representation. (But that’s extra credit.)

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What do you stand for?

Beneath the layer of who you are is a deeper layer around your true self: It encompasses what is meaningful to you and what you’d be willing to take a stand for (or against, as the case may be).

People like to work with people like them, which sometimes means shared values. You don’t need to display your political affiliations or announce your stance on volatile issues like abortion—but figuring out what you stand for vis-a-vis your real estate career is a worthwhile exercise.

For example, how important are the following concepts or philosophical ideas to you?

  • The notion of a free market
  • Equal access to housing
  • Building wealth through homeownership and real estate investment
  • Increasing affordable options for first-time buyers
  • Innovative building tools and techniques
  • Energy-efficient or “green” housing
  • Community-building
  • Freedom from government oversight and overreach
  • Grassroots legislation and leadership
  • Independence in a business setting

All of those concepts touch on real estate to a greater or lesser degree, and you don’t necessarily need to make them a big, braying part of your brand identity. However, if you’re all-in on the concept of affordable housing and increasing opportunities for first-time buyers, then a brand that oozes wealth, luxury, and disposable or expendable income is probably not a great fit for your target market, which is a group of humans struggling to buy a house.

On the flip side, if you’re personally heavily sold on the concept of a completely free market, and a seller’s ability to accrue wealth through real estate, then a gritty, edgy brand that promotes individuality and personal expression over business acumen is also probably not going to appeal to your target market.

What kind of clients do you represent?

If you haven’t already sketched out the type of client that you typically represent—or want to represent in your market—then it’s time to do that, and assess whether your own evaluation of who you are and what you stand for is a good match for the clients you’re serving.

Start by asking yourself where most of your clients are in their homeownership journey. Are they aspiring first-time buyers, or condo-owners who are hoping to expand their footprints and want to sell a condo while buying a house? Are they existing homeowners who are growing their families and need another bedroom soon? Are they retirees who are ready to downsize?

Beyond the basics, you can likely pinpoint other commonalities that many of your clients share. Perhaps they’re relocating from a city or town in the next county or state—or even across the nation—and they’ve just discovered the appeal of the region where you hang your real estate license. Some agents and brokers make an excellent living by catering to clients who work in specific industries, such as tech, industrial production, media, or other career paths.

Try to categorize all your clients by a number of different variables (a CRM is excellent for this task) and see where you have the highest percentages of successful sales. Some examples:

  • Life stage
  • Income (approximate)
  • Career, company, and job title
  • Hobbies and community connections (schools, sports teams, and so on)
  • Previous connection to the area
  • Anything else you can think to document

You might not find any significant patterns, but then again, you might be surprised by what you learn about your clients and how similar (or not) they are to each other and to you.

What homes (or types of homes) have you helped people buy or sell?

Finally, it’s time to get down to the brass tacks (or foundation and drywall-hanging) of what it is you do for a living: You work with homes, helping people buy and sell them.

Before you start working on your brand, it’s time to ask yourself whether you have expertise in any types of homes, architectural styles, or locations that you might be able to allude to by using your brand. Gather together some details about the homes you’ve helped people buy or sell (or both), and then answer a few more questions to get you thinking:

  • What year were the homes built? Do you see any strong patterns in terms of decade or era?
  • What price point have you typically worked with in the past? Do you want your brand to reflect that and continue on that trend, or do you want to aim higher?
  • Where are the homes located? You can use a platform like Google Maps to scatter pins in neighborhoods and give you a strong visual image. Is there a specific development, group of blocks, or region where you can claim expertise (because it’s true!)? Pay close attention to whether those homes follow any non-neighborhood patterns—are they located along a waterfront that spans several neighborhoods, a commuter corridor that lots of employed parents tend to use, a specific school or park or community feature?
  • Do you see any patterns in terms of types of homes architectural style? Maybe you’re a mid-century modern expert and you never knew it! Or maybe you already understood that the local Victorian homes are not easy to move, and you’re one of the few agents who knows how to appeal to the qualified buyers who’ve always dreamed of owning one. There are plenty of agents who make a killing by specializing in downtown condos, too, for example.
  • What about the basics—how big the homes are, the average number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the price per square foot, whether there’s a pool or a garden? Are there multiple main suites for multigenerational households? If you’ve helped a client or two with special needs buy a house that was perfect for them, are there more who might want similar help, and can you iterate on that?

This might seem like a lot of self-exploration for something as seemingly insignificant as your brand, but you want it to truly represent who you are today, as well as grow with you if you expand to new offices or even new markets.

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How do you articulate all that...without words?

The bad news (which is also good news) is that there is no formula to create a brand that is definitely going to work for you and your brokerage. Brands key into emotions and past experiences, and a brand that’s a perfect fit for one company is going to seem wildly inappropriate at another.

If you don’t have design experience yourself, or you don’t have someone already working to create your brand, then this is the time to bring in some outside help. You can start searching for “marketing and branding experts” in your area, or “real estate brand builders” on Google—but be aware that branding is typically a rather expensive activity, and the branding experts are going to sit you down and run you through the exercises you just did for yourself.

An alternative is to use a designer or a vendor you already work with and ask whether they provide branding support and services. If you can come to the table with a few ideas about what it is that you represent and how your market operates, then you shouldn’t need a full-on branding doctor to address your brokerage’s needs.

There are many components that collectively make a brand. You should consider creating guidelines around all of them—a real brand is nothing without consistency!

Color: One of the most critical pieces of your brand is the color palette that you use. Most brands will choose two to three primary colors that always are included in any branding effort, and then a number of secondary colors that complement the primary color. That way if one of your agents or designers is looking for a red or blue shade to include in an ad, they’ll have options available to them that are already part of the brand experience, and look seamless as a result.

Certain colors do tend to connote certain feelings or emotions, but there are really no wrong answers when it comes to the color that represents your brand, as long as it makes sense for the brand. Pastel colors might not be the best choice for a Wyoming brokerage selling ranches, but it could be perfect for an independent outfit in Miami that specializes in condos close to nightlife. Black and silver and white can seem imposing and make a strong statement, which might be super-appropriate for a luxury brokerage, and not make a lot of sense for one that helps mostly first-time buyers.

If you’re planning on evoking your brand literally by wearing the brand colors as often as possible, then your own personal taste should factor in as well. Don’t choose yellow as one of your primary brand colors if you truly can’t stand it. If vibrant jewel tones make your secretly Goth heart weep, use more neutrals and tone things down.

Typeface: Another term for this brand element is “font,” but your designer will appreciate the correct use of words! When choosing a brand, it’s smart to choose a “family” of typefaces that will coordinate with each other so that you have matchy-matchy options for bold, italics, different letter “weights” (literally, how “light” or “heavy” they look), and so on.

Opt for readability over all else. There’s nothing like designing (what you think is) a perfect piece of advertising only to realize that it’s illegible because the flowery, scripted typeface you absolutely love can’t be read on a billboard from the ground. 

Beyond readability, you might consider other typeface elements such as whether it has a serif or not (sans serif looks “cleaner,” but chunks of text tend to be more difficult to read); how “round” or “spiky” it is; how easy it is to change the size and conserve readability (your designer can likely help with this), and how widely available it is. Some typefaces and font families cost money to access and use, and if you’ll need to purchase the typeface for every designer’s machine that’s going to touch your brand, that’s something you’ll want to know before you fall in love with it.

Logos and logo elements: A logo is a selection of words or letters, icons or symbols, and color or typeface, all of which represents your brand in a nutshell. It takes a skilled designer to create a good logo; this isn’t something you should consider whipping up yourself in PhotoShop unless you already have design skills to apply.

In many ways, a logo is your brand’s “home base” and what you want to evoke every time somebody sees an ad or thinks about your brand. (Nike’s “swoosh” or the bitten apple are great examples.) It’s pretty common for a real estate logo to contain a house or a door or a key, and there’s nothing wrong with the basics! But if you can think a little deeper about what those elements represent to you and what you want them to evoke in your clients—swiftness and speed? security and privacy? luxury and indulgence?—then you might be able to include something that subtly triggers their needs and wants more than an image of a house.

If you’re working with a franchisor, then your options for all of the above are going to be limited, but you may still be able to work within the color palette and brand guidelines of your franchisor, and create something that works well for your brokerage—including a brokerage-specific logo.

Generally speaking, you should not have just one single logo for your brand. It’s going to appear in many different iterations, from a CMA to a banner on your website, and so it needs to be flexible and movable. A good designer will give you a few different shape and color options for a logo (square vs. rectangle, light vs. dark for different backgrounds) that you can then use on your website and in your advertising materials.

You may even take the step of creating individual logos (that follow some kind of prescribed setup) for your agents, which allows them to brand themselves as unique and different while still affiliating them strongly with your brokerage.

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How do you use a brand?

We’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: Consistency is how you get your brand to “stick” in a consumer’s mind, and that means you’ll need to put together some guidelines around how you use your brand as the broker, how designers should use your brand, and how agents can use your brand.

That might sound like a lot of extra work, but you’ve probably already done most of it! Brand guidelines are simply a group of documents that explain what colors, typefaces, logos, and display options are permissible, and which ones are not. If you think of The Wall Street Journal’s illustrated headshots instead of photographs, and imagine what kind of instructions the design editors give to their staff, then you’re thinking in terms of brand guidelines.

You’ll want to include your primary and secondary colors, the chosen fonts or typefaces, and logos that you use in your brokerage. You’ll also want to include instructions on where those different things are expected to be used; for example, what an open-house sign should look like (if you have parameters around that), or which logo should be used for the top vs. bottom banner of your website.

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Ideally, you will be using your brand everywhere that a prospective client might encounter your company. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Signage on your building or place of business
  • Open house signs or “coming soon” signs in yards
  • Your website (and all over your website!)
  • Social media ads
  • Other online ads
  • Print advertising and mailers
  • Swag

A good brand collects followers—it’s quite possible you’ll have a group of fans who are dying to know when the next run of branded ballcaps is going to be ready. So don’t ignore the swag; it’s a great way to play with and promote your brand, as well as show your agents (and clients) a bit of love by giving it to them in the first place.

If you’re not a branding expert, and this seems like a lot, don’t panic! There are a lot of branding experts both in and outside of real estate who will be willing to help you create a brand that resonates with you and your clients. Placester’s consultants understand exactly how a brand works on a real estate website and can help you create those color palettes, typeface guidelines, and even logos that truly reflect who you are and who you serve—but the important thing is that you think about your brand deliberately and make choices about who you want to be and how you want to look, not just choose the ubiquitous blue-and-red house logo because it’s easy and you’re strapped for time. If there’s just one area you’ll want to take extra time to ensure you’re setting yourself up for growth? It’s your brand.

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