Imagine you’re on a road trip, traversing through unfamiliar cities and towns, and you’re starting to feel hungry. A flash of red and yellow catches your eye, creating a familiar double-arch pattern that you instantly recognize: it’s a signal that food you’ve probably tasted before is available. More likely than not, you’re starting to consider what you’ll order—nuggets or a burger?—even before you’ve started to pull off the highway and take your place in the drive-through line.
If you could imagine this scene in your mind’s eye, then you already understand the power of branding. When we talk about branding, we’re evoking a range of different campaigns and efforts on behalf of a company that make us feel a certain way.
Nobody’s brand experience is identical; it’s going to depend on how you have personally interacted with the brand and what it means to you. (A vegan is going to have a different reaction to seeing golden arches than someone who lives for the return of the McRib.) But many of the most successful companies in the modern era have managed to create a consistent set of experiences and feelings across a consumer base that results in loyalty to the brand—and to its company.
Apple is one of the best examples of successful branding that we’ve seen in the past 30 years or so, and it’s also a trillion-dollar company, which is not a coincidence. Coca-Cola is globally recognizable and its flagship product is one of the most popular beverages on the planet. Nike is another example; its three-word tagline has been a staple of its ads for decades. Other examples that you might be able to conjure in your mind’s eye include IKEA, Starbucks, Uber, Tesla, and even software products like TurboTax.
What goes into a brand? How do you create an aesthetic that’s instantly recognizable as “yours” and that reminds your loyal fans why they love working with you? We’re going to get into the basics of how brand-building works so that you can take what the masters know and apply it to your own business.
This is a lot harder than it sounds! In real estate, it’s tempting to want to be everything to everyone. If a buyer or seller approaches you, do you know whether they’d make an ideal customer for you? Are you willing and able to tell people who didn’t fit the ideal profile “sorry, but I’d rather refer you to someone who specializes in this kind of thing?”
Apple is a technology company. It’s not in the restaurant or hotel business, or in the automotive business. By contrast, Tesla makes vehicles. It doesn’t make phones, computers, or watches. IKEA sells furniture, and it’s also a restaurant, but it’s not like going to a furniture warehouse in most of middle America—you know when you go to IKEA that you’re going to walk through a series of showrooms set up like a room or studio interior before you get to the warehouse area and start picking up flat-pack boxes to assemble at home.
McDonald’s serves fast food that’s affordable and consistent. It tastes the same wherever you go. The company might come out with special menu items here and there, but for the most part, its focus is burgers and fries. McDonald’s probably isn’t going to suddenly start exploring the wide world of Japanese cuisine and offering sushi or Kobe beef … and nobody expects it to. No one complains that McDonald’s isn’t haute cuisine. There might be some quibbles about how healthy it is for you to eat regularly, or the ingredients used, but customers are willing to let McDonald’s do what it does well: Serve fast and consistent food to millions of people every day.
Some of these brands have managed to cultivate wide appeal because, like McDonald’s, they’re quick and consistent and affordable. Others have higher price points and target narrower audience bases. A Tesla is not a car built for everyone—and many people who own Teslas might resent the implication that it is! Part of the appeal of driving a Tesla is appearing innovative and cutting-edge to everyone else. If they were all driving Teslas, too, it would dilute the effect.
Think about the people you’ve served in your career. Which were your favorites to work with? Can you find any commonalities about the types of people who make the best clients—for you? Maybe you specialize in helping tech executives and workers from hotspots on the coast with relocating to your area. Maybe families with small children happen to be your jam. You might have worked with a lot of veterans, or single women buying their first condos.
The ultimate 2024 guide to building a real estate website
Get your FREE copy now!
Second: Create a consistent customer experience
We’ve used the word consistent several times, and that’s deliberate. Part of creating a successful brand is delivering the same experience over and over again, no matter who’s on the receiving end of it. People take a great deal of comfort from knowing what to expect. You might want to offer a high-end concierge-style service where the customer experience is entirely seamless and easy … but if you can’t do that every single time, it’s much better for your brand to scale down expectations a notch or two, to where it’s truly consistent.
When you get a new iPhone, you know it’s going to operate a lot like your old one—but upgraded. People who’ve never had an iPhone before also have expectations if they decide to switch over: “they’re so easy to use” is probably the biggest one. When you go to IKEA, you have a set of expectations about what your shopping trip is going to look like. If the restaurant were at the exit and there were no showroom setups to wander through like a maze, you might feel cheated.
In real estate, this isn’t exactly easy to do! No two transactions are the same, and you might struggle to set clear expectations with your clients who want to know “how long is this going to take” and “how much am I going to make (or have to spend).” Maybe you can’t answer those questions conclusively and be one-thousand-percent consistent with the real estate experience like Starbucks is with its seasonal pumpkin spice lattes. But ask yourself if there’s a small part of the process where you already excel, and that you can use as a foundation for creating a cookie-cutter experience for all of your clients.
Identifying fixer-uppers that need mostly cosmetic work?
The list of possibilities continues; we’ll dig more into how different real estate-specific companies think about branding in a different (future) post, but for now, imagine what options you have open to you as an agent or broker for keying in on the handful of things you do the very best (for now) and how you can express them as part of your brand.
Third: Find your brand aesthetic and write it down
Brands have a tendency to mimic each other when one tries something popular, and they can follow design trends—and the great thing about a good brand is that even when you refresh it, it’s still instantly recognizable as yours. McDonald’s hasn’t changed its red-and-yellow golden arches for decades, but it regularly evaluates and updates new store interiors and even the food packaging to better reflect modern tastes and sensibilities. If you see a burger box discarded in a trash can, you’ll still know that it held a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
Similarly, Coca-Cola rolls out new television commercials and ad campaigns, but they all focus on the vibe of connection and fun. Apple’s minimalist billboards and magazine ads feature loving close-ups of its latest products.
Your brand aesthetic extends beyond the logo and brand colors to encompass how you present your company and business to the world. It should be cohesive throughout your big public spaces—from your office to your website—and it should be flexible enough to apply to any type of marketing material as well as any physical space where you want to promote yourself or your business.
Professional designers and marketers work in tandem to create a brand aesthetic and brand guidelines, which become increasingly critical as a company grows. If Steve Jobs were the only person who understood what he wanted Apple’s brand aesthetic to look like, then it would never have stayed as consistent and reliable as it has, and wouldn’t be instantly recognizable today. Part of the power of a brand lies in the ability to articulate what makes it a cohesive thing and then the ability to write down those parameters and instructions in some kind of document that others (and especially your designers) can read and follow.
Fourth: Show your best side online
It used to be that you could throw up just about anything on the web and get some result as long as your site answered questions that people were already asking. Online marketing has evolved into a combination of art and science. While it's pretty clear to everyone that you should have an online presence, what seems to escape most business owners is determining what their website should do.
How to make your customers fall in love with your website
In the court of online real estate, your customers are judge and jury, but the testimony you hear will take place out of earshot. The rules are unwritten, but they are set in stone. Give your customers an excellent reason to trust you, like you, and feel like you can serve their needs, and they will toss aside their inhibitions, along with their reluctance to part with their business. That's because they want you, the right website and the right business, the right broker to make their decisions easy. Not guilty by irrational reasoning. (i.e. crazy in like)
Your customers hear every message you send – intentional or not. Your attitude is nearly everything. Customers want you to show a certain degree of eagerness, but not desperation. They want you to believe in yourself and demonstrate why they should believe in you too. They want you to be fun and someone they can lean on for help. They want to trust you.
The web version of chocolate and roses in the world of online real estate is:
Get to know your customers and what their pain points are.
Build your site to answer your customer's questions.
Know your niche and be the customer's expert on it.
Make searching on your site an intuitive, engaging experience.
Translate what you offer into solving customer pain.
Build your site from the user's perspective.
Make it easy to gather and share what they came for.
We're working to cultivate trust in an environment lacking human interaction. These are just a few ways to develop that trust, forge new relationships and enhance existing ones. Falling in love is just the first step; you have to deliver even after the bloom is off the rose.
January 19, 2022
(Last updated on
June 22, 2023
Take your real estate website to the next level with Placester!
Discover new opportunities and save thousands of dollars every year.