A logo alone does not a brand identity make.
A brand - your personal brand - is much more than that.
When designing a website or creating marketing collateral for real estate agents I always ask for the details behind their branding. Nine times out of ten, what I get in return is the logo and brand guide to their brokerage.
This is a great start, but not exactly what I’m looking for.
What I really want to see is the brand identity - their personal brand identity.
You see, the brand you sit behind under your brokerage is just one piece of the puzzle. Your personal brand is the part that will make you unique.
Think of Josie and the Pussycats (yes, the beloved 60’s comic/tv/movie series). Josie, Melody & Valerie are all members of the same smash hit band dawning the same leopard print costume, but each of them has a completely different personality that appeals to a completely different audience.
So while you may think your brand identity is to be just another agent of RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, eXp, or Sotheby’s, it’s not. That is who you represent but the unique flare in how you represent them is all you.
That’s your unique, vibrant brand identity.
And that brand identity is ultimately what your customer will connect with.
In today’s blog post we’re going to dig into exactly what a brand identity is and how to apply it to your real estate business.
Not only will be define what a brand identity is but what each of the elements are that construct a brand. And in doing so you’ll be able to reach your customer in a way that’s deeper than simply going through the process of a transaction, but one that leads to relationships and referrals.
Defining Brand Identity
Let’s start with the obvious shall we: what is branding?
Branding is the name, tagline, message, terms, design, colors, symbols and other features one identifies with a company, goods or service.
Whenever I’ve learned about branding, I kid you not, there is one example that’s always mentioned because the brand is so strong. And that is Coca-Cola. From the color red, to the iconic logo to the bottle shape, their messaging is distinct.
But even more than the physical representations of a company, a brand is the perceptions and experience people have with said company.
Take Disney for example. When you go to Walt Disney World or have any sort of interaction with their company, whether it’s visiting the parks or buying online, you know you’re in store for a magical, delightful experience with friendly customer service.
Compare that to Spirit Airlines, in which case you know you’re headed for a massive headache from start to finish.
The Three C’s
Now, there are three c’s when it comes to branding that signify the hallmark of a good brand strategy.
Cohesive: A brand is cohesive
Consistent: A brand is consistent in its messaging
Clarity: A brand clearly communicates what a company stands for
Together, the three C’s create powerful psychological connections in your customers.
Why Do I Need Branding?
The main reason you need branding is pure and simple and it’s this:
If you don't actively define your brand, your market will do it for you.
This should be reason enough for us to want to take control of our own branding, but I have a couple more reasons for you.
Branding helps you stand out from the crowd
Your customers and clients have a lot of options.
Circle any neighborhood and you’ll see yard signs from a number of listing agents. I don’t have to tell you guys, you see it every day.
There are over 2 million real estate agents in the U.S. - that’s a lot of competition. A strong brand is a surefire way to stand out.
Branding increases your value
There’s a reason people pay more for name brand products.
Not sure how to get started with your brand identity?
We’re more than happy to help you tell your story.
Because that name is a guarantee. There’s an age old saying that you’re only as good as your name which is true in business; you’re only as good as the name you’re willing to stand behind.
You probably choose your brokerage because of something they stand for. It could be for access to an exclusive package of tools or the support they provide you as an agent. But I would place money on the fact it had something to do with the way they interact with their customers.
It may not be anything ground breaking but I guarantee your brokerage at least has the basics in customer service down. Otherwise they probably wouldn’t be in business.
Branding makes you human & creates a connection
Which leads us into my next point: branding makes you human.
Developing a brand and learning how to deliver your brans story allows you to engage with customers emotionally.
Right now, your brand is sending sends signals about who you are; whether those signals are intentional or not is up to you and deciding to declare your brand.
Your brand sends signals to customers letting them know if you cater to the luxe or the lax, the rural or the urban. It builds and drives home the marketing goals of your real estate business resonating with your customer on a subconscious scale to decide whether or not you’re the agent for them.
Branding builds loyalty
When people are able to connect with you emotionally, they grow loyal to you.
They think, “Wow. Dylan sure is a nice guy and a hell of a real estate agent. He knew exactly what I needed.”
Which leave customers much more inclined to voluntarily refer your business to friends & family.
We see this phenomenon occur all the time with brands, especially personal brands. Because people ultimately connect best with other humans.
If you can find that sweet spot of human connection plus make the life of your customer easier with stellar service, you’re golden.
The Branding Process
Just like the 3 C’s there are 3 parts to the branding process. They are:
The Discovery Phase
This is where you audit your industry and marketing efforts to date.
It’s an arduous process but a necessary one that involves hunkering down in an isolated spot somewhere with a big pot of coffee and just getting it done. The goal of the discovery phase is to take an objective look at your industry, brand and customers.
This includes taking the necessary steps to:
Audit your personal business identity
Analyze the current market & your competition
Define the personas of your key customers
Face the music on how your brand is currently perceived
It takes some time to complete and is dull as all hell to execute if research isn’t your thing, but trust me, it’s a step you don’t want to skip as it accelerates every preceding decision in your business.
The Identity Phase
In the identity phase you take everything learned from the discovery phase and begin to apply it.
You will articulate who you are, what you do and how you do & talk about it.
The steps in this phase involve creating the core elements of everything that goes into the brand. You will:
Define and refine your core identity
Create a message tree that articulates that core identity
Identify and present your value proposition - or that special thing that sets you apart
Establish a mission, vision, and values
A brief tagline that communicates it all in just a few words
Like the discovery phase, the identity phase can be like watching paint dry. But skip it and risk having a brand to stand behind.
Cementing the discovery phase keeps everything you do from here on out consistent and in-line with your mission. It also helps to speed future decision making processes because if an opportunity presents itself but doesn’t align with the mission or vision of your brand, then it’s an obvious sign to throw it out.
The Execution Phase
The execution phase is the tip of the iceburg - the part we typically see and what we’ve come to associate as a “brand.”
The execution phase is setting the course for the tools we need to tell our brand story. These are things like:
Design elements (ie. fonts, icons, shapes)
Photography, videography, illustration
In the execution phase we decide how we want our business to be perceived and choose elements of design that communicate these things and align with our identify.
I know this all seems like a lot - and it is - but once your brand identity is done it’s done.
You shouldn’t have to revisit again for a few years and even then it will most likely just be a series of tweaks.
Remember, the strongest brands - the ones you remember emotionally & connect with - have stuck true to their brand for decades.
These are the brands who can truly call themselves timeless.
And they create an army of loyal followers who not only know, like and trust them, but fans who see their identity and the brand’s identity as one and the same.
Ashley is the co-founder and marketing + tech brain behind Shore to Summit - an education & marketing service platform for real estate professionals.