“The Rebranding Challenge: Fit for the Future While Preserving Your Roots” at RISMedia’s 2018 Real Estate CEO Exchange (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)
Call it a facelift or a “refresh,” we’re in the age of the rebrand, when brokerages are pivoting, aligning with changing consumer needs and redefining their role in transactions. At RISMedia’s 2018 Real Estate CEO Exchange, held in New York City September 5 and 6, brands and brokers discussed how they embarked on their revamp—and the pitfalls in the process.
A Brand Reimagined
Century 21’s overhaul started with “a hard look in the mirror,” said Nick Bailey, CEO/president of Century 21 Real Estate. “It all started with a new mission statement—which came out long before the visuals—which is ‘to defy mediocrity and deliver extraordinary experiences.’ Unfortunately, because of the barriers of entry we have in this industry, mediocrity exists. We had to admit that and decide that we stand against it.”
Nick Bailey, CEO/President, Century 21 Real Estate (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)
Bookended by both goals, the brand was reintroduced this spring, abandoning the gold house in its logo for a mellower, more sophisticated tone, along with a fresh seal and signage.
According to Bailey, the concept and design were driven by the “it’ names today—companies with deeply entrenched followings and recognition.
“Flat design right now is where it’s at,” he explained. “We are following different companies, from Amazon to Uber to eBay, to make sure that not only we are positioning ourselves well with consumers in real estate, but [also] fitting into the well-known brands consumers currently interface with, because that will make it easier to connect with us.”
The change was embraced by many, and met with opposition by others—an outcome Bailey expected, given the organization’s sheer size.
“We had a feeling one or two might not like it,” he quipped. “We’ve been very upfront in knowing that some of you are going to love it, some of you are going to say, ‘not sure, I need to warm up to it,’ and others have said ‘you’ve wrecked my life.’”
A Legacy Renewed
For Halstead, a fixture in the New York City region, the brand’s growth necessitated a shake-up. Though founded in 1984, the company has expanded at a quickened pace in the past 12 years, growing from six offices in 2006 to 38 in three states today. The brand’s green palette was retired this spring, along with its “H” motif, and the company nixed “Property” from its name—all to better connect with consumers.
“We needed to convey to the consumer just how multidimensional we were as a firm, versus the strong, flat, iconic, staid logo we just put to pasture,” said Diane Ramirez, CEO/chairman of Halstead. “What we created is something that still has the history, it’s strong and it’s who we are, but also feels like it’s going in the direction of our future.”
Diane Ramirez, CEO/Chairman, Halstead (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)
The result? An iconographic logo (with the option to rotate), and colors different to each marketplace: Manhattan, the Boroughs and the suburbs.
“Each region truly loves and owns their color,” Ramirez said. “It’s created a lot of excitement.”
The change was not without missteps, noted Ramirez—and ego can be an issue, especially for those heavily invested. Ramirez herself co-founded the firm with Clark Halstead, and was involved in the marketing of the organization from the outset.
“You’re the one that created what was in that mirror, so it’s hard to look at what you thought were great, bold moves and [say] ‘Maybe these aren’t so great and bold anymore,” she shared.
A Community Icon Reintroduced
In Berkeley, Calif., a brokerage with 40 years in the marketplace recognized it was time for an update, as well—no easy feat, given the area’s counterculture leanings. Red Oak Realty’s symbol, a tree, was well-known, but needed a refresh.
“If we are working with consumers who are investing in the prepping of their house on average $30,000-$50,000 before they get it on the market…you have to walk the same walk,” said Vanessa Bergmark, CEO/owner of Red Oak Realty. “Even if that isn’t the reality of how it looks, making sure you fit within that paradigm is really important.”
Vanessa Bergmark, CEO/Owner, Red Oak Realty (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)
With an agency on tap, Red Oak created a new palette with several shades, which would be applicable to a freshening-up in the future. There were challenges during the process, including assessing the company’s goals and timing.
“Sometimes it felt like working with a psychologist, where you had to talk about what you wanted, the next generation, where you saw the company going…all of that had to be taken into account,” Bergmark said.
While buy-in is critical, announcing the change prematurely can set you back, she noted.
“If you want to get it right, don’t get a lot of input from the people you’re rolling it out to. So many people have so many different opinions…you’ll start doubting yourself.”
The End Game
In an astonishing turnaround, Century 21 completed its rebrand in five months, with execution now in the works; Halstead and Red Oak took a little longer, though still on the fast track, at roughly two years. Although an arduous—and for some, ongoing—undertaking, Bailey, Bergmark and Ramirez were in agreement: the results speak for themselves.
“What it’s done is created attention,” said Bailey. ” We’re telling brokers to use it—as we all do when something’s new and fresh—to your advantage.”
“What agents hate more than change is you not investing in them,” said Bergmark. “No matter if its 100 agents or 10,000 agents, they want to know you are committed to the company…It was an emotional investment between me and the agents that I’m leading.”
“The culture of our firm is our No. 1 most important aspect,” said Ramirez. “The fact that through the rebrand, they got the culture and are resonating with it…I know the ROI is there.”
For continuing coverage of this year’s CEO Exchange sessions, stay tuned to RISMedia.com:
- CEO Exchange Keynote: Leadership, in Every Sense of the Word
- Disruptors vs. Innovators: CEO Exchange Redefines Roles
- CEO Exchange Exclusive: Helen Hanna Casey on Succeeding in Any Market
- The Forefront of Innovation: CEO Exchange Showcases Real Estate Changemakers
- Photo Recap: CEO Exchange Welcome Reception at Tavern on the Green
- Eliminate Distractions, Lead With Clarity: One-on-One With Dermot Buffini
Making the Move to Rebrand: Is It Worth It?