Eight years ago, my partners and I wanted to create a brand that communicated that our brokerage was boutique, current, and fun. We spent thousands of dollars hiring a professional branding team to help us come up with the winning combination of name, logo, and colors for our brokerage. Lucky for you, I am a nerd and I took a lot of notes.
I’ll share the process that we followed to help you come up with the right branding for your brokerage. We’ll walk through the steps, including building a customer avatar, choosing a suitable brand name, and bringing it all together with a unique logo design, fonts, and a color scheme.
Build a Customer Avatar
Have you heard the quote, “If you’re trying to please everyone, you will end up pleasing no one”? The same is true in branding. “If you’re trying to attract everyone with your brand, you will attract no one.” That’s why your name, logo, and colors must be designed to appeal to a specific customer.
You may think that creating a customer persona or avatar is a waste of time. Honestly, when I did this exercise the first time I felt the same way. However, after completing this exercise, I found that knowing clearly who my real estate brokerage was trying to connect with allowed me to let go of the desire to please everyone.
Begin by thinking about who your brokerage’s ideal customer is. Most brokerages’ main focus is attracting real estate agents. Because without agents, you don’t have a brokerage. However, some brokerages are specifically designed to attract homebuyers or sellers, like Colorado’s Buyer’s Slice Realty, which attracts buyers by offering a commission rebate.
[Related article: The 5 Employees You Need to Hire to Grow Your Brokerage in 2022]
Obviously, you don’t want to attract agents and repel buyers and sellers, so at some level your brand must appeal to both target audiences. Once you have determined who your ideal customer is, next you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions about your ideal customer. Your goal is to develop a mental picture of this person.
- Where are they located?
- What is their level of education?
- What do they value?
- What do they spend their money on?
- What are their hobbies?
- What are their interests?
- What brands do they like?
- Which famous people do they admire, and why?
Once you have a clear picture of your customer, you can begin to develop a brand that will attract them. You can start with your brand name.
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Choose the Right Name for Your Brokerage
You want your brokerage name to be both original and memorable to attract customers. Later, your name choice is crucial if you decide to expand your brand into new areas. It’s also important when you decide to purchase your domain name and when you are registering your brokerage name and trademark with your state.
[Related article: Real Estate Domain Names: 15 Tricks Experts Use to Pick the Best]
You should keep your name short—one to three words max. If you use a truly unique word or name, include a subtitle to add some clarification. Apple didn’t start out as simply “Apple.” They started out as “Apple Computers.” You can do this too by adding a tagline like “Real Estate Services” or “Realty” to your name.
6 Steps To Narrow Your Brand Name Search
When we were coming up with our name, our marketing expert used the following exercise to get us to think outside the box:
1. Brainstorm. Using a large whiteboard, begin brainstorming by writing words that your ideal customer would be attracted to. Things like the city, neighborhood, or state you are in. Features that are familiar in the area like bridges, oceans, lakes, and mountains. Don’t overlook lifestyle activities that your avatar would enjoy, such skiing, surfing, or cycling. Don’t be shy—anything goes here. Write as many words as you can think of.
Continue by writing a list of words that are associated with housing and real estate. This can be words like door, cabinet, avenue, or loft. Keep writing until you have the entire whiteboard filled out.
2. Align. Now that you have a large list of words that will interest your customer avatar and a list that they will associate with real estate, you can begin to narrow the list. Do this by crossing off words that are not exciting to you and or that don’t align with your mission, vision, and values. From the remaining words, circle the top four words in each category to arrive at your eight favorites. Write these words on a separate paper.
3. Distill. Erase the whiteboard and write the remaining eight words in two columns, with the interest words on the left and the real estate words on the right.
4. Combine. Using the words on the board, combine the words on the left with the words on the right. Your goal is to come up with a unique and catchy name. Rich Barton, the founder of Zillow, wanted the name to be unique yet familiar. The name Zillow is a combination of the letter Z and the word Pillow.
Similarly, the real estate brokerage Trelora is a scramble of the word “realtor.” If you can, keep your name short and easy to pronounce. Extra points if you can come up with something unique.
5. Differentiate. The next step is checking to see if the name is already being used. Begin by Googling the word. Add variations like “real estate” and “realty.” Is it already being used in your area? Is it being used in another state?
Trade names are registered in each state. This is why you can have a “Smith Real Estate” in both New York City and Chicago, yet they are entirely different companies. If the name is already being used in another state, then you will have a hard time expanding that name state-to-state in the future.
Check to see if the domain is being used or if it is for sale. Zillow’s Barton said the best part of giving his startup a unique name like Zillow was that he bought the domain for only $12. If the domain is already in use or is more than a few hundred dollars, I suggest looking for a new name.
6. Translate. Thirty percent of the population speaks a language other than English. Knowing this, it isn’t a bad idea to run your new name through Google Translate to see if the word has a different meaning in another language.
89 Creative Real Estate Company Names (+ Our Name Generator 2.0)
After spending six hours toiling over seemingly endless names, we came up with the brand name Steps. We chose Steps because as real estate coaches, we could teach agents the “steps” to become successful in real estate. Our agents can help buyers and sellers with the “steps” to buying and selling their home. Steps are also a feature in many homes, so we felt that customers can easily associate the name to housing.
Choose Your Fonts & Design a Logo
After coming up with our real estate brokerage’s unique and memorable name, the next point of business was deciding if we would use a font or logo to visually represent our brand. We worked with a designer to create a logo to represent our newly branded brokerage.
When done correctly, fonts and logos allow customers to quickly identify your brand. They also help them to associate your marketing, whether it is open house signs, online advertising, or website. This allows your customers to build familiarity and trust with your brand.
Choose a Font
Some companies spend thousands of dollars coming up with a unique logo, but the truth is you may not have to. Many successful brands, like Tiffany & Co, Coca-Cola, and eBay just use a font instead of a logo to represent their brand. A unique font and color choices can communicate sophistication, simplicity, and timelessness.
Begin by typing your brokerage’s name into a font generator website like Fontshop. These websites can show you what your brokerage’s name will look like in over 150 different fonts.
Don’t stop there. You want your font to be unique and stand out, so once you have selected your favorite font, purchase it, install it, and open it up in Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word. Using either program, you can select the same font and adjust the height of the letters and the spacing between the letters to give your brand name a new and unique look.
The downside to selecting a standard font to represent your brand is it may not be possible to copyright it since it isn’t a completely unique design. Therefore, if you wish to copyright your brand, you’ll need to make some changes.
For example, Tiffany & Co.’s font is based on the font Old Baskerville, with some minor changes so they could copyright their brand so it could not be used by another company.
Some companies, like Nike, use a specific font and logo together to create their brand.
Design a Logo
The ultimate goal of the logo is for it to be instantly associated with your company. However, designing an outstanding logo is far more complicated than selecting a font. This is why hiring a talented designer is crucial.
To help you come up with the best logo for your real estate brokerage, I wrote out some simple rules about logo design for you to follow.
5 Rules for Successful Brand Logo Design
1. Make It Easily Understandable. You want your logo and name to stand alone without explanation. This means if someone sees your logo, they can understand what it represents without you having to explain it to them. Brands like Target, Apple, and Nike do this well. Both Target and Apple’s logo represent the name of the company. Target is a simple target symbol and Apple is a one-dimensional apple with a bite out of it. A great example in the real estate industry is the Compass logo. Note how the “O” in Compass is stylized to look like a minimalist compass.
2. Be Unique. A quick Google search of real estate logos will show you endless images of brokerage names with an assortment of roofs, buildings, and skylines sitting above the name. While I think it is appropriate for your logo to represent housing, many of these images are overused.
How is a customer to separate you from the competition if the only differentiation with your brokerage brand is the pitch of the roof above your name?
Instead of a roof, try adding features to your logo that represent the type of housing you sell. For example, if you live in Brooklyn, NY, you could use the iconic shape of the front door of a brownstone in your logo. This is different and clearly represents both housing and New York with one simple image.
3. Don’t Distract. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is designing a logo that makes sense to them but not to their customer. This can create questions and confusion in the customer’s mind and prevent them from working with your brokerage.
One logo that comes to mind is a Japanese restaurant near me. Their logo used to look more like a toilet with the seat up than the traditional Japanese ramen bowl and lid. You can imagine the confusion this caused, preventing many customers from eating at this restaurant. Fortunately, they recently updated their logo to a more “appetizing” design.
You can avoid distracting logos by sharing your logo with friends, family, and past customers. Ask them the following questions.
- What does this logo represent to you?
- What values does this logo portray to you?
- What product does this logo sell?
- How does this logo make you feel?
Feedback can be difficult to hear, especially if you took hours coming up with the design. A little listening and understanding here can save you from having a toilet seat represent your brand!
[Related article: The Best & Worst Real Estate Logos (+ Pro Design Tips)]
4. Add a Tagline. It is easy to start daydreaming about your logo being immediately associated with real estate, but that’s not realistic because you’re not Apple… YET! In the beginning, consumers won’t immediately recognize your logo as a real estate brokerage.
As I said earlier, Apple didn’t start out as simply “Apple.” They started out as Apple Computers. So don’t worry about helping your branding along by adding a tagline like “Real Estate Services.” Like Apple, you can drop it later when your brand is better known.
[Related article: 107 Best Real Estate Slogans & Taglines (+ Slogan Generator)]
5. Hire a Pro. There are many service provider websites where you can hire someone to “design” a logo for your brokerage at a very low cost. I caution you that many of these providers reuse their designs over and over again. I found this out when a custom T-shirt logo I had someone create for me showed up on another man’s hat!
This can also make it nearly impossible to trademark your brand. If you are planning on growing your brokerage beyond your city or state, then I suggest spending the money to hire a professional graphic designer on a site like Upwork to help you create a logo that can be legally trademarked.
A Case Study: Our Brokerage Logo
Since our goal with our real estate brokerage was to grow it throughout our state and eventually into other states, we hired a professional graphic designer to help us with the logo design. After several renditions, we came up with our final font, logo, and tagline.
We felt the lower case font makes it memorable and friendly and the roof line incorporated into the “e” clearly communicates housing, but just in case, we added the tagline “real estate” in a traditional serif font. The next thing we needed to do was come up with the colors to represent our brand.
Choosing the Right Brand Colors
Customers associate company brand colors with emotions and values. Unspoken messaging like color can attract your ideal customers. No company knows this better than Tiffany & Co. Tiffany Blue or “Blue 1837,” named after the founding of Tiffany, has long been associated with vibrancy and escape. Their brand was designed to make the customer feel anticipation and delight.
If you don’t believe that colors say something about your brand … I ask you if you are willing to wear a gold coat to your next open house? (The older agents will get that joke!)
With your customer persona in mind, think about what emotions and values you want them to feel when they see your logo. Review the colors below and the associated emotions. Write down the three or four colors that are your favorite choices.
|BLUE||Wisdom, Loyalty, Spirituality, Respectability, Trust (Dark Blue)|
|GREEN||Nature, Health, Tranquility, Harmony, Wealth and Money (Dark Green)|
|YELLOW||Friendly, Cheerful, Youthful, Positivity, Happiness|
|ORANGE||Excitement, Prosperity, Playfulness, Change|
|RED||Energy, Warmth, Comfort, Romance, Love|
|PURPLE||Authenticity, Truth, Luxury, High Quality (Dark Purple)|
|WHITE||Purity, Youth, Charity, Cleanliness|
|BROWN||Nature, Reliability, Confidence, Friendship|
|BLACK||Power, Strength, Glamour, Luxury|
Shades and patterns can also change the emotional impact that a color can have on a customer. From the three or four colors, adjust the shades and narrow them down to two or three colors until you find the ideal color combination that will proudly represent your brokerage.
The focus of our real estate brokerage brand was to be seen as a modern boutique brokerage. We wanted our customers to feel a sense of nature and harmony with the brand. We felt that the colors white, black, and sage green represented the brokerage as a fresh and modern company.
The challenge we found was many sign companies did not have the capability of consistently recreating the correct “sage green” color and at times, we had real estate signs that ranged from lime green to an ugly greenish-yellow. Yet, I’m sure Tiffany’s & Co. has faced the same issue.
[Related article: 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Real Estate Brokerage]
An outstanding brand will not only attract your ideal customers but also the right agents to empower your brokerage to grow beyond your imagination! Take it from me, there are few things in life more exciting than seeing your real estate brokerage brand showing up around your city. Like seeing your child walk for the first time, if you find the right brand for your brokerage, it too will begin to walk on its own.
Of course, a great brand is only useful if your agents use it consistently in their marketing. To get your agents excited about your new brand, Lab Coat Agents Marketing Center creates stunning, professional templates for social media, print, signage, and more. They also offer an easy-to-use marketing app agents can use to customize their templates.