If you’ve spent any amount of time trying to come up with great real estate branding, you’ll eventually reach one conclusion: Building a brand is HARD. Like, really hard. If you want to build a brand that lasts, you’re going to need some help.
That’s why we decided to put together this ultimate guide to real estate branding for 2022. We review a step-by-step formula for building a memorable brand, give you some case studies of great real estate brands and explain why they work, and finally, we offer you branding tips from industry experts.
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What Is Real Estate Branding?
Real estate branding is a strategy that realtors and brokerages use to communicate their mission, vision, and values to a target audience. The core components of a brand generally include a logo, tagline, brand colors, mission statement, and overall design language. A great brand helps consumers stand out from the competition and can help increase sales.
How to Build a Real Estate Brand That Lasts: A Step-by-Step Guide
Believe it or not, the process that marketing professionals use to build a brand is very simple. Don’t let the simplicity of the process fool you, though—branding takes hard work, and many startups struggle from the first step. If you’re ready to take branding seriously, here are the steps you need to take:
1. Discover Your Mission, Vision & Values
Mission, vision, and values (MVV) are at the core of every great brand, whether they know it or not. So if you want to build a brand, you need to take the time to discover your MVV.
Read Sean Moudry’s deep dive article about how to define your MVV. While it was written for brokerages, it will work for agents too.
[Related article: How to Create an Inspiring Mission, Vision & Values for Your Brokerage]
2. Gather Inspiration From Successful Real Estate Brands
After you’ve nailed down your MVV, the next step to building your brand is to study great real estate brands for inspiration. Start by gathering branding elements of local agents and brokerages you’ll compete with, then branch out to franchises or even brands that are outside of the real estate industry.
The best way to organize branding inspiration is to create a “swipe file.” Gather brand elements that you like into a centralized file. When you’re done, you should have a compilation of logos, taglines, brand colors, social media posts, website screenshots, and any other brand elements that inspire you. Now when you hire a graphic designer to work on your logo, you can simply send them your swipe file for creative direction.
Here are some valuable resources to get you started:
- 107 Best Real Estate Slogans & Taglines (+ Slogan Generator)
- The Best & Worst Real Estate Logos (+ Pro Design Tips)
- Real Trends Top 25 Real Estate Agents Websites RANKED
3. Create an Actionable & Realistic Timeline
That which gets measured gets improved. It can take years to build your brand, but creating a timeline with realistic goalposts to reach along the way is a crucial step in this process. The idea is to turn building a brand from a “wouldn’t it be great!” daydream into a concrete plan.
Setting monthly and quarterly goals will probably give you enough pressure to keep you motivated, but not overwhelmed. Just remember that like most long-term projects, building a brand will probably take longer than you think it will. However, if you give yourself enough time to build your foundation with a solid MVV, the rest of the process should go relatively quickly.
Here is a sample brand building timeline starting on January 1:
|Branding Element||Deliverable||Due date|
|Mission Vision & Values||MVV Statement||2/1/2022|
|Inspiration Swipe Files||Logo swipe file, slogan swipe file, social media swipe file||3/1/2022|
|Find a Freelance Graphic Designer||Freelance offer||4/1/2022|
|Completed Logo||Print and JPG logo files||5/1/2022|
4. Choose the Right Team of Professionals to Turn Your Vision Into Reality
They say if you give a mediocre team a great idea, they’ll screw it up, but if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they’ll make it work. This is why hiring the right professionals to help turn your brand’s vision into reality is crucial.
In the real estate world, that means hiring professionals who know real estate. Maxa Designs is the industry leader that helps brokerages turn their branding dreams into reality.
Case Studies: The Best Real Estate Branding
Now that you have an idea of what you’re up against, here are case studies of our picks for the best real estate branding.
|Real Estate Branding Category||Our Picks for 2021|
|Best Overall Real Estate Branding||Brown Harris Stevens|
|Most Creative Real Estate Branding||Halstead|
|Boldest Real Estate Rebrand||Century 21|
|Most Controversial Real Estate Rebrand||Coldwell Banker|
Best Overall Real Estate Branding: Brown Harris Stevens
Founded in 1873, luxury New York City brokerage Brown Harris Stevens’ branding has always been synonymous with luxury, exclusivity, and the level of white-glove service that goes along with it. The only problem was that the very idea of luxury has been morphing into something that outpaced BHS’ lovely, but dated branding.
Instead of stately limestone mansions or classic pre-war apartments with maze-like floor plans, luxury in today’s Manhattan includes 90-story high glass towers, former manufacturing spaces in SOHO, and even bolder and more varied properties in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond. BHS had to find a way to make their brand appeal to the cool kids.
Taking such a well-respected (and valuable) brand into the 21st century required the tact and skill that only an experienced branding agency like New York City’s Pentagram could pull off.
Brown Harris Stevens’ Branding: Logo & Tagline
One of the most difficult challenges in branding is coming up with a logo and slogan that work so well together that one immediately conjures up the other. The logo and slogan Pentagram created for BHS is the ideal of a great logo/slogan combination.
The typography is deceptively simple and immediately brings to mind high-end professional services. It wouldn’t look out of place as a logo for a hedge fund or law firm.
Stacking the logo rescues the brand from the Achilles heel of versatile logos—length! As someone with an 18-letter long first and last name, I can empathize here.
The slogan “Bold, Honest, Smart” came from interviews with BHS’ management and agents and represents the unique qualities that set BHS agents apart from the 40,000 other agents in New York City.
Fitting those qualities into an acronym for the brokerage was an inspired stroke of genius. It acts almost like a mnemonic device to help people remember the slogan AND picture the logo—perfect!
Brown Harris Stevens’ Branding: Online Presence
Pairing the subtle light grey and bold orange accents for BHS’ logo and color theme translates perfectly to the online world. As you can see above, the colors work perfectly on the saturated high-resolution images of properties that lure in BHS clients.
The stacked logo and tagline are also very versatile and easy to place in many different layouts. BHS’ branding calls for a spare, minimal layout that is easy on the eyes and, more importantly, easy to scan on pages with a lot of information.
Brown Harris Stevens’ Branding: Yard Signs
Although yard signs are fairly uncommon in New York City, this mockup yard sign looks amazing and will work perfectly in Westchester and other suburban locations BHS’ serves.
Brown Harris Stevens’ Branding: Promotional Materials
Perhaps most impressively, Pentagram’s branding work for BHS translates perfectly to promotional materials as well. Above, you can see how great it looks on a bright orange tote bag. It’s not hard to imagine how great it would look on everything from bags, umbrellas, pens, calendars, or anything else high-end realtors use as promotional materials.
Brown Harris Stevens’ Branding: Printed Materials
When you see BHS’ branding in print, the choice of bold, bright orange makes a lot more sense. Orange is the perfect color for a call to action, and as you can see above, it immediately draws your eye like a laser beam. Bold, simple, easy-to-read typography rounds out the greatness here.
Their gorgeous brochures are no exception. The grey, white, and orange color theme looks fantastic. Ditto for their business cards and stationery. Check out how the designers swap the orange highlight color between the slogan and logo on the back and front of their business cards.
Brown Harris Stevens’ Branding: Retail Building Signage
The outdoors is an even more challenging test for color themes and real estate branding. Like it does with every other application, BHS’ branding passes with shining colors.
The orange is a very eye-catching highlight color for a white brick building, and the stacked logo on the sign and the initials on the door both look, well, perfect. It looks hip and cool, but also obviously high-end.
Most Creative Real Estate Branding: Halstead
Although they’re nowhere near as old as a brand like Brown Harris Stevens, New York City’s Halstead works in the same rarified luxury market that BHS does. Their branding was also similarly stodgy, stilted, and dated. It might have looked cool and cutting-edge in 1991, but today, it’s seen a colorful upgrade.
Halstead Branding: Logo & Slogan
Above you can see their old green brand mark, as well as the new bright bold, creative brand mark and logo, as well as a quick glimpse of how it looks both alone and in print on business cards, stationery, and brochures.
How does it look? Well, to our eyes, it looks pretty great. It’s bold, brash, and playful, but still manages to convey luxury. If anything, this real estate branding might even be a few years ahead of the game. I can imagine many more brands embracing this bold, colorful look to stand out in crowded markets.
Halstead Branding: Color Themes for Different Markets
One of the most incredible things that Halstead’s branding agency Pentagram came up with was using a variety of bright, happy colors to represent the various markets that Halstead works in. This is a great way to represent the many varied neighborhoods they work in without sacrificing the core branding.
Above, you can see how these colors work with the typography and taglines used for this campaign: “Move to What Moves You,” “Bold Moves for Bold People,” and “Getting You There.”
Halstead Branding: Printed Materials
As you might imagine, the “H” brand mark and logo look fantastic in print as well. Check out the envelope and folders above. I love how they took the brand mark and made a cool-looking pattern out of it. I could almost see this working as a custom tile job in one of their offices.
In the magazine spread, above, they’re using nothing but color, language, and typography to send a message, and it comes in loud and clear. That’s what great real estate branding is all about.
Halstead Branding: Yard & Other Outdoor Signage
Where these bold colors truly pop is in the real world. There’s nothing quite like a pop of bright, cheerful color to draw your eye on a crowded Manhattan sidewalk.
Halstead Branding: Promotional Materials
It even works for promotional materials. How cool are their tote bags? In a few years, this color and pattern will become synonymous with Halstead and high-end real estate.
Boldest Real Estate Rebrand: Century 21
When it comes to real estate, Century 21’s brand recognition is hard to beat. For many people around the world, Century 21 is synonymous with real estate.
As the brand grew into the globally dominant giant they are today, it got a bit diluted and stagnated. They kept the same ’70s logo seemingly for decades, with almost no update.
Like the other two brands we crowned as the best real estate branding, Century 21 decided not only to change but use the same bold vision they did when inventing their brand in the 1970s.
That meant burning it down and building a new brand from the ashes and whatever traces of the old brand that survived the fire. Amazingly, the brand’s very soul survived that fire.
Century 21 Branding: Logo
Since we already have an in-depth article that goes through the new Century 21 branding nuts to bolts, we’ll save our regular readers the time and summarize what we’ve said there. In short, they hit this one out of the park. They managed to not only come up with something bold and elegant—but something that doesn’t necessarily banish them to the “luxury realtor” space.
It’s easy to imagine Century 21’s new logo looking just as good on a $12 million Malibu mansion as it does on a starter home in Ohio. No mean feat. Even better, their brand mark is strong enough to stand on its own, and should one day become as widely recognized as the logo itself. They even created a fun pattern, like Halstead did.
Century 21 Branding: Yard & Outdoor Signage
While they sure don’t pop with color as Halstead’s signs do, their yard signs look pretty great. After all, not everything has to be bold and brash. The outdoor signs look great as well.
Century 21 Branding: Printed Materials
Going with the same gold and black color theme of their previous branding, they took their printed material to the next level. The logo, brand mark, and typography all work together. Hopefully, they’ll issue agents strict branding guidelines! Their business cards also work perfectly.
Century 21 Branding: Promotional Materials
I’m not sure what it is with tote bags and killer real estate branding, but these examples from Century 21 are ticking all the boxes for us. Elegant, not too pretentious, these are the kinds of tote bags you keep AND use.
As you can see from the fantastic transformation of Century 21’s iconic branding, regularly auditing and assessing your brand as your company grows is crucial. If you’re curious about learning more, check out Criterion B’s article Rebrand Refresh: The Importance of Auditing and Assessing Your Brand.
Most Controversial Real Estate Rebrand: Coldwell Banker
When it comes to iconic real estate brands desperately in need of rescue from the Saturday Night Fever era, Coldwell Banker was always right up there with Century 21. Even with some of the most prestigious names on their talent roster, Coldwell has always stuck with the Betamax logo in a Netflix world.
Just looking at the numbers, it would be absurd to say that the old-school logo has lost them any market share, but with the recent successful rebrand of Century 21 and even RE/MAX, Coldwell must have been under immense pressure to keep up with the Joneses.
Judging from the cold reception to the new brand on social media, we can’t help but think they should have left it alone, or at least pushed for a few more revisions, a few more logo choices, or better yet, return to the drawing board and start over.
The problems seem to start at the concept stage and then spiral out from there. The brand mark with the C/B monogram and “North Star” to represent their consistency in the real estate world is pretty good. There’s a lot to like here, and with a few minor tweaks, it could be great.
The problems creep in when the actual company name is added. It seems to exist almost as an afterthought to the brand mark, as if they wanted the brand mark to live a life of its own, like the Rolex crown or Apple’s bitten apple.
Instead, something just feels off when the two are combined. It’s not easy to say why. The font choice for the logo itself is excellent; the brand mark looks pretty cool, but together …
Of course, initial reactions are always harsh, especially with a brand as iconic as Coldwell Banker. The more we look, well, the more it grows on us. For example, the cufflink rendering above actually looks pretty great. Maybe this one will have to live out in the world for a little while before we come around.
Tips From Real Estate Branding Experts
Now that you’ve seen our picks for the best real estate branding, here are some words of wisdom from real estate branding experts for building your brand.
Paige Arnof-Fenn’s Tips for Building a Strong Real Estate Brand
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO Mavens & Moguls
“A brand is a promise in the hearts and minds of their customers of a consistent experience with the product or service. Here are a few tips from my experience on how to build a strong brand:
- Be original. What makes you unique or special?
- Be creative. How do you want people to think and feel after interacting with you vs your competition?
- Be honest. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you become the trusted advocate and go-to source.
- Be relevant. Brands aren’t created in a vacuum.
- Be consistent. Develop a cohesive message, and live it every day.
- Be passionate. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting.”
Shannon Riordan’s 3 Rules to Great Real Estate Brands
Shannon Riordan, Partner and Co-founder, Global Brand Works
“For a real estate brand to be great, it must be three things: Authentic (don’t just say what you are, be what you are), Differentiating (know your ‘secret sauce’ and leverage it), and Relevant (offer something that your audience wants and needs).
Real estate agents are building personal brands whether they intend to or not. Creating a strong personal brand is essential for success as a real estate agent. To do that, the same rule applies: understand what you do offer (authenticity), you need to understand the competition (differentiation), and understand what the marketplace out there wants (relevancy).”
Curaytor Co-founder Chris Smith’s 7 Steps for Establishing Your Real Estate Brand
Chris Smith, a USA Today bestselling author and co-founder of Curaytor
“There are seven steps for establishing your brand. First, establish a purpose. Then, you need to be consistent with fonts, colors, verbiage, and so on across all collateral.
The third step is emotion—your brand should make people feel something. Fourth, be flexible in the things your brand can do. Employee involvement is step five. Employees are critical to helping companies determine what a brand is.
No. 6 is loyalty. You have to invest in your customers—think handwritten notes or customer appreciation events—because you build a brand around loyalty.
The last step is competitive awareness. Watch the brand you admire the most and figure out how you can adapt some of their tactics while staying true to your brand.”
Over to You
Are you struggling with real estate branding, or have an insider tip you think can help our community of 400,000 realtors? Let us know in the comments.