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.
Luckily, like a lot of things in real estate, branding gets easier.
In order to do it well, you need to learn from the best, and apply a few tried and true rules that branding experts swear on.
To get you started, here’s a granular look at what we think are examples of the best real estate branding in 2020.
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 floorplans and elevator operators, luxury in today’s Manhattan includes, 90 story high glass boxes, former manufacturing spaces in SOHO, and increasingly even bolder and more varied properties in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond.
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.
When you see the fruits of their hard work, you’ll understand why.
The new branding perfectly encapsulates the ethos of the brokerage (tenacity, service) and the elusive and often secretive world of high end New York City real estate.
Here’s a look at what they came up with.
Brown Harris Stevens’ Branding: Logo & Tagline
One of the most difficult challenges in branding is coming up with a logo and slogan that worm so well together that one immediately conjures up the other. The logo and slogan Pentagram created for BHS is the platonic ideal of what a great logo/slogan combination should be.
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 a 18 letter long first and last name, I can definitely 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 actually 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.
On pages with a lot of information on them, BHS’ branding calls for spare, minimal, layout that is easy on the eyes, and more importantly, easy to scan. Check out what they chose to highlight with the bold orange accent color.
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 ideal color for a call to action, and as you can see above immediately draws your eye like a laser beam.
Bold, simple, easy to read typography rounds out the greatness here.
These gorgeous brochures are no exception. The grey, white and orange color theme looks amazing here.
Ditto for these business cards and stationary. Check out how the designers swap the orange highlight color between the slogan and logo on the back and front of these 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 here for this 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.
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, to umbrellas, to pens, to calendars, or anything else high end Realtors use as promotional materials.
Brown Harris Stevens’ Branding: Billboards
It even looks great on billboards like this mockup of a Montauk billboard on what looks like the Long Island Expressway.
Once again, easy to read, easy to remember, and attractive. What more could you ask for from a real estate brand?
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.
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Most Creative Real Estate Rebrand: 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, well. See for yourself:
Halstead Branding: Logo & Slogan
Above you can see their old green brand mark, as well as the new brightm bold, and creative brand mark, 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 coolest things that Halstead’s branding agency Pentagram came up with was the idea to use different bright, happy, colors to represent the different markets that Halstead works in. This is a great way to represent each of the many varied neighborhood 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”. Hell, these are good enough to work in black and white…
Halstead Branding: Printed Materials
As you might imagine, the “H” brand mark and logo looks amazing 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 this magazine spread, 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, happy color to draw in your eye on a crowded Manhattan sidewalk.
Halstead Branding: Promotional Materials
It even works for promotional materials. I don’t know about you, but I would totally rock this umbrella. In a few years, this color and pattern will become synonymous with Halstead and high end real estate.
How cool are these tote bags?
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Boldest Real Estate Rebranding: Century 21
When it comes to real estate, there is no brand that even comes close to Century 21’s brand recognition. For many people around the world, Century 21 is synonymous with real estate.
The problem was that as the brand grew into the globally dominant giant they are today, it got a bit diluted, and well, stagnated. The kept the same super 70’s logo seemingly for decades with almost no update.
Like the other two brands we crowned as the best real estate branding of 2020, Century 21 decided to not only change, but use the same bold vision they did when inventing their brand in the 1970’s.
That meant burning it down and building a new brand from the ashes and whatever traces of the old brand survived the fire.
Amazingly, and the reason we picked it as the third best real estate brand for 2020, 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 just gloss over what we said in the article.
In short, they hit this one out of the park. They managed to not only come up with something that is bold and elegant, but something that doesn’t necessarily banish them to the “luxury Realtor” space.
It’s easy to imagine this 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 recognizable as the logo itself.
They even created a fun pattern like Halstead did. Personally I feel like Halstead’s brand mark works better as a pattern, but this is still pretty cool.
Century 21 Branding: Yard Signage
While they sure don’t pop with color like Halstead’s signs do, these yard signs look pretty great. Not everything has to be bold and brash after all.
Century 21 Branding: Outdoor Signage
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 managed to take their printed material to the next level here. The logo, brand mark, and typography all work togeher here. Hopefully they’ll issue agents with strict branding guidelines!
Their business cards also work perfectly. My only small complaint here is that people cursed with long names (don’t pity me) are in for some weirdness here.
Century 21 Branding: Promotional Materials
I’m not sure what it is with tote bags and killer real estate branding in 2020, 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 actually keep AND use.
As you can see from the amazing 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 Rebranding: 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 Beta Max 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” that is supposed to represent their consistency in the real estate world, is actually pretty good. In fact, there’s a lot to like here and with a few minor tweaks it could actually be great.
The problems creep in when the actual company name is added. It seems to exist almost as an afterthought to 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 put together. Actually, it’s not that easy to say why. The font choice for the logo itself is great, the brand mark looks pretty cool, but together…
Of course initial reactions are always a bit 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 is going to have to live out in the world for a little while before we come around.
Most Timeless Real Estate Branding: Luxury Portfolio International
Working with some pretty great roots to begin with, real estate branding agency 1000Watt managed to create an even better logo that will stand the test of time. The monogram brand mark in teal is almost strong enough to stand alone, and remind us of the monogram of say, a famous watchmaker or bespoke suit maker.
How to Build Your Own Real Estate Brand: Tips from Real Estate Branding Experts
Now that you’ve seen our picks for the best real estate branding of 2020, here are some words of wisdom from real estate branding experts for building your own brand.
What Do You Think?
Hey, you made it this far, the least you could do is tell us what you think of our list of the best real estate branding for 2020… Someone you think deserves to be on our list? Think we’re full of %%$#? Don’t worry, we love feedback!