The Cost of Bad Real Estate Branding

April 9, 2024

I remember being young in real estate (the freshly-minted agent drinking all that Kool-Aid 😜), entering the industry from the journalism + design background.

Excellent communications had always been my passion; it was impossible for me to view the world from another lens.

So I immediately found it hilarious — dismaying? — how similar all real estate brands looked.

Same red + black, black + gold, all-gold or all-black palettes. Same typography. Same language. Same “illustration” styles. 

I could stick my thumb over the logos and they were all literally indistinguishable. (You get a roofline! You get a roofline! YOU get a roofline! …let me stop before people start throwing tomatoes.)

It’s one of the many experiences that first got me thinking about how to break visual conventions in this space.

I wondered…which conventions were helpful?

Which ones could I take a chance and BREAK, for myself and other agents, while retaining just enough resonance (like a helpful industry shorthand, visually) to stay clear + familiar?

The smartest brands do this well.

Tony’s kept the fun of chocolate but injected purpose with a fresh twist.

Nuud and Cashapp kept gum’s category colors + fintech, but wildly reframed the design language.

Dead Happy and Liquid Death went even further, turning everything upside down (diced with death?).

If we decide to change our minds about Realtor branding, and do The Different Thing, then we have to reframe risk.

Obviously we all know (and likely are sick of hearing) that blending in with our competitors isn’t safe, it’s stupid.

So in that context…is creating a stand-out brand even “risky?”

If you think about it, “brave work” — brave real estate branding — is just another way of saying effective real estate branding.

Granted, shifting to this kind of proactive approach to your brand will always cost you something. This is the tipping point where some agents falter; it feels too vulnerable for them to think THAT long-term about marketing risk + reward.

There’s a quote I love and it came up last week on a call with a Realtor who was processing how much money it would cost to redo their decades-old real estate marketing materials, if they rebranded with us —

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” (Dr. Ralf Speth)

Ooof.

Let me share a slice of what I told this Realtor. Basically this: You CAN take control of the narrative that your audience has in their head about you.

You can.

There’s a true story on loop in your people’s heads about your brand, and it’s triggered every time they stumble across your agent website, see your visuals, touch your business card.

Your brand is living breathing thing. People must react to it — visuals give us no other choice — even if you don’t “feel ready to present,” even if you’re embarrassed about what you’re putting out.

So really, presenting yourself well and taking the risk is about 👉🏻 taking back your marketplace power.

It’s not about looking pretty or feeling luxurious (that’s nice cream on top, though).

“Strategic creatives” and big agencies have understood the principles of great branding and used them to make our psychology work the way they want it to, since the dawn of time…

You can do the same thing.

Yes, it’s an investment. But what’s the cost of NOT taking your power back in order to share the RIGHT, authentic brand stories in your real estate business?

What’s the cost of not solving your biggest brand problems?

If you do this right, your personal brand is the one thing your competitors can’t swipe.

And it’s YOUR story, which is both your legacy and your greatest weapon. 

The Realtors I talk to every day, the ones who work with us at the studio, have decided to buy into a different way of thinking about marketing risk.

And that’s exactly how they’ve set themselves up for success.

I’m so proud of them (and us).

Just important food for thought as we all aim to build up our brands with both style AND substance (+ a healthy dose of strategy), heading into a brave new year together.

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P.S – What’s BLUEPRINT, again? 

We’re a gaggle of designers, writers, and creatives on a mission to change the branding narrative in real estate.

We offer a signature branding service and the industry’s most elegant and high-converting digital products to help modern, stylish Realtors do three things:

➝ Communicate their worth;

➝ Become the obvious choice;

➝ Tell the right stories to stand out + SELL more.

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It's real estate's most intelligent, non-spammy, brand-actionable email newsletter: Our usually-weekly missives are filled with agent branding tips, personal musings, and only the good stuff. (If the wine was great that night, you may get a side-dish of witty banter, too.)

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