Branding is a key tool in the competitive world of real estate. It is how you stand out in the crowd. But what is most important to market – the agent or the brand? Most estate agents would say the agent, but what if you work for a corporate brand? Ted Frazer, Seeff national marketing manager, weighs in on this often contentious issue in the property industry worldwide.
Branding is a key tool to help estate agents stand out in the crowd and how customers come to recognise brands which have been tried and tested and stood the test of time. Brands are what customers look for because they carry an inherent value of service and trust (or at least they should).
Are real estate agents brands?
Brands are about perception; a “relationship” that exists between a consumer and a product or service. Brands are constantly evolving, possessing a single-minded positioning, and a set of values.
Brands can be places, things, an organisation, and even people. Real estate is one sector where people are brands as much as the organisation that they represent. But, as with many other people-orientated service industries, there is often tension between the organisational or corporate brand, and the personal brands of its people.
Ask any real estate agent, and the answer is inevitably “The Agent”. This places increasing pressure on organisations that are looking to build, promote and position their over-arching corporate brands in the minds of their customers and, can lead to fragmentation, with multiple brand messages and positionings being delivered to an audience.
The digital landscape is also ideally suited for “personalisation” and provides a multitude of platforms and tools that allow agents (individuals) to suitably “package” and promote their own value propositions and personal brand values which again poses another challenge for the parent organisations that employ these agents. Social Media Influencers is just one example of how this platform has seen the proliferation and commercial successes of personal branding.
So how do organisation and personal brands live together? And which is more important?
The critical point of departure is to determine the entity with whom we wish our customer to have the “relationship”?
If we believe that the agent is the primary relationship entity, then the organisational brand provides little more than a credible “umbrella”, with the brand messaging communication being left up to the individual. Naturally, this would have better success within a smaller community, where the individual would be able to promote their own brand and values to a closed audience.
If the primary relationship entity is the corporate brand, then the agents (individuals) would need to be “ambassadors” of the corporate brand value-set – ostensibly being personal “touchpoints” or access points – that deliver the “promise” being made by the corporate brand entity.
Using a political analogy: An ambassador for a specific country is an individual that represents and reflects the values of their specific country. When despatched to another region, they are representing the culture and values of their home country and are “carriers” of that “brand” relationship.
In the same way, agents (individuals) should similarly be “ambassadors” for their organisations and should not compete with these brand values, but complement and reflect them. They are “extensions” of the corporate brand.
More focus on recruitment
This then places more importance on recruitment – ensuring that individuals/agents are employed based on their natural suitability to align with the organisational brand as much as their sales/performance ability. In other words: are they the right “fit” with the organisation’s brand values and culture?
With the digital realm allowing increased user engagement and personalisation, personal branding will become increasingly more established. Corporate organisations need to place more importance on using their brand positioning and values when attracting and recruiting talent, otherwise they face the increasing likelihood of a diluted and fragmented brand.