AKA The common sense (most cost effective) approach to creating a great estate agency Brand.
So, you’re looking to launch a new estate agency. You’ve got a big idea, a good track record working for others in the area and a potentially great product – you know it will fly if you could just get people as enthused about it as you are.
Therefore, based on the adage that a strong brand is built on an engaging proposition backed up by a great experience, you’ve got exactly half of what you need for success. What you don’t have is the stunning brand proposition.
You know that you need to tackle the dreaded B word but where to start? Money’s tight and one thing you know for sure is that at this early stage in the growth of your business you can’t afford a big consultancy. If that’s the case, I hope these few words help…
I’ll start by saying that branding isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a black art. It’s not all about paying a band of expensive consultants to go off and ruminate for a couple of months and then deliver back a tome that makes a thwack on your desk directly commensurate with the the size of your wallet. It can, and should, be a lot simpler.
Let me go as far as to say that if you can’t write the essence of your brand on the palm of your hand you’ve probably got something wrong. Because if you have to reach inside your pocket for a prompt-sheet it means that you won’t have ‘got it’. And if you haven’t got it nobody else will either.
So what is it that should be written across the palm of your hand?
Well, firstly make a cross to divide it up into four sections. That’s because this is the number of things that you’ll need to articulate – no more and no less – for your own benefit and that of everyone your business will come into contact with. Everything else, no matter how important, falls within this core proposition.
1. STAND FOR SOMETHING.
In the top left hand quadrant you should write the words “The Big Idea” or “Vision”, whichever you prefer. This first quadrant deals with where your business is going. It’s the big goal on the distant horizon that you are aiming for. It’s what you are going to be famous for. It’ll also be the basis of the ‘notes for editors’ on future press releases.
You’ll need one simple statement of intent that everyone can get behind – your staff, your investors, the media and, most importantly, your customers. And it should not be an uncomfortable amalgam of two or three sentences American-styli, nor should it ever use words like “exceed” or “expectations”!
Needs a bit of thinking about, yes. But it’s worth considering that at this early stage in your business you are in a far better place than most big corporates– because you know what you stand for already. You are fresh, have no baggage, no history and therefore no nasty credibility gaps to bridge. All you’ll need is a good independent person, or small team, to help guide your thinking and to help you to package the balloon of ideas that comes out of it into a proposition that means something to the outside world.
There you have it. Simple? Well, no, actually. But then it isn’t that difficult either.
2. LIVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN.
In the second quadrant you should write “Values”. You’ll need three or four key words or statements that define how your business is going to act as you aim towards your business’ “Vision”. This’ll set the culture of the business, or to put it another way, you could say it’s “how we do things around here”.
You’ll then be able to apply this as a template to everything that you do – both operationally and from a communications perspective. It’ll help to ensure the money you are spending on communications is not funding a black hole of disparate activity, but instead is all aiming towards one vision-and thus building long-term value in the business.
Equally, it’ll mean that you’ll also be able to apply the same rationale to things like choosing outlets, suppliers, future products and employing staff and training them – because it’ll be easier to ask the question: “does this person fit the way we do things?”
Having defined these first two slightly more intangible elements we can now work on the two aspects that everyone can see: “Identity” – which is perhaps the most tangible, and “Language” – which is the most pervasive.
3. MAKE SURE THAT YOU COME ACROSS CONSISTENTLY.
So, in the third quadrant write “Personality and Language”. This deals with the way your business comes across in written and verbal communications.
Look around you. We are bombarded with advertising messages every moment of every day – and we are becoming ever more adept at filtering them out. The brands that are cutting through are the ones with a believable story, the ones that use engaging language to win their audience. Nobody can have failed to have noticed (and smile at) the messaging on the back of an Innocent drinks bottle.
Win people over this way and they become evangelists on your behalf – and good PR is vital when you don’t have a big budget for other activity. Just ask the guys at Serious**.
In fact, Serious** is a great example. A waste management company – its issue was that it couldn’t get onto tender lists for large businesses and local authorities. It could have rebranded as something inane like “Alpha Waste Management Solutions” but instead they used self effacing humour to front up to what they do for a living – which is basically shovelling s**t. Hence the name Serious** and a thousand audience-smile- inducing puns were born. Self deprecating humour has a direct link to wit and intelligence. It also suggests that the people behind it are the sort of people that you’d actually like to deal with. The result was that they went from being very much a tertiary choice to going to right the top of many tenders.
4. PRESENT YOURSELF CORRECTLY
The final quadrant is all about what the man in the street thinks of when thinking of Brand. That’s how your business looks – “Identity”. This is all about appropriating powerful visual elements such as colours and icons that become synonymous with you – much as in the original sense of branding cattle. It’s about creating something magical that energises every touchpoint.
Well there you have it.
Clearly great brands are not just built on powerful and inspiring brand stories – they have to be backed up by equally powerful delivery of the product. There’s nothing new there and forgive me if I’ve appeared to state the obvious. But that’s all branding should be… simple… and to an extent, obvious. And the more effective it’ll be for it.