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Why this 115-year-old company is still a brand that matters

Coldwell Banker’s storytelling approach to rebranding has created success stories for its affiliates

Why this 115-year-old company is still a brand that matters

When Coldwell Banker’s digital team evaluated our social performance this year, the results were beyond our expectations: a 2,000% YoY increase in click-through rates on social media—3 times the industry standard. How was that possible?

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Even during a year when real estate is on everyone’s minds, it’s rare that a real estate brand is too. Especially one that is 115 years old.

It was the rebrand. The recent change to our visual identity and updated messaging was not just hitting the mark on social, but we were seeing similar improvements in tracking across media, public relations, and consumer sentiment.

Can a rebrand really make a massive impact? If done the right way, I now know it can.

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THE WAY TO REBRAND

Here’s the catch: there is no right way to rebrand. It is about having the right reason to rebrand. Legacy brands are great, but often their Achilles’ heel is failing to recognize when it’s time to modernize their traditional look. Coldwell Banker had gone 42 years without a refresh, so in 2019, we knew we had to make a change to ensure the face of our brand matched its heart.

Research was step one. We found that what our brand stood for was highly valued and relevant. But how we looked? That’s where the issue lay. The almost universal feedback was that we looked “established, but old.” So the reason for rebranding was to change our perception. By enhancing our identity to a more modern design, it would match the innovative things we were doing as company.

When you’ve had the same logo for nearly half a century, making a change can be met with “pushback.” We wrestled with how to ensure that the new logo was an accurate representation of the brand and kept coming back to the idea that for more than 100 years, we’ve been the North Star of our industry.

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Rebranding for the right reasons

With that “Project North Star” came into existence and was positioned as a transparent rebrand, a first in the real estate industry. “Transparent” meant that we prioritized real-world scenario testing and valuable feedback from the agents and brokers who would ultimately bring it to life. When we rolled out the project to our network during our annual Gen Blue conference, there were those who were excited and those who weren’t delighted. But the transparent aspect and testing allowed us to make adjustments, gather feedback, and then finalize a result that already had real world buy-in.

Two years later, we’re still seeing success stories from our affiliates across the country. Our social media CTR was just the start – we’ve also achieved 99% agent awareness of the rebrand and a 199% increase in PR value YoY. The Coldwell Banker Way, the updated brand messaging behind the project, allowed agents to articulate our story better and rally around a stronger value proposition—ultimately resulting in record-breaking years in recruiting and sales.

The latest update was rolling out a new logo to our Coldwell Banker Global Luxury business to create a unified voice within our brand. It worked. In a survey of affiliated and non-affiliated agents, we found the biggest growth in perception of our brand YoY is in being seen as a “leader in luxury.” That change in our identity created stronger alignment with our goals and a massive brand impact. We even had the unexpected success of selling $1M-plus worth of rebranded swag in our first year (we’re not a fashion brand, but we’ll take it).

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AUTHENTIC STORYTELLING

While every brand tells a story, the ones that can do so authentically stand out in a crowded space for consumer attention. Project North Star was all about getting back to the core of what Coldwell Banker has done since its inception. We’ve been guiding people home longer than anyone else, and the North Star icon in our logo was symbolic of that. So we decided our rebrand campaign should follow the same thematic, and we used the most iconic song about home to help tell that story.

Our national “Guiding You Home Since 1906″ married the story of people from all walks of life who just want to go home with Simon and Garfunkel’s legendary track, Homeward Bound. The ad ranks as one of 2020’s most powerful ads according to Ace Metrix, out-scoring Super Bowl commercials from Google, Budweiser, and Amazon. With the #1 ad in real estate for the 9th straight year under our belt, it’s proof positive that our storytelling approach is not only sound, but produces results.

Guiding you home since 1906

Beyond advertising, we’ve seen our companies thrive in the year since we first embarked on a rebrand. Affiliated agents who use our exclusive products are proving to be two times more productive than those that don’t. We are proud to say that in a survey of real estate agents across the industry, the Coldwell Banker agent satisfaction score is higher than any other company in real estate, with 96% of Coldwell Banker-affiliated agents having a positive or very positive opinion of the brand.

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What’s next for the Coldwell Banker brand? I can say for certain that our future will be built on how we adapt our look and message to match how we fit into the present world. We are laying the foundation for a first-of-its-kind branded ecosystem within the world of real estate. We hope to see you along our journey.

If you’re considering listing a home or thinking about a career in real estate, visit https://www.coldwellbanker.com/about

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David Marine is the chief marketing officer for Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

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