The Real Deal New York

NYC’s resi firms are spending millions to look young and sexy. Will rebranding work?

BHS and Halstead tapped Pentagram to design new campaigns
By E.B. Solomont | April 19, 2018 10:15AM

“Established in 1873” has gravitas. It conveys longevity and experience. But when executives at Brown Harris Stevens sat down with designers from Pentagram last year, they decided it wasn’t enough.

In a bid to show its embrace of a changing and increasingly tech-driven market, BHS debuted a new tagline — “Bold, honest, smart” — on Tuesday, becoming the latest brokerage to debut a new look over the past year. On Monday, Halstead Property, which like BHS is owned by Terra Holdings, revealed a three-dimensional logo that comes in several colors to replace its decade-old green-and-white look. (The green was meant to be a pop of color but as the firm expanded to New York and New Jersey, it blended in a little too well in the suburbs.) In February, the Corcoran Group gave its logo a facelift and rolled out a batch of new lifestyle ads.

In an uber-competitive market, firms are shelling out millions on marketing campaigns to stay top-of-mind for both consumers and agents, who increasingly rely on their own personal brands.

“If we don’t have a strong brand, what are we?” said Christina Lowris Panos, chief marketing officer at Corcoran. “The agent has their own customers and runs their own business but they also want to work for a company that has a strong voice in the market.”

This month, the National Association of Realtors learned that the hard way when a $250,000 rebranding campaign fell flat after members mocked the new, three-dimensional logo — the first new look in 45 years. The logo is “hideous,” and members weren’t consulted before NAR spent their membership dues, according to a Change.org petition circulated this month.

Other New York firms have taken rebranding a little further. Compass, for instance, dropped “Urban” from its name in 2015 after Matt Spangler, now the firm’s chief creative officer, insisted on the change during his job interview.

Two years ago, Warburg Realty swapped out its blocky red logo for a graceful “W,” a move that coincided with a management shakeup as Clelia Peters joined her father, Fred Peters, at the firm’s helm.

Last year, Douglas Elliman launched a multi-million marketing campaign dubbed “It’s Time for Elliman” as a part of a push to solidify its presence in New York and new markets. Along with a new logo, the campaign included TV spots, print and digital advertising and event sponsorship.

For BHS, that meant an entirely new look. In addition to the new color scheme, the firm excised “established in 1873” from its tagline.” Its Twitter handle was changed to @BHSWorldwide on Tuesday.

After a year of introspection and research, the luxury brokerage wanted to be seen as more than a heritage brand, said Matt Leone, chief marketing officer of Terra Holdings, which owns both Halstead and BHS.

“We’re very proud of being nearly 150 years in business,” he said. “But it cannot be what defines us.”

In Corcoran’s case, the new look is more of a “refresh” than “rebrand,” according to Panos, who said Corcoran’s new color spectrum — which replaces a static color bar — has three colors instead of six and can be animated and used across any digital or social platform.

The brokerage also created personalized stamps so agents can promote their own brands on Corcoran marketing materials.

“That was our way of giving them customization while still having uniformity,” she said. “You want to maintain the consistency of the brand, yet also satisfy the needs of the agents.”