That coffee mug with the company logo from last year’s holiday party? It may already be a historical artifact.
In the last half of 2012, a plethora of New York City residential real estate firms revamped their images: Citi Habitats changed its logo, Douglas Elliman dropped the “Prudential” from its name and the Corcoran Group introduced the world to Marcel, an apartment-hunting French bulldog.
Why the rush to rebrand? Recent changes in technology combined with deeper pockets post-recession, made 2012 the year of image makeovers for New York’s residential firms, said David Schimmel, president and creative director at the design firm And Partners, which has worked with firms like Corcoran, Stribling and Halstead Property.
For example, many consumers now use iPads and other digital technology to search online for property listings, Schimmel said, so firms want to ensure their websites are optimized for those devices.
“Digital channels, including mobile/tablet apps, have become the most visible and important expressions of a real estate brand,” Schimmel said. “A quality digital experience ensures relevance and fosters brand loyalty.”
It doesn’t come cheap, however. While the total rebranding price tag depends on a litany of variables, Sherman Advertising’s Ron Nelson estimated that the cost of redesigning logos and branding strategies can range from $10,000 to $50,000. Website design, meanwhile, can range from around $10,000 for a basic site to more than $100,000.
This month, The Real Deal asked a panel of experts to weigh in on some firms’ new looks.
Branding team: Freelancers
Last rebranding: 2010
Concept: Late last year, the sales and rental firm A.C. Lawrence was acquired by the Bellmarc Companies. Since then, it has tweaked its name from “A.C. Lawrence” to “AC Lawrence” and launched a new branding effort, which aims to maintain a distinctive identity while blending seamlessly into Bellmarc, said AC Lawrence cofounder Anthony DeGrotta. Expert opinion: The new look is “certainly more modern and memorable than the previous logo,” Nelson said. And including “A Bellmarc Company” as part of the logo allows the firm to “strike a balance between being a boutique/hands-on firm” and having “the backing of one of New York’s larger firms.” He also said that the name AC Lawrence “is much cleaner without the full stops,” but it’s not clear if the change will matter to consumers.
Concept: Citi Habitats has undergone an extensive rebranding, with a new logo, color scheme, office signage, window displays and iPhone app. “We wanted to create a whole new visual image for our company,” said Citi Habitats president Gary Malin. The firm also changed its slogan from “More broker per square foot” to “Sales and rentals, knowledge and guidance.” “We feel as though ‘knowledge and guidance’ are what the public is looking for when they choose a real estate firm,” Malin explained. Expert opinion: Citi Habitats has long tried to shake the perception that it is a rentals-only firm. The new logo helps refresh the firm’s image, Schimmel said, and is “effective in showcasing its strengths in both rentals and sales.” (See related story: Changes for Citi)
Branding team: AgencySacks and the Affluence Collaborative
Last rebranding: 2011
Concept: Douglas Elliman officially removed the “Prudential” from its name in November 2012, a move that severed its ties with the Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services network. The company changed its logo to reflect the new name and created a new website, AskElliman.com, which allows users to ask questions and receive answers from a team of real estate experts. The goal is to create brand loyalty by offering “real-time advice through an interactive digital platform,” said Camilla Papale, Elliman’s chief marketing officer. Expert opinion: By introducing a new graphic but keeping the font and founding year, Elliman appears “modern/cutting edge, while giving homage to their historic identity,” Nelson said. “I think they did it well.”
Branding team: In-house
Last rebranding: 2011
Concept: Fresh from a 2011 rebranding, MNS has changed its logo and colors once again. “The new MNS look is a little cleaner; we made the logo softer and used more whites,” explained MNS CEO Andrew Barrocas. The firm has in-house marketing and web development divisions, he said, so it’s easy to change branding elements. “We will monitor how they are perceived and will update things as needed,” he said. Expert opinion: “The new logo is more distinctive and easier to read than their previous effort,” Nelson said. “I love the simplicity and clean look.”
The Corcoran Group
Branding team: Rogue Productions, freelancers
Last rebranding: 2005
Concept: Corcoran isn’t doing a full-blown rebranding, but has made a splash recently with the launch of its new website and advertising campaign. The company’s first-ever TV commercial stars Marcel the bulldog, who is shown getting a massage, dining out and using Corcoran’s website to look for an apartment. “Through Marcel, we see how the new Corcoran.com takes you beyond the home to see what it is really like to live in each neighborhood,” explained Corcoran chief marketing officer Christina Lowris Panos. Expert opinion: The Marcel ads “appeal to us on a visceral and human level, while maintaining a premium positioning,” said Schimmel, who has worked with Corcoran in the past, but not on this campaign.