Well the fishing’s over and a good time was had by all, since the bass we caught were all undersized and the sharks we caught, while properly sized (150 lbs was top) were the wrong species – blue, not mako, inedible vs. tasty – so everybody in the ocean was returned there to grow bigger or change (sub) species and we humans enriched the fuel and tackle dealers of Montauk. The stimulus in action.
But upon my return I learned that yet another angry homeowner has filed a grievance against me for daring to hint that his house was over-priced and this time, he’s been joined by his Stamford Century 21 real estate agent who thinks that my mention of her yellow blazer was intended as a sign of disrespect and “not in keeping with the Realtor spirit”, which I assume means she’s miffed that I haven’t lied to or cheated a customer this week.
I’ll leave the customer alone for awhile – I haven’t read his complaint and I have no memory of what I might have said about his fine home – but let’s play around with the idea that I have dissed Century 21. Let’s start with this review of their brand and their blazers not from me, but from a consultant Century 21 itself hired to critique it. It’s on the Internet, so it should be safe to quote it here without further tearing apart the sensitive soul of the Stamford agent.
Current brand position from an industry insider perspective: Having practiced real estate almost exclusively in the Seattle real estate market, and being shielded from most television advertising, my perspective of the Century 21 brand is very limited and I am sure skewed. However with that disclosure, I must say that Century 21 is amongst the bottom on my list of the most respected real estate brands.
- Every Century 21 real estate office I have visited has been large, dated, and lacking almost any culture.
- I equate Century 21 with flat fee desk rent for lower producing agents. (It is important to note here that RE/MAX is positioned in my mind as flat fee desk rent for high producing agents.)
- Realogy’s step child to Coldwell Banker’s first born.
- Technologically lacking.
- Dying brand, slowly being phased out.
It doesn’t have to be this way…
My brand recommendations for Century 21: Go Modern!
Century 21’s brand was built around being “futuristic”. This worked in the 70’s and 80’s when, “Back to the Future” was the #1 movie, and we all thought of the 21st century as the future. Now it comes across as dated and out of touch. The most hip brands of today (W Hotels, Ikea, PinkBerry) are tapping into the modern theme; a theme that Century 21 is positioned perfectly to capitalize on.
Making this transition is the right long term decision for your company. Whereas Futuristic design is constantly changing and evolving, Modernism is timeless and will allow Century 21 to create a brand feeling, or culture, that can be built upon for the decades to come. As an example view the black and white video below where the Eames Lounge Chair was first introduced in a 1956 NBC television broadcast. Then notice the picture below that where the same chair fits in perfectly to it’s stunning new and “modern” surroundings.
The good news is that secretly, and perhaps inadvertently, Century 21 has been cultivating this brand position since the beginning. For example notice the architectural elements of the house in the Century 21 logo? The lines are recognizably “mid-century modern”:
It is this element that you should build your re-branding initiatives on.
Other things to consider:
1. Color:Please, please, PLEASE drop the black from all of your marketing, and tweak the shade of gold. Modern design is all about being clean, and simple. Look to the modern house above, or the Eames Lounge chair, and design your marketing to reflect them. If your designers don’t understand how a website or a flyer can be designed to reflect the look of a house or a chair, get new designers.
2. The Gold Jacket:
- I like the idea of the Gold Jacket. It is a visual cue that can help to differentiate Century 21 agents from the herd.
- It is most effective as a branding tool within the industry and should not be highlighted on consumer facing advertising campaigns. Establishing national/worldwide consumer brand recognition is one thing; connecting that brand recognition to a gold jacket is not necessary or cost effective.
- Go back and get the jacket redesigned. I know that you just had it redesigned by “fashion futurist, Geoffrey Beene”. However the jacket is not cool. Aligning with Geoffrey Beene will not win you any points unless you are a member of AARP. (I know, most of your agents are olderand like the comfortable fit of the Geoffrey Beene jacket. I don’t care and you shouldn’t either. A true leader will take their followers where they need to go. Your agents don’t need you to lead them to the status-quo. They are already there.) *The suit pictured below (right) is Ralph Lauren Black Label.
- The most important element of the Gold Jacket is that it means something about the person that’s wearing it. What it means is a topic for a different letter.
Generation X and Y buyers value authenticity above all else. They do not want to be marketed to or sold. They want to come into relationship with your brand: your people. The easiest way to do this is stop trying so hard, be yourself. Realize that they are smart and can make good decisions. Generation Y especially has a profound ability to sniff out the unauthentic. As an example I would like to draw attention to a recent Century 21 television commercial that goes through all of the motions, and yet still fails to connect.
All of the above is what Century 21 says about itself! I’m going to have to go back and check what I wrote to tie this poor lady’s knickers in such a knot but I’m absolutely positive i said nothing as harsh as this. So what I think I’ll do is file a cross complaint against Century 21 and demand they it, too be held accountable for violating the spirit of Realtor ethics. Oh, this will be such fun – better than shark fishing!