While viewing video footage of a customer appreciation event thrown by one of our broker clients, I was alarmed by the soundtrack the videographer chose: "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones.

This song, replete with sexually charged lyrics and anti-commercial messaging, played over two minutes of families and friends sharing in the day’s events.

I e-mailed my concerns to the videographer.

While viewing video footage of a customer appreciation event thrown by one of our broker clients, I was alarmed by the soundtrack the videographer chose: "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones.

This song, replete with sexually charged lyrics and anti-commercial messaging, played over two minutes of families and friends sharing in the day’s events.

I e-mailed my concerns to the videographer. His return e-mail suggested I might be reading too much into it. The song was meant to be fun and serve up a bit of irony.

That it did.

Soon after I received feedback from the brand manager of the brokerage who echoed my concern.

Case closed. Score one for the brand sentinels.

I’m hardwired to think like this. I’m plugged into considering the implications of everything and every idea beyond the fun. Beyond the irony.

And ask questions like: "Is fun and ironic consistent with the brand or might those attributes be confusing to loyalists who might view the brand as straightforward, wholesome, serious?"

Are you hardwired to think like this? How much have you let slide over the years?

What happens when brands get careless? When your sentinels are snoozing? Or when there are no sentinels at all?

Take a look.

Jamba Juice

Jamba Juice built its brand around healthy fruit smoothies. Their rapid growth, being early to mass-market fruit smoothies, was evident in cities across the country. …CONTINUED

Today, the company is combating a falling stock price and brand abandonment. This recent Fast Company article tells the tale.

But the issues run deeper. The Jamba Juice brand is tightly wound up around a product that has become seemingly ubiquitous.

Cafes, grocery stores, delis and fast food franchises have all taken to pulverizing fruit, sherbet and protein powder to create Jamba Juice-like products.

Where I live, which happens to be where Jamba Juice opened its first store, there are at least a dozen alternatives between my house and the company’s nearest location.

As a fruit smoothie lover, I can’t think of one compelling reason to inconvenience myself for the sake of patronizing Jamba Juice, other than maybe subjecting myself to the deafening cacophony of blazing blenders.

Real estate brokerage brands suffer from a similar problem. Their brands have become distant outposts that no one will go out of their way to attain.

In the best cases, brands transcend the thing they sell. Britax doesn’t sell baby car seats. They sell safety.

Apple doesn’t sell consumer electronics. They went all the way to brand nirvana: People buy Apple products because the brand makes them feel good about themselves for using the product.

Jamba Juice will have to lay claim to those deeper associations if it is to reclaim its brand mojo.

U2

Branding is about meaning, but also requires consistency. Great brand managers measure every decision against principles. Successful brands no longer need to sell. That’s why you don’t need salespeople manning the aisles of your local supermarket. The brands they offer sell themselves.

What happens when a brand lets its guard down?

U2 is a brand that has been militantly consistent and wildly successful. Lately, however, brand U2 has taken serious hits due to some significant inconsistencies. …CONTINUED

The band — and the brand — is known for music, but also altruism, activism and public stances on such things as world hunger and relieving Third World debt.

But recently David Byrne took U2 to task on his blog for the excess of their current tour, which is leaving a dramatically large carbon footprint as it trucks from European city to city.

This comes on the heels of a recent controversy ignited by the band’s guitarist, The Edge, who shook up Malibu residents when he attempted to develop luxury homes in an environmentally sensitive area.

Defending these cracks in U2’s brand bedrock will take more than PR. If left unattended, the damage could become irreparable.

Just another fruit smoothie

Absence of meaning and inconsistency are termites that eat away at your brand. Within real estate, they have munched right through the studs holding yours together.

Sure, locals may recognize your name. But if that name means the same thing for all the other brokerages in the market, you are not brand. You’re just another fruit smoothie.

Brokers serious about fixing their brand must answer one important question: "Why did I start this company in the first place?"

If you can remember what that was, go back to it, rebuild upon it, and breathe new life into it.

And then, this time, make sure you guard it fiercely. If a little Midwestern-based brokerage can do it, you can, too.

Marc Davison is a founding partner of 1000Watt Consulting and national speaker. He can be reached at marc@1000wattconsulting.com.

***

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