McDonald’s is a great example of a brand. The company has a logo that most 2-year-olds can easily identify and I can’t imagine that there is anyone in the country who doesn’t know what a McDonald’s restaurant is.
Most people don’t need to "trust" the brand to buy a burger; it is just a burger, not a major purchase that will have an impact that lasts longer than a couple of hours.
When it comes to services, like the services that a real estate agent offers, I refuse to believe that people do business with a brand. I think they list their homes with people they know, not with brands.
If people did business with a brand I would be out of business, as I work with a brand that is very small and not well known.
The people who find me through the Internet usually can’t even tell me which site they visited. The blog is the closest thing I have to a brand, but if I asked my clients what the name of it is I doubt they would remember.
Brands are impersonal, yet we talk about personal branding. I don’t feel connected to McDonald’s, and I can’t see myself lurking on their Facebook page. To me it is just one of many mindless, money-grubbing corporations that I really don’t care about.
Buyers don’t choose to look at homes based on the logo on the for-sale sign. They look at the home because it appeals to them, is probably in their price range, and looks like it would meet their needs. They don’t care about you, the listing agent, and they don’t care about your brand.
They care about finding a home that suits their needs. It is the same with sellers: They just care about the sale of their own home and how quickly we can sell it. …CONTINUED
Agent branding often starts with the face on the business card that also has the logo of the huge corporation on it. Is that really a personal brand or are we merely trying to humanize a corporation and make it seem less like a brand and more like a person? If we are trying to humanize a brand so people can relate to it, why do we need the brand at all?
Small really has become the new big. The idea of branding is from an era when big was everything and the large brands were the businesses that had the money for mass marketing on television, radio and print media. The brand with the most money for mass marketing and the cleverest ads won.
I am not going to spend any time worrying about branding. I know that there are companies out there that want me to pay attention to it, but they are the companies that sell products and services for branding.
My clients, friends and neighbors don’t buy real estate like they buy Starbucks coffee. They buy or sell a couple of times in a couple of decades. The brand would be of interest or noticed only when someone is ready to move.
In my business it might actually be cheaper to find new clients than it is to keep past clients or build brand loyalty. Keeping my brand in front of people for decades doesn’t make sense.
I keep in touch with the past clients who I want to keep in touch with, and I don’t think they see me as a brand or even a company.
It doesn’t make sense to model small service-oriented businesses after large corporations, and it doesn’t make sense to use new media to try to hang on to the antiquated idea that a small service provider needs to have a brand.
We need to be easily found and contacted, and we need to be known and trusted as real estate practitioners and as human beings. A brand isn’t going to do that and can’t do that as well as a person can.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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