Stick the landing: the right way to rebrand

The road to rebrand goes through Plainfield, Ill.

Are you losing sleep over the tired look of your brand? Do you lose even more sleep wrestling with how to improve your look? Starting tonight, you can rest easy – I have some advice. As the chief marketing officer for Coldwell Banker, I have the privilege of guiding the storied brand through its first rebrand in 40 years. Our Road to Rebrand has been a long journey with peaks, valleys and a few detours. Here are my tips for mapping your own road to rebrand.

1. Rebrand for the right reasons

At Coldwell Banker, it was starting to feel like our cover didn’t match our book. It was like this… Imagine you go in for a job interview. You have the experience. You have the smarts. You’re sure to wow the hiring manager. But you’re rocking a mullet and no one takes you seriously. Quite frankly, mullets were in style the last time we updated our logo…

We realized we needed a look that expressed our culture of ingenuity and vision for the future. The real estate game is changing every day and Coldwell Banker is at the forefront of that change. We’ve taken extraordinary leaps with technology. We were using AI to improve the real estate transaction back when our competitors still thought AI stood for Allen Iverson. It was time our look matched who we are.

2. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Once you have done the soul searching, the researching and decision-making to rebrand, don’t second guess yourself. There will be many opportunities to question your direction, but trust that your upfront planning will guide you through. Remember the climax of Star Wars: A New Hope? When the rebels try to take out the Death Star? Luke hears Obi-Wan’s voice, “Use the force…” Luke has prepared as much as possible. He trusts. He fires away. Rebranding is the same. Once you’re confident in your decision to rebrand, you have to be all in.

3. Swerve around the haters, find the helpers

There will always be people who are uncomfortable with change. You have to be able to identify feedback that’s coming from a place of fear and focus on feedback given with the intention of helping you be better and make better decisions.

When we launched our new look, it certainly sparked conversation. Some criticized the new logo saying it made us look like a sports team. In fact, we were hoping to design a look that people would want to wear, like a luxury apparel brand. People want to wear sports apparel too, so that’s great. We are excited our network is proud to wear the look and show off their affiliation with Coldwell Banker.

We evaluated all the feedback and separated out the helpful suggestions. One suggestion was to include the name “Coldwell Banker” with the “CB.” Another suggestion was to put the new logo on a blue background instead of white so it doesn’t look like it is floating in mid-air. We also added an option for an all blue yard sign that will show up in the snow. The feedback helped refine our creative process, finalize the identity standards, and inform best practices for how companies should go through a rebrand process.

4. Road test your new look

Once you decide on a new look, you have to take it for a spin in the real world. We worked closely with four companies to road test our signage in different kinds of markets:

To share our experience in one market, I’ll focus on Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group. Plainfield is Hometown, U.S.A. The office storefront is on Main Street and receives heavy foot traffic, making it the perfect place to test a new look.

Mike Prodehl, President and CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group, was eager to sign on as a beta tester. “Brand is so much more than a logo. Brand is about who we are as a company and our business and culture,” said Prodehl. “We are a forward-looking company with the talent and technology to match. The new look of the office now mirrors what we offer. Our agents and customers are very receptive to the change.”

Here are takeaways we learned from rebranding Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group’s Plainfield office that we will apply to rebranding the rest of our companies:

  • In real estate, it’s all about the yard sign. We were particularly excited to test what seemed like hundreds of yard sign options. We had designs that looked amazing indoors, then we took them outdoors and they just didn’t “pop” in actual yards.
  • The feedback from agents and customers was invaluable. From yard signs to logo placement to office redesign, it was important that they felt heard. Agents who work at test market offices loved the new look and feel of their re-designed workspaces. You can have the best design ideas on paper, but it’s crucial to get out into the real world.
  • The office launched the new look on “Cruise Night,” a festive event where people show off old cars and walk the historic downtown streets. Foot traffic was high and consumer feedback was instantaneously enthusiastic.
  • Ellen Williams, an agent with Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group said, “People walking by loved the new look. I heard from clients that the office redesign gave them great ideas for their own redecoration projects.”

The force is strong with this one

The rebrand has totally reenergized Coldwell Banker. I can feel it. We’re the same exceptional people and brand, but now with a sharp new suit.

The test market phase was crucial. We learned key insights from redesigning an office, testing store-front signage and placing yard signs in real yards.

Coldwell Banker still has a few months before the full rollout of its logo across all our companies in 2020, but we have set ourselves up to stick the landing.


To find out more about how Coldwell Banker can give you and your business an awesome brand, visit our Careers page.