On the Inman Connect New York 2020 stage, Coldwell Banker CMO David Marine shared the process behind the company’s 40-year rebrand.

Perhaps inspired by the start of a new decade, multiple real estate brands in 2019 attempted to turn a new leaf with extensive rebrands that included new names and logos, revamped websites, refreshed marketing and the occasional office overhaul.

While some efforts floundered, other companies’ bets paid off — probably none more so than Coldwell Banker who rolled out its first rebrand in 40 years last September after more than 18 months of researching and four months of testing.

David Marine

“Many things have changed over the years,” Coldwell Baker Chief Marketing Officer David Marine told the Inman Connect New York crowd, in a discussion titled “Time for a New Outfit: How and When to Change Your Brand.”

“But the one thing that hasn’t is the question, ‘What are we going to do about that logo?’”

Although Coldwell Banker was lauded for its transparent rebranding process and final product, Marine said the real credit belongs to the brokerage’s more than 92,000 sales associates who pushed the company to adopt a new look.

“The noise started increasing about 18 to 24 months ago,” he added, while noting that agents believed the old logo, which was an interlocked CB in a square and full name, was outdated. “Our visual image was holding us back. Our outside wasn’t reflecting our outside.”

Marine and his team immediately went to work, contacting a company they’d worked with in the past for smaller marketing projects. Although creating a revamped logo was the main goal, Marine said it wasn’t the starting point of the team’s discussion.

“We didn’t start with the logo,” he said. “We started with, ‘What do we want people to think about our brand and our story?’”

To find the answer, Coldwell Banker hosted focus groups with consumers in its four test markets of Plainfield, Illinois; Washington, D.C.; Madison, New Jersey and Greenville, South Carolina.

“[Consumers said the logo] is of an established real estate brand, but it’s old,” Marine said. “It’s a brand that my parents would’ve used.”

David Marine in a rebranded Washington, D.C. office. Credit: Coldwell Banker

With that in mind, the Coldwell Banker team developed 400 pages of possible logos with them finally landing on the “CB North Star mark,” a curvier, interlocked CB with a star surrounded by a blue square with a border.

“Changing something that’s been around for 42-plus years isn’t easy,” Marine added while noting the uproar Apple caused when they ditched the rainbow apple for a sleek, chrome color. “The rainbow wasn’t the future they saw for the brand. If we want to change who we are and how we’re perceived in the future, we needed to make that change.”

As the company prepares to roll out the new logo, marketing materials and sales associate gear worldwide, Marine reflected on the process, saying it’s important to make rebranding a community effort.

“Test some of your stuff before you make sweeping changes. It’s one of the best things we could’ve ever done,” he said. “Getting feedback from our agents was the key to success.”

In addition to extensive research and testing, Marine challenged broker-owners to put their agents first by making the rollout as smooth and cost-effective as possible.

“[Calculate] what is the average cost per office, and figure out how to offset that cost,” he suggested.

Lastly, Marine said it’s important for companies to “stick the landing,” which includes not only pushing a new look and materials, but also telling an effective and memorable brand story.

“Don’t just change your marketing, yard signs, business cards and do nothing to push it,” he said. “How can you make it into something that’s unignorable? How can you make it into an event?”

“It needs to represented in a way that connects with the community. Going out there and making some noise in the community is key,” Marine concluded. “Give people a reason to connect with you.”

Email Marian McPherson

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