Your Beginner’s Guide to Building a Brand Identity That Sets Your Business Apart
American publishing executive Steve Forbes said it best: “Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”
Especially now, as consumers are spending more time exploring their options online. In a digital landscape, your brand cascades across all of your channels – email, social media, websites. And, it also goes deeper; it’s the way you answer the phone, what kind of delighting client events you throw, and the ways in which you interact with your local community. A company’s brand can even be more valuable than the product or service it offers. In 2019, the Apple brand was worth $205.5 billion, while Google’s brand was worth $167.7 billion, according to Forbes.com.
Create bonds with clients
In retail and real estate alike, companies or teams that hone their brand differentiate themselves from the competition and stand out. A strong brand tells a story. It creates an emotional connection with clients – it builds trust, and it creates lifelong relationships. People fall in love with brands.
“Your brand is this comprehensive way to tell the story of who you are and the value you bring to your consumers,” says Caitlin McIntosh, Keller Williams’ art director. “What’s your unique value that no one else can offer?”
Back in the day, branding was associated with cattle, the brand mark cowboys put on their herd to show ownership. In the 19th century, the meaning shifted when goods started to be mass produced. Makers of wine, spirits, and ale were among the first to ship their products globally, and they distinguished them by unique bottle and label designs. In the 1930s, a book called Propaganda introduced the idea that connecting products with ideas could sway people.
By the 1960s, companies had caught on, and they started associating their brands with emotional benefits. Today’s consumer wants to be a part of something bigger, to feel like they’re participating in a cause.
Starbucks, for one, has created tight bonds with customers by creating a sense of community in its cafes, a bridge between home and work. With its activist spirit, outdoors clothing company Patagonia connects with its customers by supporting causes they care about. Both companies know that fostering loyal customers is key. Loyal clients not only spend more time with your business than new ones, but they also spread your reach through referrals, word-of-mouth promotion, and shares on social media.
Build your real estate brand
So, how does this apply to real estate? Say you’re a veteran that wants to specialize in helping military families find homes. Or, perhaps you’re young and single in the big city you grew up in and your goal is to help your fellow city-dwelling millennials buy their first apartment. In both scenarios, as you develop your brand, you’ll want to weave in your own life experiences and the specific value you bring to your clients.
An agent who wants to work with military families puts pictures from their Army days on their website and hosts a Veterans Day neighborhood barbecue. The young agent in the city hosts a client happy hour at a trendy bar and designs a sleek website with compelling images. A brand should make your clients feel as if they’re part of something bigger than themselves – the veteran community, or 20-somethings making a go of it in the big city.
Establish your unique value proposition
So, where do you start? By developing your unique value proposition, or UVP. Begin crafting your value proposition by putting together a simple and precise description of the benefits that customers will get by working with you. This proposition should clearly convey the reason why you earn the fee you charge, and should be a covenant between you and the customer.
It is developed by asking/answering the following questions:
- What is the underlying purpose of real estate? Think about the difference between buyers and sellers.
- Who is my competition?
- What sets me apart from the competition?
- Who is my ideal client?
- What can I provide that others are not able to?
- How do I want my clients to see my business?
Once you establish this, you’ll be able to draft compelling messages and imagery to appeal to your target audience. It might be tempting to try appealing to as many people as possible, but remember – you can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try to. Doing so could send muddled messages.
Create your visual branding and identity
Your visual brand is composed of a set of tools that set the visual tone for your brand across channels. In adding these tools to your arsenal, says McIntosh, the important thing is to work your personality into your messaging.
Here are the visual aspects of your brand to consider:
- Logo: The logo is a graphic mark or symbol used to identify your organization. A strong logo carries widespread recognition – just think of the universally recognizable logos of Apple and Google!
- Typography: Typography is the font you choose for everything from your logo to your blog and printed material designs.
- Imagery: Your brand imagery centers the brand identity. This is anything from digital imagery (what you use on your site and social media posts), to brochures and print ads. Determine your guidelines around this imagery – will you use photography or animations? Your own photography, or stock photos? The possibilities are endless.
- Color palette: Your color palette guides the visual content your brand creates. It will feature multiple colors that guide everything: from your logo and website to printed materials.
If you cater to luxury buyers, your materials might be sharp and clean. If you are a naturally hilarious person, maybe you use whimsical images or illustrations on your website. “What is the experience you’re offering?” says McIntosh. “How can you distill your message down?”
As a general rule, she says, keep visual materials simple and uncluttered, and be consistent. You can also design materials so readers are guided through the experience. Start with a strong headline, then follow with a few key details.
For photography, it is better to show real people and events rather than using stock, McIntosh says. Maybe you hire a photographer to shoot your events, and you take a new image of yourself for your website that is more compelling than a traditional headshot. Perhaps it is an action shot of you working with a client at a coffee shop, or an image that showcases you laughing.
“If your brand is more fun, is there a way to be playful in the imagery? Work through that story of who you are through photography,” she says. “At the end of the day, humans want to work with humans.”
Once your brand identity is established, it’s time to disseminate it across all areas of your marketing, including (but not limited to) your social media channels, emails, websites, print pieces and more. If you’re a Keller Williams agent, make it easy by leveraging Designs in Command. Complete with a library of over 1,400 customizable templates, Designs allows you to create graphics using professionally designed templates for both prints (listing presentations, buyer guides, fliers, door hangers, postcards, brochures), and web (email signatures, profile banners, social media graphics, and more).