A real estate brand is more than just a logo

By Chris Arnold
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Logos Aren’t Brands

Recently, I stumbled across a few fresh “tips lists” for creating logos and property names by a few different multifamily marketing leaders, seemingly after a WaPo article came out on the topic.

Many concepts on these lists get at some of the backward thinking we see regarding brands in the real estate industry.

This week, I want to break down some of these points and why I believe they tend to be off-base for a successful multifamily brand.

Setting “Logo” Context

First, let me set the table for how language will be used.

Think of a logo as a symbol. A visual representation of a brand and a piece of the puzzle intended to be immediately recognizable.

For example, the Starbucks logo isn’t the brand itself – it’s the logo: the green circle with a nod to the sea outside Seattle.

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A brand is the sum of its parts. A logo is one of those parts. The interior design is another. The experience one has with the product, how it feels/tastes/smells, and customer engagement are also parts of a brand.

The brand is not one thing. It could be tens of things.

And finally, positioning is where you aim to niche your brand within a greater ecosystem of brands.

In multifamily, that might mean you must position alongside other hip, cutting-edge, forward-leaning competitor brands.

You position a brand that is represented with a logo and that has other brand-related touchpoints for a renter to experience along their journey. Which, ideally, pulls renters in at a higher clip than the other hip brands.

In other words, a logo is useless without everything else!

Now, let’s break down some of the language I’ve seen on these lists.

“Simplify your designs so the message is clear.”

This statement is, unfortunately, entirely too broad to have much meaning.

I think the intent with a phrasing like this is to say that a logo should be simple. And in most cases, I would agree with that sentiment.

But remember that a logo alone doesn’t necessarily make your message clear or stamp out a profound brand experience. It’s the “sum of the parts” aspect of building a brand that creates clarity.

The logo is one part of that grouping, but the message comes from the experience, the feeling, and the literal content you make public.

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“Be meaningful with colors and fonts.”

Picking colors and fonts is undoubtedly an important aspect of building a brand, but again, it misses the point a bit.

Colors and fonts that align with your community, brand, and messaging are all important, but I would counter and ask a few questions:

What is your brand?

What is your community all about?

What is the roadmap of your brand, and why?

You need to understand what you’re building (and the reasons behind it) before pulling out the color swatches and font books.

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“Choose relevant imagery.”

This quote came from a list about creating logos, and I have to say, represents the most skewed tip of them all.

Images aren’t logos. This tip conflates the ideas of smart logo development with smart image selection on branded materials like websites, brochures, onsite collateral, etc.

Images shouldn’t make their way into your logo process outside of a mood board that thinks through the brand at a global level.

Leave images for the mid/later stages of brand development when collateral, the website, and related materials are in development.

“Encourage anyone to submit ideas.”

Reading the quote above, any marketer or developer reading who has gone through the brand process is probably shaking their head.

Fielding arbitrary ideas for brand names is one of the worst ideas for a cohesive naming and brand development process.

I know I face disagreement on this, but I’ve been a part of too many brand projects where the opinions of 4 people became the opinions of 14, and the rest is history. The project inevitably wanders along a dusty road with the most cliche names strew about.

Your brand development team should be tight-knit. Elect a final decision-maker ahead of time for reasons that all agree with, and stick to your game plan.

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“Run it through a trademark search.”

Last but not least, the tip to run it through a trademark search isn’t entirely off base. It’s a good idea, but a better idea?

Run it through Google.

We’ve found countless properties (and businesses) won’t appear in a trademark search, but our trusted friend Google will reveal the goods.

Make sure your new brand’s name doesn’t come up – in any relatable form – at least regionally, if not nationally.

The latter is a grey area and should be discussed early and often with your brand team, but research name usage every step to ensure no conflicts emerge.

And even if a conflict does come up (e.g. across the country), discuss the possible implications for the developer, owner/operator, and even the future renter.

You won’t want to be competing for paid placement, let alone organic results, with a property by the same name 3,000 miles away.

Wrapping Up

At the end of the day, our team doesn’t think about brand through the lens of selling logos. We aim to develop brand systems that get results.

By changing your mindset and moving away from thinking about brand in very singular and disjointed terms, your projects will become much more successful.

Have another tip?

Have you experienced any or all of the above?

I’d love to hear about it. The best marketing minds share what’s worked and what hasn’t, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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