What’s In a Name? Your Market Identity

The name and slogan of your company tells consumers what they should expect from you.

In Real Estate Brokerage: A Management Guide, 6th Ed., the brokers/authors teach the basics of management through case studies and textbook-style lessons. Published by Dearborn Real Estate Education.

The excerpt below is taken from Chapter 12: Market Identity. You can purchase a copy on Dearborn’s Web site or by calling 800/554-4384.

BY LAUREL D. McADAMS, GRI; JOHN E. CYR, GRI; and JOAN m. SOBECK, CRS®, GRI

Some people characterize advertising as a head game, meaning that whoever gets into the head of the consumer wins. Capturing that head takes some finesse, which means the company needs a skillfully designed marketing and advertising program.

First, the company needs to make a statement about itself. That’s its market identity, otherwise known as its brand. This is done with the name it chooses, the design of its logo, and the selection of a slogan. All of this becomes the company’s signature, its identity everywhere the signature appears — the sign on the office, yard signs, business cards, letterhead, brochures, and Web home pages. That signature makes an even more powerful statement when affiliated companies are recognized under the same banner.

The name of a company tells a story. Because real estate brokerage is a personalized service, some brokers feel they can communicate that personal touch by using their own names for the company name. If the broker has a high profile in the community, name recognition can be a powerful draw.

‘Fictitous’ Names Work, Too

A fictitious name can be just as powerful, though. It may relate to a specialty, a geographic area, or other special characteristic that distinguishes the company from the competition. Some people consider the alphabetical position of the name in the telephone directory. Even with franchise affiliation, the company needs its own identity. A clever or compelling fictitious name is fine, but one that sounds too frivolous or comical, while creatively daring, can turn out to be an uphill marketing battle. Test-drive a name to gauge the reaction of friends before formally filing a fictitious business name (FBN).

FBNs, which are registered in the state where the company does business, must first be approved before they can be used. Words in the FBN like Bank, Insurance, Escrow, Trust, Federal, National, State, United States, Reserve, or Deposit Insurance are often questioned. Names that are already in use or names that imply the existence of nonexistent partnerships or corporations will not be accepted.

Some states require a certificate of fictitious name to be recorded in the city or county where the entity will do business. The name is usually advertised in a local general circulation newspaper for a period of time before the certificate is issued. In most cases, a corporation is not required to file a certificate because the corporation as a legal entity is entitled to use its own name. For real estate companies, state license laws may require licensing for both the broker and the FBN.

A Sizzling Sound Bite

A signature is the shorthand, the “sound bite” that creates brand-name recognition. A signature makes a short but powerful statement with words, colors, and graphics that stick in people’s minds. Think about company signatures that stick in your mind. Some are readily recognized by their color schemes (like real estate franchises). Others have their catchy slogans or logos, like the golden arches that are recognized worldwide.

There’s more to the design of a signature than simply picking something that others aren’t using. Think “signature that sizzles.” Sizzle is the attention-grabbing, impression-making characteristic of a signature. Even the most conservative institution (like a bank) needs a sizzling signature. This is the art of creative design that professionals know best, that crafts a signature that matches the company with the behavior and age of the consumers the company wants to attract.

The design must also look smart in a variety of formats. One that looks good on a billboard may not look so fine when it’s scaled down for a classified ad or a business card. Striking colors or screened backgrounds work for color print and a Web page, but may lose the punch in a black-and-white newspaper. While it may not be possible to cover all these bases, a professional can craft a design that suits the media that are most likely to be used.

Professionals can also help gauge consumer reaction to the signature and determine when the time comes to redesign it. As a company ages through its life cycles, it may need a new face that appeals to the contemporary consumer, the new swoosh or swirl that says the company is in step with the times. This could be a contemporarily stylish color scheme, a slogan that builds on contemporary expressions, or a graphic that looks especially 21st century. A new signature may be so bold as to bear no resemblance to the old, but, typically, something recognizable from the old signature is incorporated in the new so as not to lose identity.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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