First, watch this video. Note that it’s produced by Keller Williams Realty, Inc., the corporation that actually franchises the name. This is the official position of the franchise, not of an individual agent or an individual office or franchisee. And KW says, the brand doesn’t matter.
I wrote pretty much the same thing on a blog comment once, and was promptly threatened with dire financial consequences. The omerta is strong in the real estate industry, paisan. But when one of the largest franchises in the industry says the same thing, I’m going to assume it’s safe to tag along without having people jump down my throat simply for discussing the topic.
In any event, I assume that the KWRI people produced this as a recruiting tool, to convince real estate agents to move from wherever they be to the local KW franchise. Most consumers wouldn’t give a hoot about this sort of inside-baseball stuff. Having said that, I have a couple of questions. [Ed: Yeah, what else is new, Rob?]
What’s the Deal with the Signs, KW?
As my title says, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, given this video, I’m going to assume that there are wholesale changes coming to the Keller Williams yard signs, as well as changes to the official Standards and Identity Guide for Keller Williams (link goes to a password protected intranet site for KW people only).
After all, if the brand doesn’t matter, and only the agent matters, then why must all Keller Williams yard signs be red? Why have the KW logo be so prominent, if not required by law to be a certain size?
Even though I, not being a KW agent, do not have acces to the Standards and Identity Guide, I do have the publicly available Policies and Guidelines Manual (pdf) for Keller Williams. In said document, I find this section:
220.127.116.11 Sign Policy
Our image is one of the most important assets we have. Protecting it is one of our most important jobs. In order to maintain a consistent and professional public image, the following will apply when using signs to market properties:
1. Our associates will only use standard KWRI for sale, open house, directional, rider and any other so-designated signs. Any deviation must be approved by the Regional Director, with final approval by KWRI.
3. All personal name/phone rider signs placed on Keller Williams® signs must be in the Keller Williams® standard color scheme except for signs or riders using an associate’s personal logo and photo which have been approved by the local TL or the Keller Williams Regional Director. No former company name riders may be used. If an associate does not own his/her riders, then no rider shall be used.
4. All for sale signs must have a Market Center phone number unless the listing associate has been given the exception to do so by his/her TL…
Suffice to say, I don’t understand…
“Our image”? What’s this about “our image” when the video clearly says that consumers don’t care about the brand, only the agent? All personal name/phone riders have to be in the KW standard color scheme? Why? Didn’t I just watch a video going on and on about how the brand doesn’t matter? All signs must have a Market Center (KW term for local office) phone number? Whatever for? Once again, did I not just watch a video talking about how it’s agent, agent, agent? Why would any agent want to send leads to the office instead of to her cell phone?
Based on KWRI’s own philosophy on the issue, I look forward to seeing the revised Keller Williams Standards and Identity Guide in the next couple of months. It can be one sentences long, and be the shortest, easiest-to-understand franchise Identity Guide in history:
You may do whatever you wish, as long as you are in compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations concerning real estate signs and branding.
But, uh, don’t hold your breath waiting, okay? Because…
The reality is that brand recognition and brand familiarity does matter. It may not be the most important factor in why a consumer would chose one agent over another, or even a consciously important factor, but given what we know about human psychology, the impact of familiarity, and the importance of brand in choosing between same-price commodity goods, I think it’s probably a stretch to say that it doesn’t matter at all. National advertising, no matter what you may think of it from a ROI standpoint, does have an impact of some sort.
As we see, Keller Williams itself recognizes that “our image” does in fact matter. There’s a reason why all KW yard signs are red and white. The CMO of Keller Williams would likely have an apoplectic fit, and for good reason, if the Standards and Identity Guide were revised to my one-sentence guide.
So, here comes the next series of follow-up questions, which are ones I’ve been asking almost ever since I started blogging about real estate and marketing. “Our image” matters; the brand matters in some way. That’s fine.
- What, then, is the brand promise of any particular company brand?
- And what, if any, is the relationship between the said brand promise (if one exists) and the recruiting practices of said company?
- Does agent count matter to the brand promise? Are larger companies more or less likely to project and deliver on the right brand promise? Why or why not?
I leave it up to you to puzzle over these, and would love to know your thoughts and answers on them.