Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the May issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine.
Right now, the real estate industry is buzzing about the new CENTURY 21® brand identity, with some questioning if the global franchisor has what it takes to deliver on its new mission (Defy Mediocrity and Deliver Extraordinary Experiences), while most are saying it’s exactly what the 47-year-old company needed to do to remain competitive and relevant.
The new visual identity released—along with the ambitions announced by CENTURY 21 at its annual One21 Experience gathering of its System members from around the world—are certainly bold. They are challenging existing conventions in real estate relationships between brokers and agents, C21® agents and their home-buying and -selling clients, and C21® agents and other industry professionals. They are putting the industry on notice.
CENTURY 21 took a major risk with its brand identity, which marks a complete overhaul of one of real estate’s most recognizable icons. From the hallways of the Orlando Marriott to the conversations with One21 attendees to the positive comments from many industry consultants and vendors, the excitement behind the rebranding campaign is palpable.
More than just a logo, the makeover is stylish and sleek; it’s a smart, simple and sophisticated color palette that stays true to the C21® gold and black scheme, and is designed to complement the iconic brand and elevate it at every broker, agent and consumer touchpoint. For example, the new C21 symbol replaces the outdated house, allowing the brand to project a modern image, as well as be more relevant to today’s real estate customer. Plus, the creative behind the identity is available in multiple layouts, designs and pattern options for signage, business cards and collateral that enables each System member to stand out by customizing the brand assets to their individual personalities.
Cara Whitley, chief marketing officer, Century 21 Real Estate, sums it up this way: “The brand needed to reflect that our sales professionals set the bar for what it means to be an extraordinary real estate agent. By eliminating the complexity and dated iconography, the new identity provides a clean and clear stage for their personality and unique style to shine through.
“This is just the beginning; we’re committed to making a difference for our agents and customers, delivering innovative solutions to help them deliver extraordinary experiences to their home-buying and -selling clients and customers.”
With the overhaul of the brand and the new visual identity firmly in place, new President and Chief Executive Officer Nick Bailey believes CENTURY 21 is poised to achieve two so-called “big, hairy, audacious goals” (BHAG) – 1) to double transactions in the next five years and 2) to be the most sought-after brand in real estate.
“It’s just wrong that in today’s world consumers spend more time researching what restaurant they’ll go to or the location of their next vacation destination than they do selecting their real estate agent,” says Bailey, referring to a Wakefield survey, commissioned by Century 21 Real Estate, in which 40 percent of respondents thought planning a vacation would take longer than finding a real estate agent. “Customer experience is the great differentiator, and homebuyers and sellers need to know they can expect something different from a C21® sales professional, and we feel that our new mission and visual identity helps express that to them.”
As far as his BHAG, Bailey suggests that as C21® grows in prominence as the real estate company that delivers on homebuyers’ and sellers’ expectations, the company will show up in increased marketshare and agent growth in closed transactions.
“The goal is for CENTURY 21 to think and behave like a challenger brand with a progressive image and foster a System of agents who consistently chase excellence, have a relentless mindset and never stop until their clients’ needs are met and exceeded,” explains Bailey.
The way Bailey sees it, the meeting of those clients’ needs and fostering emotional engagement is critical to earning marketshare, and effective storytelling and digital marketing are at the heart of this movement.
“We over-deliver on the rational aspects of being a global franchisor, like technology, learning and marketing support and services. It’s emotionally-connected homebuyers and sellers who are much more likely to be repeat clients and refer family and friends because of the experiences our agents deliver,” adds Bailey. “It starts with a mobile-friendly, repeatable journey from contract to closing that gives buyers and sellers the kind of speed, convenience and predictability that they’re looking for, and deserve.”
And when third-parties spread the word that CENTURY 21 professionals make real estate consumers feel more valued, and that the brand experience they deliver is far superior to what any other brokerage model is offering, an untapped well of referrals will begin flowing directly to the franchisor’s current base of 118,000 agents. Therein lies perhaps the brand’s greatest differentiator.
“By approaching referrals strategically within a System that targets, values and involves clients in the overall experience, we expect an increase in lead-generation numbers, brand advocacy and home sales to follow suit,” says Bailey. “The relationships we build will be so awesome and long-lasting that consumers (and other brokers and agents) will choose to share them with their spheres and feel good about helping us win.
“It’s our team and our affiliated companies and agents that set us apart,” adds Bailey. “Every action we take as a collective that lives our new mission daily is made so that we are the very best at serving the needs of our respective customers. 121 percent wins!”
To reach consumers and industry professionals looking for a new place to call ‘home,’ the C21® brand is creating content that serves their respective needs and delivering it where they learn and play: live TV, online and on their mobile devices.
The rebrand launched with the new visual identity, TV campaign, an integrated cross-channel media partnership with ESPN, and a local activation for CENTURY 21 System members to engage and connect with their local spheres of influence. The brand’s 30-second TV spot, “Don’t Settle for Average (Unless You’re in the Market for It),” follows a facetious young boy boasting about the characteristics of his home, only for viewers to learn that it’s not in fact his, because his family was never shown the place. The spot positions the CENTURY 21 brand as a solution for the 70 percent of homeowners who settle for the first real estate agent they find, according to NAR research.
That spot, and other digital assets, are airing as part of an integrated media partnership with ESPN that aims to build the association between the CENTURY 21 brand and its relentless pursuit of excellence, while also tapping into the passion that consumers and agents share for sports. As part of the cross-platform partnership, the CENTURY 21 brand will be sponsoring “relentless moments” in sports, creating “live commercials” featuring ESPN fixture Kenny Mayne alongside CENTURY 21 System members, and executing digital content integrations that will be distributed across ESPN social platforms.
“Sports are a passion point for about 90 million Americans, most of whom sit in the prime home-buying segment—the 25-49-year-old range,” adds Whitley. “In addition, ESPN programming, both TV and digital, speaks to the current C21® mindset—being #relentless—and reinforces the brand’s new North Star: to ‘defy mediocrity and deliver extraordinary experiences.'”
In addition to the ESPN partnership, Whitley explains that the campaign will also have a digital schedule to include channels like Hulu, Fox, Fox Sports, ABC and CBS.
“To become real estate’s first challenger brand, and break away from the ‘sea of sameness’ that exists in the industry, we have set out with this rebranding campaign to inspire people to expect and demand more from their real estate agent and company of choice during the entire transaction process, influence how they behave to better serve their individual interests, and compel them to act alongside a C21® agent,” says Whitley. “We know that consumers interact with other consumers before they speak to and engage with brands, so reaching them with a comprehensive campaign featuring digital and mobile content to tap into their experiences makes it that much easier for them to share our ‘why’ with others.”
At the One21 Experience, Whitley ended her 20-minute presentation with a most apropos quote from Reed Hastings, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Netflix: “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.”
The CENTURY 21 brand is moving fast, and with its bold new mission, #relentlessmoves campaign and an unparalleled legacy and brand awareness as its foundation, it’s controlling the conversation about what it means to be a traditional real estate brokerage with an agent-centric model and mobile-first focus on consumer expectations. And, as Whitley notes with enthusiasm, “We’re just getting started on this journey to provide thought leadership to consumers and make the bold moves we need to make to enhance their personal lives and lead them to the best possible real estate decisions.”
As one of the original franchise pioneers, CENTURY 21 has taken great pride in being the most recognized brand in real estate globally for nearly two straight decades.
Now, the brand, and its relentless brokers and agents, are positioned to take on the 21st century defying mediocrity and delivering extraordinary experiences to consumers.
Media Highlights “The Century 21 rebrand is a winner. There was a job to be done—bringing the visual identity of this brand four decades forward—and it was done well. There are lots of ‘but…’ points to be made, but they’re obvious. The job was done well.” – Brian Boero, 1000watt.net
“The new brand launch shows Century 21’s inclination to make its design and brand a bigger, and more interesting, part of their efforts. This is a terrific redesign that brings Century 21 into, you know, the 21st century, and elevates the status of the brand to a more upscale, more in-tune-with-the-times position.” – Armin Vit, UnderConsideration.com
“Century 21 has a new look for the 21st century.” – Adrianne Pasquarelli, AdAge.com
“I love Century 21’s new look. They put together a site that shows the new branding in different scenarios. It’s simple, sleek and modern. Their marketing team, led by CMO Cara Whitley, really knocked it out of the park.” – Greg Robertson, VendorAlley.com