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Does Brand Matter? – Dear Ginny WTH

dear ginny series

Dear Ginny WTH

Does being with a large brokerage really make any difference to the consumer?  What is most important to the consumer when it comes to real estate services?

Going Broke in Boise

Dear GoBro,

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Brand does make a difference to the consumer that has been proven. In real estate, unless you have your own brokerage, you are dealing with two brands: your broker’s brand and your own “name” brand.

Broker Brand

I’ve said it many times in this column; you shouldn’t join a brokerage if you are not going to leverage the brand. Especially if you are associated with a large brokerage, I would assume there is brand value there for you and your consumer.

Being associated with a large brokerage can give a consumer confidence and convey stability, as in Prudential Real Estate and Coldwell Banker Real Estate, both of which have been in existence for over 100 years. 

You get the benefit of brand association. Brand has positive mind share with consumer. Brand transfers to you. Of course you have to prove yourself under that umbrella, but you better believe the consumer knows the names and has opinions about the big broker brands, right or wrong.

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You Brand

You say but Ginny, this is a people business and it’s me and the client across the kitchen table getting the deal done and that has nothing to do with the broker brand. Yes, that’s the brand of you operating in a consistent, professional and successful manner that over time brings extreme value to your name as its own entity. I agree that sometimes the brand of you can surpass that of your broker’s.

Some advice if that’s your case:

  1. It is NOT the time to create your own logo identity and fight against your broker. See previous Dear Ginny WTH.
  2. It is NOT the time to join a no-name brokerage that will allow you to promote yourself more than them. It confuses the consumer.
  3. It IS the time to think about breaking away and starting your own brokerage. You’ve got a strong name, leverage it.

I know real estate agents pay a lot of fees to be a part of a large brokerage. I was the marketing director for three large brokerages and was in part responsible for agents feeling good about brand and getting value from the brand. In the end you’ve got to get value from your broker’s brand or you’ve got to leave.

You ask what is most important to consumers, well it is competent and professional real estate services from their agent, but know that brand can be a tipping point.

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Ginny is a 360 degree marketing specialist with over a decade of experience in real estate-related fields. She’s held senior level marketing positions at Alain Pinel Realtors and Prudential California, Nevada and Texas Realty. She left the corporate world in 2007 to start her own marketing communications company, Cain Communications. She markets to segments that matter using media that matters. Follow her on Twitter @ginnycain.



  1. Bob

    September 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    “It is NOT the time to create your own logo identity and fight against your broker”

    why do you include “fight against your broker” in this statement?

  2. Bill Lublin

    September 24, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Ginny – You demonstrate the power of brand when you say, “Being associated with a large brokerage can give a consumer confidence and convey stability, as in Prudential Real Estate and Coldwell Banker Real Estate, both of which have been in existence for over 100 years” Actually Prudential has only been in the real estate business a little over 20 years – when they started out as a strictly franchise sales operation (subsequently acquiring Merril Lynch’s real estate company to develop company owned stores which were later sold to their regional VPs, leading to many of the companies now in business under their brand) Their Insurance business was so well developed however, along with the consumer perception that they were a strong financial institution, that many of the consumers surveyed when they were considering franchising actually thought that Prudential was in the real estate business before they sold their first franchise.

  3. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I think the solid brand name definitely can’t hurt and probably helps a lot when going after listings.

    But, the fees are crazy so it would have to be weighed against just exactly what you are getting from the brokerage.


  4. Ginny Cain McMurtrie

    September 24, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Hi Bob…I say fight against your broker, because that’s in essence what you are doing when you create your own brand. Your brand competes for mind share over your broker’s brand. It confuses the consumer to see two brands sitting side by side. If you work for Coldwell Banker, for instance, and you have your personal Bob Realtor mark sitting beside that CB brand or mark you dilute both of the brands. Isn’t your name enough? Why create a personal brand? Do you think it helps people remember you better because your name is in designed lights? I don’t think so.

  5. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 25, 2009 at 2:39 am


    I made a comment but it got stuck in spam. Can you go approve it. Thanks,


  6. David Sandusky

    September 25, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Good subject for discussion. My view is the agent is the brand because that is where the clients with company ‘A’ get the experience. The company needs to identify the type of people (personal brands) they want to associate with and vice versa. Why culture and brand comes from the inside. Not a logo…that is marketing and I agree to not have separate marketing materials. Merge the brand, that is a good match and the clients win.

  7. Bob

    September 25, 2009 at 11:05 am

    IIn the case of the big broker brand, we are not competitors. They dont list homes or show buyers. My competition in that situation is the other agent, not the big broker. They compete with each other for agents. I compete with their agents for buyers or sellers.

    I would bet if you took a poll and asked agents what factors are important in obtaining the listing or a buyer lead, mind share wouldnt make the top ten.

  8. Ginny Cain McMurtrie

    September 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Bob, yep you compete with other agents who are operating under a different brand name than you and maybe some with the same brand. So you don’t think the consumer considers that you have the name Coldwell Banker on your card and that another agent has Bob’s Real Estate on his/her card? Yes, you have to present a compelling reason why that buyer or seller should work with you, and if you don’t do that, the brand can’t save you. But all things being equal, I think big brand can be a tipping point.

  9. mlapeter

    September 25, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I think you’re right Ginny when you say that all things being equal, the brand can be a tipping point. I personally went from working for a larger San Francisco brokerage to starting my own, and business at first slowed down… of course I did it right when the market tanked, so hard to tease apart causation!

    The main thing for me, though, was that all other things are rarely ever equal. Either I would get a referral, who couldn’t care less about my brokerage, Or if it’s an online buyer lead, they care more about speed and quality of information. So far I’ve actually been surprised by how few people seem to care at all.

    Though, in fairness, my clients could be self selecting so I just never hear from potential clients who are concerned about my brokerage brand. But I was paying $4,500 in yearly fees to my old brokerage, with fees such as “Virus Protection: $300″… personally I’d rather just use my mac and spend the $300 on a new iphone. I wrote about a few of the services I use, which are either free or low cost, here:

  10. Bob

    September 25, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    IN NYC, the Corcoran brand would make a difference, but not in San Diego. Your argument is very
    market specific.

    I worked under Big Broker brands for 17 years. In 2005, Pru had a 49% market share here (from buying up the little guys). My competition was other agents within the same company. The best all had created their own brands that out shone the The Rock. Today Pru is a shell of its former self here, but those agent brands have lived on.

    For over 10 years, 5-6 of the Pru top 10 nationally came out of this market. Another dozen or more made up the top 100. Today 2 of the perennial top 6 are no longer Pru, and many of the top 100 have moved on. Their personal brands have lived on though, and allowed them, even enabled them, to move on seamlessly, with no harm to their identity or business.

    Hitching your wagon to someone else’s brand works well for the newbie, but if you want to control your own destiny, I would not only disagree with the assertion that now is a bad time to develop your brand, but in fact the perfect time to do so.

    In many markets, Big Brands are at their weakest. It is in these tougher market times where moving forward to capture the high ground can yield the greatest results.

  11. Ginny Cain McMurtrie

    September 25, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I think I need to clarify what I meant by the following:

    1.It is NOT the time to create your own logo identity and fight against your broker. See previous Dear Ginny WTH.

    Don’t stay with your current broker and try and build a brand within the brand…the two brands end up competing against each other and confusing the consumer. If your name becomes stronger than that of the broker, then it IS time to hang your own shingle.

  12. Bob

    September 25, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    In what way does this confuse the consumer? With the demise of print advertising, where does the broker brand come into play any more? It is the agent doing all the marketing these days.

  13. Doug Buenz

    October 1, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I might be mistaken, but I believe it was CAR or NAR that did a study of consumer attitudes regarding national brokerage companies versus small independent operators. As I recall (caution.. I am relying on my memory here, which is a recipe for disaster) one of the findings that struck me was that consumers thought that agents who worked at big brokerage firms were less competent overall than brokers who operated their own company. I will see if I can find that survey.

    • Greg Barnhouse

      December 16, 2010 at 10:57 am

      @Doug Benz – Search YouTube for “does brand matter” you will see 2 videos showing the NAR data done by Keller Williams, but using the NAR data.

  14. Tre Pryor

    January 25, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for sharing Ginny. I've been searching for info on this topic. Do you happen to know of any national survey results on this topic?

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