Versace. Aston Martin. Tiffany. The common thread between all of these brands? Staying power. They have all dared to adapt, to refine the picture of who they are and to lead by continually raising the bar for future generations.
Leadership in luxury real estate does not come easy. Globalization and new technologies have continued to challenge the status quo at the highest price points, while competition has grown even fiercer as the luxury residential sector led the recovery from the Great Recession. In the battle for market share, where new players are entering the picture and existing competitors are continually jockeying for position, the leader always has the most to lose.
The Coldwell Banker® legacy in luxury has followed a long path of evolution. What began as a real estate startup in San Francisco’s Financial District in 1906 has become a globally recognized brand, with over 3,000 offices in 49 countries and territories. Leadership in the high-end sector led to the 1980 acquisition of the Previews® program — a prestigious luxury real estate marketing platform with a tradition dating back to 1933. The program evolved once again this month, becoming known as the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury℠ program.
“The bottom line is, we sell more luxury real estate than anybody,” says Charlie Young, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “The reason why we have stayed at the top of our game for so long is because we have agility. We are constantly observing and anticipating the changing desires of the modern-day affluent client — so we can respond and adapt quickly.”
Searching for the Future
In 2014, the Coldwell Banker brand reached a pivotal point with the Previews program. Designated to represent the top 10% of every market, the elite program had a unique pedigree and an 80-year tradition of catering to a high-net-worth audience, thanks to an entrepreneur who revolutionized real estate marketing to capture prized estates on film. The program’s success was well documented, associated with the marketing and sale of history’s most iconic homes, including Ronald Reagan’s estate, Versace Manor, Spelling Manor, the Playboy Mansion and Aspen’s Jigsaw Ranch — but consumers were not connecting the program with the Coldwell Banker name. The brand’s leadership — which included Sean Blankenship, chief marketing officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC, and Craig Hogan, vice president of luxury — viewed all of these dynamics as an opportunity to evolve and stay true to the brand’s pioneering spirit.
“We needed to unite under one name and tell one story with one image, all rooted in the brand’s history of looking toward the future,” explains Blankenship. “We also wanted to make a powerful global statement that people understood.”
His belief was reinforced by a consumer study the brand conducted in June 2014. Surveying 665 high-net-worth consumers, the study found that they identified Coldwell Banker by name as a top luxury real estate brand.
“We weren’t surprised,” says Blankenship. “The question was, how do we build on the intrinsic strengths of our brand — which have already sustained us for over a century — and create a modern expression of luxury real estate?”
Journey to a 360° Marketing Approach
The answer would take Blankenship and his marketing team on an ambitious two-year journey to reinvent the Previews platform. They commissioned a San Francisco-based branding agency to begin developing concepts. They created four focus groups, made up of over 20 key stakeholders around the world. For nearly eight months, they tested logos and names with these groups, working backwards from the brand’s core values — trust, innovation, collaboration, consumer focus and business acumen.
Finally, in July 2016, they settled on a new identity — Coldwell Banker Global Luxury℠ — and proudly presented it to over 50 top brokers at the annual Chairman’s Circle event in Park City, Utah.
“The name is simple, memorable and tells affluent consumers everything they need to know about our brand,” says Hogan. “It communicates the power and strength of the Coldwell Banker message. We create innovative real estate solutions and exceptional experiences for high-net-worth clients. We’ve been doing it for over 100 years, and we plan to keep on doing it for 100 more.”
The new name and visual identity system for the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury℠ program was unveiled to the public this month, following a pre-launch rollout to agents and brokers in key luxury markets. A modern and elegant black-and-white logo has begun appearing on signage, business cards and collateral materials in most luxury markets. The revamped program also includes an enhanced and immersive certification course, a new international website, ColdwellBankerLuxury.com, and a renewed focus on delivering content through a blog, social media and Homes & Estates magazine. Hogan calls this “a 360° approach to marketing.”
“Because the target demographic for luxury real estate is a smaller niche and traditionally not bounded by international borders, it puts the onus on the luxury real estate professional to be almost omnipresent — in advertising, in media, in personal networking,” he explains.
Embraced by Agents, Beloved by Brokers
Many of the brand’s top sales associates and brokers have happily embraced the enhancements, believing they will reinvigorate their own marketing campaigns and give them a competitive edge when it comes to telling the brand story. Carrie Wells, a leading agent with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse in Aspen, who works with affluent clients spanning the United States from the Northeast to the Midwest and West Coast, has been particularly excited about the rollout.
“I think it’s really important to tell a cohesive story,” says Wells. “The new identity system has made it much easier for agents and the public to visually connect the longstanding history of Coldwell Banker with the story of our global luxury experience. But more importantly — when I can tell my clients that we sell more $1 million+ homes globally than any other brand, that’s a pretty impactful statement. My clients understand instantly that being associated with a well-known brand like Coldwell Banker means a high level of service.”
Judging by Wells’ and other agents’ early response to the new branding, the future looks bright for the enhanced Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program. The ability to progress has led the Coldwell Banker brand to this very moment. Like Versace, like Aston Martin, like Tiffany and all others who have achieved icon status — to endure means to evolve.
“We hope to create a lasting program that’s going to inspire the next generation of luxury real estate agents,” says Blankenship. “Not everyone can be a Property Specialist with the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program, and that makes it very special.”
*According to data based on closed and recorded transaction sides of homes sold for more than $1 million USD or more as reported by the U.S. Coldwell Banker franchise system for the calendar year 2016.
By Alyson Pitarre
Article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Homes & Estates magazine.