One day after Realogy shed its 16-year-old name and aesthetics for Anywhere Real Estate, a moniker executives described as brighter, punchier and ready for the future, agents responded favorably, saying the company made the right decision by choosing a new identity that could resonate with more consumers.
Despite the risk of sowing confusion on Wall Street, where the real estate holding company is better known, the rebranding effort should play well on Main Street, where homebuyers and sellers are already familiar with many of Realogy’s subsidiaries, including Coldwell Banker, Better Homes & Gardens and Century 21, several agents told Inman on Thursday, hours after the refresh was revealed at the company’s New Jersey headquarters.
“I’ve known about this for about 40 minutes, so you’re getting a super raw take,” Kim Luckie, director of Marketing and Business Development at Florida-based ERA American, a Realogy brand, said while noting the rebrand was a surprise to all of her office colleagues. “As a marketer, I’ve always wanted Realogy to have more of a presence, and I think this allows that to happen.”
“It’s a lot more accessible to even Realtors and brokerages,” she added. “When I’m telling the story of our place in the universe, it’s a lot easier to say, ‘I’m with Anywhere.’”
Realogy’s stock popped after the announcement, reversing four days of declines. The company’s price per share opened at $9.76 on Thursday, rose to $10.51 after the announcement and closed at $10.52. On Friday, Realogy opened at $10.80 per share — bringing it near its 5-day high of $11.08 on Monday.
The name change, however, could eventually cause confusion among analysts and bankers who don’t closely track the company, WAV Group Founding Partner Victor Lund told Inman. The trade-off is greater brand recognition with consumers and the ability to better market and leverage the power of its seven franchise brands.
“The Realogy brand was fine — it is a Wall Street brand, not a mainstream brand like Coldwell Banker,” Lund told Inman. “I feel like Realogy has not managed their street reputation very well since [former CEO] Richard Smith left.”
“The story that is important is the consumer brands they operate,” Lund added. “The timing was great and the rebrand was well executed, but we’ll see if the inspiration impacts the management team.”
Century 21 Triangle Group Principal Broker Stephen Votino was in the same boat as Luckie, who said the rebrand was unexpected. “You know, it’s news to me,” he said, while noting he was still wrapping his head around the sudden shift. “But I think it’s a really good move.”
Votino, who spent years in the marketing and project management world working for The Body Shop, Celerant Consulting and PwC (also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers), said the most successful companies tend to rebrand about every 25 years in order to keep up with economic and demographic changes.
“As far as like the Realogy brand itself now… You know, we’re all separate brands within the brand, so I think a lot of us within the brand, even though we’ve kept our names, we’ve already rebranded ourselves with new logos and colors that are more modern,” he said. “Anywhere resonates more from a branding perspective when you’re talking about real estate to the general public because Realogy, in itself, the name could mean anything to those outside of the industry.”
Votino said he doesn’t expect the rebrand to impact his day-to-day branding or marketing strategy, since all Realogy-affiliated agents and franchisors lean on the branding of their individual companies. But, he does see the rebrand helping Realogy better market the value proposition of its subsidiaries and position them as a powerhouse with options for every kind of buyer and seller.
“We’ll see what they do with it for marketing,” Votino said. “I was part of a couple of different real estate companies that rebranded, changed names and did different things, and it really kind of came down to how they market to the general public.
“This name is easier to market to the general public and [use to] tell a compelling story about how our different brands can help buyers, sellers and renters find a home,” he added.
Although Luckie and Votino embraced the new brand, Century21 Affiliated agent Dave Weinert along with a growing number of Realogy-unaffiliated agents in Inman’s comment section felt the rebrand was a waste.
“What a ridiculous name choice,” Inman reader Vera Perner said. “… Anywhere must spend an insane amount of $$$$ to change all their instruments and products carrying the brand name everywhere on [the] internet, paper [and] real world. More money down the drain.”
In an impassioned phone call with Inman, Weinert said Realogy’s rebrand was a waste of resources for consumers who don’t care about their brokers’ parent company. What they care about is hiring an agent who can help them buy or sell a home, Weinert said.
“Why? Aside from being the holding company, who really cares about Realogy, Anywhere or Cendant’s name except for stockholders?” he said in reference to Cendant vice-chairman Kirk Shelton’s, who in 2005 was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution to shareholders related to accounting fraud, which sullied the company’s first name. “But the people I deal with on an everyday basis? My clients? They don’t care.”
“Realogy isn’t selling your home — Century 21 or Coldwell Banker is selling your home,” he added. “And even then, right, it’s the agent that you have the personal interaction with. I don’t understand why they did this. They could have put that money back into the company.”
Weinert said he would’ve rather seen Realogy launch a national campaign highlighting all of its brands and then funnel extra advertising dollars to those brands, so they could raise their profile in the midst of a quickly evolving and sometimes tenuous market where consumers need help finding an agent they can trust.
“Why would any money be spent on a marketing company to worry about the name of Realogy,” he continued. “Just change it to something that means less about real estate? Is it a travel company? Are they selling hiking clothes so you can hike anywhere? I don’t understand why.”
Moreover, Weinert said he was upset with the rollout, which according to him, Luckie and Votino, was a complete surprise.
“I guess they’re not going to just randomly call David Weinert of Oak Lawn, Illinois and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about Anywhere?’ he said. “But as somebody that pays more than enough in dues and commission to a company that is held by Realogy, I’m frustrated. Did any of our leaders know? Or was this literally completely in-house?”
He added, “It’s going to take me a while to say Anywhere. Heck, I might never call it Anywhere.”
Much like Luckie, Votino and Weinert, branding and social media experts Owen Fuller and Katie Lance were split on Realogy’s rebrand announcement. While Fuller was immediately on board with the switch, Lance needed a little more direction on where Anywhere was trying to go.
“I’m very excited for the newly christened Anywhere Real Estate team,” Fuller, who is Lucidpress’ CEO, told Inman. “When I consider a branding change, I always look at a shortlist of characteristics to evaluate it, first being that I want the new brand to be true. I want it to be really connected to what they’re about.
“I think that they’ve done that,” he added. “I mean, they’ve said clearly that they want to be about real estate anywhere, and for their hundreds of thousands of [affiliated] agents, that will be simple and memorable. I think that Anywhere is going to be easier for people to grasp than Realogy has been.”
Meanwhile, Lance was unsure about Realogy’s new ubiquitous name.
“I’m still digesting it,” she said midafternoon on Thursday. “I don’t even know if I want to necessarily say this out loud, but I feel like my very first impression was the word ‘Anywhere’ felt super generic, but then as I read through more of their thought process and vibe, ‘I’m like, OK, I guess that makes sense.’”
Although Lance wasn’t as gung-ho about the new name as Fuller, both said the true test of Anywhere will be over the coming months as they deliver on CEO Ryan Schneider’s promise.
Fuller said the switch to Anywhere is “an ongoing conversation” with the public. It will take at least three months for Anywhere to create continuity in its systems, technology and marketing, he said, and it will take at least another nine to know if leaving Realogy behind was a success or a major blunder.
“They now have to go through this very difficult process of rolling out this new brand consistently, and that’s very hard to do without real discipline from your people, great technology and great systems to manage that,” he said. “I think they’ve got their work cut out for them, but I’m sure they’re up for it.”
More important than their conversation with the public, Lance said they must have a conversation with their affiliated brand leaders who will need to take a more collaborative approach to their marketing and divert some of their energy toward uplifting the Anywhere name.
“From a social media perspective, I think that there’s probably an opportunity to create a whole campaign around the fact they can help anyone, anywhere, anyplace, anytime,” she said. And maybe it’s having some of the leaders from the different brands, like Sherry Chris or M. Ryan Gorman, culminating together and sharing the vision of Anywhere and what that story is.”
She added, “It might even be helpful having voices of different types of consumers since we’re in an interesting stage right now where diversity and accessibility is such an important issue. It’d be a great opportunity to show how this brand serves all different types of people.”
Beyond a single campaign, Lance said Anywhere’s brands will need to dedicate a portion of their marketing power to educate consumers about what their parent company stands for and how it benefits them as buyers and sellers.
“It’s one thing for them to rebrand and do this whole kind of social media campaign, but I think that the power is in the whole network getting on board and going, ‘OK, we agree to share one post a week, or whatever it might be, about Anywhere as a brand,’” she said. “They’ll have to work more collaboratively.”
Whether you’re ready to take the ride with Anywhere, or would like to take a U-turn back to Realogy, Fuller said more rebrands for other companies are likely coming down the pipeline as leaders prepare for more cultural and generational shifts.
“It speaks to the changing times.”