Don’t talk about being a trusted brand, act as a trusted brand: Words mean nothing without actions to follow. At Coldwell Banker the message of trust is evident because of our longevity, it’s part of our founding story. Colbert Coldwell started this company in 1906, because he saw how other real estate businesses were acting unethically. He made it a point to establish a code of ethics and guarantee services in writing, and that mindset has guided our brand from its beginning to today. Boasting doesn’t build a 113-year-old brand. We’ve succeeded for this long because time after time people have trusted us, with good reason. A brand doesn’t last without trust from customers and consistent results.
I had the pleasure of interviewing David Marine, the chief marketing officer for Coldwell Banker Real Estate where he positively influences consumers and the brand’s global network. From his management of world-class, award-winning advertising campaigns to elevating Coldwell Banker’s digital footprint, David leads the brand through master storytelling. David has had a profound impact on the real estate industry in each of his 15 years at Coldwell Banker, where he has held almost every position within the marketing team. And though his role as lead brand storyteller at Coldwell Banker is one that few others could ever fill, it is the stories shared at bedtime with his four boys that he’s most proud of.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, I was unemployed for nearly two months. I had lost my job at an ad agency following cutbacks after 9/11. I had a new mortgage and a new family and I really needed a job. I applied to an ad I found online to be the Electronic Product Manager with Coldwell Banker. So I went into this job interview which I was woefully uninformed about. I thought it was a bank but low and behold it was a real estate company. I got the job and even though I knew nothing about real estate I thought I could make a difference in a creative way. Growing up I had always found myself wrapped up in television commercials. I remember hearing some jingle for a copy machine a long time ago and another one for an airline. They just got stuck in my head and it made me think about the impact a brand can have on you. The copy machine jingle is sadly still in my head.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I guess one of the bigger mistakes I learned from was when I first started pushing our brand to get on social, I quickly found out that either agents or other people had already commandeered the name “@coldwellbanker” on Twitter. Not wanting to be the big corporate guy who pushes out the first mover, I decided we could live with an alternate username. I thought that I could just remove the vowels from Banker and live with that, so I used @coldwellbnkr as our Twitter name and told everyone I was “saving precious character limit space” for every tweet we were mentioned in. Even worse, our YouTube account was “cbankervideo.” Worst branding move ever. Eventually I realized I just needed to get back our registered trademark name and now we have every social account as @coldwellbanker.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I firmly believe that our story has never been as powerful and compelling as it is today. We’re a global brand made up of 92,000 passionate people who bleed blue and want to succeed. Our agents are the stars of real estate, and we have the numbers to back it up. Coldwell Banker agents sold more $1 million-plus homes than anyone else in 2018.
We’re a brand that’s not only lasted 113 years, but one that has continually pushed the bounds for the whole real estate industry. We pioneered the seller’s disclosure agreement, we created the first website to showcase listings, and we launched the AI-powered CBx Technology Suite back when many of our competitors still thought AI stood for Allen Iverson.
All of these firsts were made possible by creative people who used a little ingenuity to address the challenges that face our industry. Our ingenuity will continue to set us apart from the competition.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, we’re in the process of doing a rebrand called “Project North Star.” Our current, soon to be old logo, has not been updated in 40 years, it’s a bulky blue box that doesn’t work well in today’s smart phone dominated world. Our new logo features our initials, “CB” framed by a star in the top right corner. That star symbolizes the North Star. The North Star has been a guiding point for people for centuries, we think of ourselves as the North Star for real estate, our brand is dedicated to helping people find their way home. In our 113 years we have set trends and standards in real estate across the board. This rebrand is the fresh coat of paint that we needed. It’s a forward thinking rebrand; we want to make sure we’re delivering on our brand promise for another 100 plus years.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
I don’t think that I can agree with the categorization of the two. To me, product marketing is when you’re talking about a specific widget or element and the value per bit that it brings, or what it does. Brand marketing to me is what your brand stands for and how it makes people feel. An example, the Nike’s “It’s only crazy until you do it” campaign with Colin Kaepernick and other athletes that talks about pushing the limits and ends with their infamous “Just Do It” message. This wasn’t about shoes or the benefits of the apparel, it was about a feeling. The emotional response from the audience is the key difference between the two.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Simply put, a brand means something when you see it, it tells your story when you’re not there. A brand means something about what your company does and what your company stands for. With Coldwell Banker, people recognize us as soon as they see our branding. You walk out to your car in the morning and see our sign across the street on your neighbor’s yard and you know what it means, and hopefully you know the quality that comes with it. This is imperative today because consumers are hyper-critical. The brands that last do so because they endear themselves to consumers, they are the good ones. The bad ones are just simply forgotten and fizzle away.
Can you share 5 strategies that a large company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
1) Don’t talk about being a trusted brand, act as a trusted brand: Words mean nothing without actions to follow. At Coldwell Banker the message of trust is evident because of our longevity, it’s part of our founding story. Colbert Coldwell started this company in 1906, because he saw how other real estate businesses were acting unethically. He made it a point to establish a code of ethics and guarantee services in writing, and that mindset has guided our brand from its beginning to today. Boasting doesn’t build a 113-year-old brand. We’ve succeeded for this long because time after time people have trusted us, with good reason. A brand doesn’t last without trust from customers and consistent results.
2) Don’t be something you’re not, find your own voice: You need to know what you stand for. If you try to be something you’re not, just because you think that’s what people want to see, they’ll see right through you and you’ll lose their trust. It’s easy to want to follow the latest trend that other brands are doing or envision your brand as being cool enough to emulate, but it only works if it’s genuine and truly part of your brand story. We’ve seen a lot of competitors come and go this way.
3) Know your mission and core values: Large companies need to ensure that in everything they do, those values which they claim to uphold are reflected. It is so easy to lose your audience by slipping up and straying away, and then facing the consequences when you are no longer seen with as much faith and loyalty. Your values and mission should always be reflected in your marketing efforts.
4) Be a forward thinker: You should always have a growth goal — without growth you become complacent and lose your edge. Focus on who you want to be to stay relevant and try to stay at least one step ahead of everyone else.
5) Corporate social responsibility programs should be personal: Finding a cause that’s close to home for a company is important if you want your program to seem genuine and have an impact. We believe in helping people find their dream homes, and since many people feel their home isn’t fully a home without a family dog we are committed and passionate about connecting homes and dogs as part of our Homes for Dogs Project in partnership with Adopt-a-Pet. This project has inspired offices across our network, it’s brought co-workers and communities together at National Pet Adoption Weekend events, and it’s a point of pride. This is all possible because the program aligns with our company’s mission.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Air Jordan is one of the best and most beloved brands. The brand has staying power, it’s been popular for decades in an industry defined by short-lived trends. It’s an unmistakable name and logo that has never gone out of style. They’ve always stayed true to who they are and saw continued sales success even after the person for whom their brand was founded has been retired for over 16 years.
I’m equally as impressed by Spotify. It started off as a service people didn’t think they needed to pay for, but over the last 10 years it has sky-rocketed to 96 million premium subscribers. They seized an opportunity in the market and rose to the occasion. Over the years they continued to enhance their image by partnering with Hulu, expanding with videos and podcasts, and adding more enticing features to keep users from turning to other options.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
It is entirely different. Traditionally in measuring success you’re measuring purchase intents, awareness, etc. but as far as the success of our branding campaign we are interested in much more. We are unique because we aren’t just focusing on consumer perception but perception within our industry. Recruiting and retaining agents is very important in real estate — so our marketing needs to be a mix of B2B and B2C. We want to enhance our perception, going beyond simple branding and advertising tactics and getting down deep into the roots of how leadership is expressed through PR. We have even gone as far as revamping our international Gen Blue event to set our standards as high as we can.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media is critical if you want to maintain a successful brand. For Coldwell Banker, it has really played an imperative role in our rebranding efforts. While our official rebrand doesn’t roll out until 2020, our new logos are all over our social media profiles and are seen by thousands every day. Social media helps influence how people perceive our brand and plays into its success significantly. An equally important component in our social media presence is our use of video. The videos we put out for the public are huge features, and they really help express our brand in a visual way. In our industry especially, the power of video is incredible. In fact, it’s one of my “3 Vs” of marketing. Agents use video and social media to build their personal brand, and a good video can have a strong impact on a potential client. When real estate agents pair our national brand with their strong social presence — they’re unstoppable.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Always surround yourself with good people who can reenergize you. And look outside your industry for inspiration. Everything I’ve done in my career can somehow relate back to sports, comic books and late-night television. Sometimes you need to step out of your element to catch the spark that will ignite your next move. Look for places or things you get genuine enjoyment out of and bring that excitement back into your business. If you work with good, resilient people then no matter what road-block you hit you have reinforcements. Being around those who always look for a silver lining can make a world of difference and create an astoundingly productive environment.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As cliché as this may sound, I wish I could inspire everyone to be kind to one another. If we all could abide by this just imagine how much good would come about in the world, and what a better place we’d be in. Even just small acts of kindness can go a long way, more than you would think. When I was younger, I would get so excited when a superior or a coworker would come over and say “hey, you’re doing a really good job on this, keep it up” or “that was really great.” Everyone likes to hear something encouraging that boosts their self-esteem. A nice comment to someone might inspire them to spread another kind note and the cycle continues to create something amazing. I keep a file now of any time I get a little thank you note. I save it in there and it’s always something I like to look back at if I’m feeling down or doubting myself. In my laptop bag, I have a Father’s Day card one of my boys made me years ago because it instantly makes me smile.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I was a kid and would go off to a sports tournament, camp, college or a new job my parents always said, “you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing your family in everything that you do.” Now as a marketer, a father and a leader that sticks with me. When I go to work or give a talk, I constantly think about how I’m not just representing myself but so many others. There are so many people my actions can affect: my family (my wife and our four boys) my fantastic team of marketers, my bosses, and the company as a whole. It’s never just about you. Your decisions and actions always have a way of impacting others.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d have to say hands down Jimmy Fallon. To me he’s one of the most talented and savvy individuals out there. From a business perspective I think he’s a genius. His show has always been amazing, and what he’s done in utilizing social media and YouTube to build his following is something any brand can learn from. I have so much respect for comedians and anyone who makes people laugh, I think it is the hardest jobs in entertainment. He and I would have a great dinner at Olive Garden just like when he took Post Malone, and perhaps a game of Catchphrase afterwards?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m a big Twitter guy. You can follow @david_marine to get updates on the Coldwell Banker brand and my true love, the Mets.
I’m also on LinkedIn.
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.