What The RESEARCH Says About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

by | Aug 27, 2023

Is personal branding going to help or hurt your business? You only have so much time, energy, and money to invest in your real estate business, and you want to make the smartest possible decisions to achieve your big goals. There is no shortage of advice about what you need to do to be successful, and if you are not careful, you could spend a lot of time and money doing things that are not helpful and that could actually knock your business sideways. Common “wisdom” includes examples such as:

  • You need to build a team
  • You need your own separate website that is search-engine-optimized
  • You need to spend 10% of your revenue on marketing

We’ll dig into each of these topics in future blog posts.  This blog is about the advice that agents perhaps hear most often: “You need to build a personal brand.”

Well, do you? Today, we will answer this question definitively and you might be surprised by what you hear!

Rather watch a video? Check it out below!                                                                                                                                                                             

Hi, I’m Mike Regan, founder and CEO of Relevate Real Estate. Compared to other medium to large brokerages, a higher proportion of our agents are Top Producers. We are designed to help agents become Top Producers and to help Top Producers continue growing rapidly while also having a balanced life. We know the most efficient ways for agents to grow their real estate business.

So, do you need to build a personal brand to achieve your big real estate sales goals? The answer to that question is YES, for sure!  The key question is, how do you do that? Certainly, your name and photo are super important. But… should your personal branding efforts also include other elements such as a logo, a unique color scheme, a tagline, and maybe even a name for your business in addition to your personal name? Are these elements necessary, or could they potentially be counter-productive for your business?

We will take a look at the top real estate agents in the United States and see how they built their personal brands. We will also check out some of our most famous celebrities, all unquestionably brilliant at promoting their personal brands, and see how they are doing it. Finally, we will look at the branding advice being pushed on real estate agents, who is pushing that advice, and what we recommend as the most effective way for agents to promote themselves.

How do the Top Realtors Promote their Personal Brands? 

I did a quick Google search to identify the very top real estate agents in the United States (by volume of homes sold) and then I looked at all their social media to see how they represented their personal brands.

The #1 ranked realtor is Alexa Lambert who closed $761M in volume in 2022. Wow, that is a lot of volume. My quick back-of-the-envelope calculation is that she took home about $6 million to her personal bank account last year. She has definitely done a good job promoting herself and her services. Alexa’s website includes just her photo, name, and the name of her brokerage. No logos, no color schemes, no taglines, no business name separate from her personal name. Her Instagram & LinkedIn are the same: just her photo and name.

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

The #2 ranked realtor is Cathy Franklin. She closed $509M in volume in 2022. Her website includes her name, photo, and the name of her brokerage. No logo, color scheme, tagline, or business name different from her personal name. Cathy’s Instagram & Facebook include her photo, name, and personal touch with her husband in the photo. Her LinkedIn has just her photo and name.

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

The #3 ranked realtor is Jade Mills with $369M in volume. Jade’s website includes her name with the word “Estates” after it. This is a little bit of branding beyond her name and photo. Her Instagram and Facebook are the same while her LinkedIn includes just her name and photo.

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

The #4 ranked realtor is Serena Boardman with $365M in volume. Serena’s website and Instagram include her name, her photo, and the name of her brokerage. Serena does not appear to have a Facebook or LinkedIn account.

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

The #5 ranked realtor is Neill Bassi with $286M in volume. Neill’s website includes his name and the name of his brokerage. His Instagram includes his name and he does not appear to have a LinkedIn or Facebook account.

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

Disclaimer: Okay, I have to admit, he was actually #6 and I moved him up because all of the top five agents were women, and just to make the guys feel okay about themselves we needed to have ONE guy. Right? Can you give me this one? You’re killing it, ladies! 

Analysis of the Top US Real Estate Agents’ Personal Branding Strategies

So, four of the top five (okay, top six) most successful real estate agents in the United States included only their personal names and photos in their marketing. Only one top agent included anything in addition to their name and photo, and that consisted only of adding the word “Estates” after her name. Based on the success of the other four, you can question if that made any difference for her. From this evidence, it seems that adding a logo, color scheme, tagline, or business name other than your personal name, is not helpful in growing a real estate business. But, maybe these people are “old fashioned”? How do the top celebrities today promote their personal brands?

Top Celebrity Personal Brands

Let’s start with Kim Kardashian. Is there anyone better at promoting herself than Kim? Kim does not appear to have a website for herself but only has websites for her beauty brands. Kim’s Instagram advertises two brands representing her products but there are no logos, color schemes, or taglines representing herself. Kim’s YouTube channel includes just her name and photo. Kim’s Twitter advertises her show (which IS her name) and includes her photo. Finally, Kim’s video… yep, that video. No doubt it helped her become famous. I did not check it myself, but I am guessing it does not include any logo, taglines, or color schemes.

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

Okay, how about Bruno Mars? In my opinion, Bruno Mars rocks. His original name was Peter Gene Hernandez. He changed his name to Bruno Mars. That is cool, right? Let’s see how he markets his personal brand. His website shows his name and promotes his latest album. Bruno’s Instagram has his name and photo with no logo, color scheme, or tagline. Bruno’s YouTube channel again, his name, his photo, and promotion of his latest product. No logo, color scheme, or tagline. Bruno’s Twitter includes just his name and photo.

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

Lastly, let’s talk about Jesse Palmer, he is everywhere. He has done a great job building his personal brand. He is currently an ESPN commentator, the host of The Bachelorette/Bachelor, and a frequent (okay daily) host on the Food Network. Let’s see how Jesse promotes his brand. He does not have a website dedicated to himself but his Instagram includes just his name, his photo, and promotion of his projects. On Jesse’s YouTube channel, he includes just his name and photo. No logo or color scheme. “Life & Adventure” seems to be a subtitle for his video channel, not a tagline. Finally, Jesse’s Twitter with just his name and his photos.

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

Analysis of How Top Celebrities Promote Their Personal Brands 

Top celebrities are all about personal branding. No doubt they are paying for, and getting, the best possible advice to build their fame. When it comes to promoting themselves, there are no logos, color schemes, taglines, or business names separate from their personal names. The only images they use are their names and photos.

As a Real Estate Agent, Your Name and Your Photo are All The Branding you Need

Your clients are buying you. You are selling yourself as a service, not a service or product separate from yourself. Even if you have a team helping you, they represent you. Therefore, you are your brand, and based on how the best in your business do it, your name and photo are all the images you need to promote yourself to the very highest level in the real estate business. Or in any profession for that matter, as we have seen.

But… does it actually hurt to add a logo, color scheme, tagline, and/or a separate business name to your personal name and photo in your marketing? In my opinion, it does. Here is why:

The top agents use their personal name, their photo, and the name of their brokerage in all their marketing. That is what consumers associate with top agents. If you add other visual elements, I think…

    • At best it confuses the client because they wonder what those other elements mean. Especially since you are legally required to include your brokerage and their logo in all your marketing. Clients wonder “how many different companies are involved here?”. As they say in marketing, if you confuse, you lose.                                                                                                                                                                                            
    • At worst it could make you look amateurish. It is expensive and time-consuming to come up with a logo that does not look amateurish. If there is no evidence that logos, color schemes, or taglines actually help, why take the risk, especially if it will cost you tons of time and money? That is not good business thinking.

Who is Pushing Branding for Real Estate Agents and Why?

Since there is no evidence that logos, color schemes, taglines, and different business names help agents build their business, why are so many agents hot about doing it? This trend started with a few agents being influenced by companies that make money from providing branding services. This includes marketing companies and independent graphic designers telling them they must have a logo, color scheme, and tagline, in order to compete.

In addition, other companies who market to real estate agents like coaching companies, warranty firms, and business card printers start reprinting “helpful” articles about hot topics on their websites to attract visitors, and soon all of Google is telling agents they must have logos and color schemes. More agents jumped on the bandwagon.

None of the foregoing has any relation whatsoever to what will really help agents grow their businesses.

Let us test this out. I searched Google with the phrase “Will a logo branding help my real estate business?”.  Of the first twenty results, seven of them were marketing firms offering to design my logo. Nine of them were vendors who wanted to print my logo on a card, t-shirt, or sign and four of them were vendors printing blogs that might attract my attention to their website. None of them actually tried to give me any fact-based business advice about whether I should have a logo or not (which was my original question). They all wanted to sell to me, not help me make a smart decision.

Here is the advice I saw about the need for a logo from a home warranty company:The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

What on earth does a warranty company know about branding for a real estate agent? This is the result of an intern reposting a paraphrased version of an article he found on a marketing website hoping to get your attention. Here is this warranty company’s logo:

The Truth About Personal Branding: Does It Help Or Hurt?

Inspiring, right?

Google is not a great place to find business wisdom. For that, you have got to learn from people who have achieved what you want to achieve. We started this article off by showing you what those people do with no logos!

If you have already spent time and money on a logo or other additional branding and you are now convinced it will hurt more than help your business, then give yourself permission to learn and streamline your marketing. The most successful businesspeople change directions and simplify quickly once they learn something that makes more sense for their business. 

Do I Need My Own Brand to Be a Successful Real Estate Agent?

Yes, but all you need is your own name and a great photo of the beautiful face God gave you. 

You may be curious about other ways to grow your real estate business, and/or how to create more take-home income or time for yourself. One question we mentioned earlier was “Does it make sense to build a team (or to continue to manage the one I already have), or is there some other way to get the support I need?” Alternatively, you may be researching different brokerages to decide which one might be most helpful for you to achieve your business goals. You can find insight into these questions and more in our Learning Center focused exclusively on our best business advice for real estate agents. If you prefer a video format, check out our Real Estate Elevated YouTube Channel as you continue growing your real estate career.

If you are an agent in the Triangle Area of North Carolina area and you’d like to visit with us to learn more about Relevate Real Estate, click HERE to set up a time to talk with us.