A sign guy's perspective on real estate agent branding

Services for Real Estate Pros with Jack Pratt Signs

Custom Real Estate Sign Now, I know most people are saying to themselves "What can a guy that makes signs know about real estate?"  Okay, you got me... not much.  I am a simple creature that loves graphic design that strives to keep a sign shop from running me.  Furthermore, I pledge to each and everyone of you not to be an expert in your industry.  However, there is something going on in the real estate industry that is notable and worthy of sharing.

The philosophy of marketing and branding according to Keller Williams Realty.

Stefan Swanepoel's report on "The Most Recognizable Brands for 2009" showed Keller Williams Realty as most recognized brand.  

Why is that?  In my opinion, it's the agents with Keller Williams Realty that have made the company the most recognized brand.  Gary Keller's philosophy in marketing and branding allows the agent more freedom than any other national real estate franchise.  Now, some might think that allowing the agent to use their own logos on their marketing materials could dilute the corporate brand. Remember the NAR survey? It was NAR that concluded that prospects choose to do business with real estate agents - not real estate companies. Gary embraced this concept and now the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.  The irony of this report is that the most recognized brand is a brand that does no advertising, marketing or promotion for itself.  Franchises, brokerages, and offices could learn something from this AND agents should learn something from this also.

A few years ago, there was an article in the Keller Williams Realty publication "OUTFRONT" that I think illustrates the mind of Gary Keller:

...three out of the four ‘for sale’ signs on one particular street were Keller Williams signs.  “Look at those signs - every one of them is different.  You might not even know that they’re Keller Williams unless you really looked at them,” commented Mary Keller.  I appreciated her observation, but said, “Maybe you’re missing the real point:  Our agents have the listings.”  •  Keller Williams® Realty OUTFRONT • Vol. 2  No. 5  Pg. 3

As a graphic designer and an approved vendor for Keller Williams Realty International, it is a wonderful challenge to work with almost 80,000 agents that all want the the same thing, something unique.  A typical request from a Keller Williams agent is "I'm new and I want custom signs, but all I have is my name and photo.  So, play jazz and dazzle me.  Make it different!"  We walk gingerly up to the standards but always keep mindful of what will be well received - both the customer, KWR International and in the community.  Here's a link to our Keller Williams Realty page on our website for some examples of what we have done.

So, what have I concluded?  A personalized, custom yard sign gives prospects the feeling that they are working with someone they know.  Someone they can trust.  The ultimate goal in real estate is to create a continuous stream of new listings.  By embracing Gary's philosophy in marketing and branding, you can strengthen your business and image in the market place and generate the new listing activity for which you aim.  We believe in his philosophy and focus on building the agent name and brand.  The success of Keller Williams Realty proves that Gary's strategy is a win-win and that the public gets it.

The philosophy at Keller Williams is one that we encourage agents in all size companies to embrace; Dare to set yourself apart with one of your most visible marketing tools, your listing signs. The only question is, does your company allow you the flexibility to differentiate yourself?

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Comments (107)

Michelle L. Mayo
eXp Realty of CT, LLC - Waterford, CT
Shoreline Homes Girl

Wow, Monte!!  You really are the "sign guy".  I've been tossing around the idea of having signs, business cards, paper, notecards, etc. the works all specially customized for me with my brand and logo.  Something that sort of stands out from the rest and when people see it, they automatically will think of me.

I'd love to hear and see your ideas.

P.S.  I tried to go to your website but nothing came up but 3 signs.  I couldn't click on anything (no links).

Feb 24, 2010 06:53 AM
Rose Land

Monte, thanks for your "take" on signage.  I joined KW last year and have enjoyed the privilege of custom designing my signs, cards, and logo.  I have a fun name to work with.  : )  Just wanted to point out I was checking a flyer box on a listing of mine this morning and my entire red and white sign was ripped out of the metal frame.  Turns out, we had a VERY RARE snow day yesterday in the Austin, TX area and neighborhood kiddos took it upon themselves to construct a "sled" and slide down the golf course hills ON my sign ($$$) as well as on a few other signs, too....... (as evidence by our office manager who lives nearby).    Oh well, kids will be kids, and from past experience, we Texans get rather GIDDY when it snows on us!! 

Feb 24, 2010 08:05 AM
Sandy Nelson
Riley Jackson Real Estate Inc. - Olympia, WA
your Olympia area Realtor

You do great work Monte! I enjoyed reading your post and agree that a sign has the power to transmit a message. Professional branding is key to being recognizable and memorable.

Feb 24, 2010 09:44 AM
Tom Burris
NMLS# 335055 - Baton Rouge, LA
Texas/Louisiana Mortgage Pro - 13 YRS Experience

Noone buys from a non-practicing 90yr old realtor figurehead. They buy from people they identify with....

Same for lenders like myself.... My clients buy from "The DallasLoanGuy"..... not "Tom with ABC Mortgage".

Branding is bigger than ever right now!! Time to shine!!



Feb 24, 2010 04:53 PM
Monte Pratt
Jack Pratt Signs - Oklahoma City, OK
Expert in sign manufacturing & graphic design.

ANDREW:  You are spot on!  It's nice to know that there are people out there that find value in the durability of signs as well as aesthetic value.  We strive to continue to raise our standard of quality - UP UP UP!  Thank you for your thoughts!!  

TERRI: I understand.  If you are looking for a more personal relationship with a sign vendor, I am here for you.  We maintain all standards and identity guidelines for Century 21, as well as all other national and independent agencies.

SANDY: Thank you for such warm sentiments!  Let me know when you need some custom SOLD signs!

BRETT: Reblog away!!  Ever thought about custom signs for your industry?  For example:  Financing Provided by - ADVANCED FUNDING HOME MORTGAGE... Let me know if I can help you with any of your graphic design and sign needs!

VANNA: That is exactly what I'm talking about.  Consistency in marketing and branding is the key!  All your marketing materials should mirror each other.  Let me know if I can help you achieve a constant flow in your materials!

MARCO: The bottom line is that a sign can do more than just say "For Sale".  Though it's intended purpose does it's job, there is a residual benefit to using a custom sign.  I think the public gets it too.  When you are ready for what we can do for you, give me a jingle - 800-299-5551

MICHELLE: Stay tuned for our next post - "Consistency in Marketing in Branding"... or, something along those lines.  It's exactly what you are looking for!  Also, once you get to our home page with the 3 icons, click on the "real estate" icon.  It should take you to our home page or just click here

ROSE: I'm sure those kids had to fight to get our sign out of the frame - if it was ours.  Check the label on the bottom cross bar.  If it's a Jack Pratt Sign, it'll have our logo on there.  I always used hefty garbage bags for sledding.  Sorry to hear that yours got taken advantage of..  Call me if you want to replace them for you - I'll even help you keep the cost down due to those silly kids ; )

SANDY: Thank you!!  The main point of difference in our company compared to others is our "professional" design.  We know that when you look good, we look good.  So, it's just as important to us to make your image recognizable and memorable.  I appreciate your thoughts and comments.  Let me know if I can help you with your graphic design and sign needs!

LAURA: Thank you for your comments!!  I agree with most everything you've said. I do have a question for you to think about though:  How do YOU differentiate yourself from other RE/MAX REALTORS when a prospect simply wants to use an agent from your office?  I agree that the balloon and color scheme of RE/MAX has become an icon in the real estate industry and can bring much business.  I challenge you to find your own identity and augment the RE/MAX brand with your personal identity.  This will help you connect on a more personal level with your prospects.  We do a lot of custom riders for RE/MAX signs with personal image logos and photos.  If you want help developing something for yourself, I would love the opportunity to work with you!

TOM: That's the point - you got it!  It's about personal relationships.  Prospects are trusting YOU with their largest investment in their lives.  They are begging for more personal attention with someone they can trust.  Branding is just one part of building a successful real estate career, but arguably one of the most important elements.


Whew!!!  Thank you to everyone who has participated in my blog!!!  You have challenged me in ways I could never imagine.  I also want to give everyone a sneak peek at a new program that is in it's infancy and would love some feedback.  It is a referral program for existing customers.  Discounts will be given to those who refer new clients.  A "Jack Pratt Ambassador" perhaps??  Give me your ideas!!!

Feb 26, 2010 05:11 AM
Brett Pehrson
Advanced Funding Home Mortgage, NMLS#13287 - Salt Lake City, UT


As a matter of fact, I used to do exactly that along with a Call Capture System!  Worked like a dream in a different market.  I haven't quite found the right fit with financing signs in this market, yet...but, I know signs are worth every penny as an advertising cost!  I'll definitely get back in touch with you!

Feb 27, 2010 05:18 PM
Ginger Moore
Wilkinson & Associates Realty - Gastonia, NC

Great post. did not read all responses, but I do believe that Keller Williams is onto something good:)  It is great to give the agent the freedom to design their own signs.  I think that is marvelous, and I do hope my company will follow suite, if they should read your blog.

Mar 12, 2010 12:27 AM
Joetta Fort
The DiGiorgio Group - Arvada, CO
Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder

The first time I ordered signs after I switched to Metro Brokers the sign guy my broker recommended I use, insisted on putting my broker's picture on my signs.  He said he had to, but when I asked my broker about it, he said no way! He thought it was really funny, but offered to reimburse me so I could order new signs (from someone else).

Mar 12, 2010 12:43 AM
Jessie Teehee

Monte -

Great post; really relative to our recent conversation from KWFR. Thanks for creating ME a personal sign. Drop by when you're in the area.

Mar 12, 2010 01:30 AM
Sarah Pearce
eXp Realty LLC - Wiscasset, ME

Carey Scott, I also thought they way you do until I joined KW a few months ago. But from our J.D. Power and Associates award, No. 1 real estate franchise ranking by Entrepreneur magazine to becoming the most popular real estate company on Facebook and Twitter - achievements were endless at Keller Williams Realty in 2009.

KW agents get the most help from within their brokerage to get a home sold and that is a big difference. I started with a big comapny, got burned, and always laugh at agents trying to personalize their strict company signs. I always thought it looked a little sad. I work out in the hard knock woods where no one cares you got your pretty dressed up face on your little sign, there, aren't you cute. They want someone that simply is in the business for them, that will work to sell their home. That said I am in the market for signs, since my group is always running out of signs because we have so many listings.
Maybe Monte can help me with that, something easily seen but not pretentious.

Mar 12, 2010 02:34 AM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Keller Williams is a well known brand.  They are very good at promotion.

Mar 12, 2010 03:59 AM
Jim Stephens

I don't like the fact that KW agents customize their signs, and have a hard time believing that there is any "real" brand recognition or even a recognizable logo when there are so many variances to the original design. KW is not that big yet in Maryland, and most consumers ask me if they are a new company just starting out. Maybe I am partial to RE/MAX because I have been here for so long, but we adhere to specific guidelines set forth by our company that state there is a standard red over white over blue for sale sign with our hot air balloon logo. There are two variances: the commercial sign and the luxury homes sign. Aside from that, all 92,000 RE/MAX agents around the world collectively create a more recognizable brand that consumers have grown to know. Our balloon logo ranks among the most recognizable logos, right up there with the Nike Swoosh, the McDonalds Golden Arches, and the Apple Computer logo. You can google "RE/MAX balloon logo" and there are hundreds of articles regarding this. RE/MAX has a national and international advertising campaign where the balloon logo can be seen on HGTV, among other national networks, print media, online, radio, baseball stadiums, ice hockey arenas and more. I have never seen KW advertise in any of these settings, so again I ask, why are they the most recognized brand, according to Swanepoel's report?

Mar 12, 2010 05:35 AM
Fred Sweezer Sr. CMI, LLC.
Hud Certified 203K Consultant - Long Beach, CA
Certified Home Inspector

You just clear the blurr for between sales and marketing!

Mar 12, 2010 06:13 AM
Monte Pratt
Jack Pratt Signs - Oklahoma City, OK
Expert in sign manufacturing & graphic design.

Great thoughts and comments here!  Keep them coming!  And Jim, you make some points that are spot on!  As this blog is titled, this is merely one humble man's perspective... more than that though - it's an observation of what my company is experiencing.  Some real estate agents like it, some love it - some hate it.  Either way, it's all good for the sign guy.

Mar 12, 2010 07:14 AM
Deborah Randolph
Pirate Homes and Realty - Greenville, NC
Ask me....I can find the answers!

Since joining Keller Williams in 2003 I've used several different vendors for signs....and Monte is the last...I'll never order a sign from anywhere else. He's good, he's fast, he's reasonably priced and his shipping prices are low ...which is why we love Monte.

Mar 12, 2010 07:29 AM
Monte Pratt

apparantly i need to check in on my blogs.... it's been a while..

Thank you Deborah!  That really means a lot!


May 04, 2018 08:54 AM
Diego Jaramillo
Keller Williams Realty - Houston Real Estate - Houston, TX

Good posting.  Thanks for the Facebook sign riders...they're getting attention! :)


Mar 12, 2010 08:54 AM
Lois Kubota
Keller Williams, Walnut Creek, California, DRE#01865028 - Walnut Creek, CA

Monte, that's great news about Keller Williams, since I am switching over to them right now.  That's what they say in their message.  I've been saying it's all about the agent forever so I'm glad to hear there's such support for that attitude.

Mar 12, 2010 09:04 AM
Beverly of Bev & Bob Meaux
Keller Williams Suburban Realty - West Orange, NJ
Where Buying & Selling Works

interesting read and insight. thanks for the thoughts and opinions.

Mar 13, 2010 11:04 AM
jeremy leavitt

I am a new agent with Century 21, my previous work experience was 15 years as a graphic designer. When choosing the company to work for, I interviewed with Keller Williams. The freedom they offered the agents in their own branding was a huge draw for me. When I interviewed at Century 21 I asked about their flexibility. They are fine with me designing my own signs as long as I have the Century 21 logo and office phone number (both required by law on all signs anyway). I completely agree with you and truly believe the individualized look does help with growing the trust and relationship with sellers. Great posting!

Jun 28, 2016 01:27 PM
Jack Moorehouse
RSI Signs - Santa Ana, CA
Top Quality Affordable Signs

KW real estate signs loved by everyone, nice and neAT advertising with an effective color scheme. 

Jul 17, 2017 12:23 PM