When we last left off, Dakota Riley of Keller Williams Realty had just spread her branding wings in an attempt to differentiate herself from the countless real estate agents in the South Shore of Massachusetts.

After taking a 30,000 foot view of Dakota’s business model and competitive landscape, we landed on “Depend on Dakota” as her brand name.

We had effectively positioned Dakota’s brand name to tell a story of how potential home buyers and sellers could put their trust in Dakota to get the best deal possible. After all, this was one of the most important investments of a client’s life, and Dakota needed the client to know that she would go to bat for the client’s best interests.

“Depend on Dakota!” It just rolled off the tongue. It was short, sweet, and to the point. Best of all, it was memorable.

What makes a memorable brand name?

A memorable brand name is imperative in marketing. Brand names bundle two elements together:

  • Denotation — the strict dictionary meaning of a word, and
  • Connotation — the emotional and imaginative association surrounding a word

Because people process a brand name both literally and emotionally/imaginatively, when creating a brand name, we need to play to both of those aspects.

A great example of denotation and connotation is the number 13. Denotatively, we know 13 is one more than 12, the sum of 6 + 7 or 10 + 3, and is a prime number.

Connotatively, 13 is unlucky — think Friday the 13th or how hotels sometimes skip from the 12th floor to the 14th floor. In essence, we wouldn’t want to include the number 13 in our brand unless we’re selling “lucky rabbit’s feet” or broken mirrors.

Connotation also elicits an emotional response such as with the Dove Beauty Bar. As a customer walks down the cosmetics aisle, they gravitate towards Dove because they feel that using it will make them feel beautiful. The branding tells them they’ll feel confident going out in public because the Dove Beauty Bar will caress them and make sure their skin is flawless. Dove Beauty Bar elicits that emotional response the consumer desires, and as a result, the consumer remembers the Dove Beauty Bar when making their soap purchase.

Similarly, with the Depend on Dakota brand name, we knew we were conveying trust, reliability, and experience with those three little words.

Recognizing the brand in a blink of an eye

Our brand name was effective, but it didn’t tell people Dakota’s line of work. We could picture people saying, “Depend on Dakota for what?” and that wouldn’t cut it, so we added brand graphics including a logo and a professional photo.

According to an MIT Study, the human brain can process an image in just 13 milliseconds. As a point of comparison, it takes a human 300 to 400 milliseconds to blink an eye. Within just one blink, we needed to convey Dakota’s professional identity. That’s where we developed her logo.

Depend on Dakota logo

Through a visual lens, the Depend on Dakota logo ties in our brand name with its two reverse “D’s” acting as the walls of the house. We added a roof at the top to really “drive home” the idea. It’s simple, clean, and easily identifiable as the shape of a house within the blink of an eye.

Through a psychological lens, we chose to incorporate shades of red because it is an energizing color that excites emotions and motivates the consumer to take action. Red is also a bold color and can give confidence to those who are lacking the willpower to take that plunge and buy or sell a home.

Tying the brand together

We had now successfully created the brand name and designed the logo, but there was one missing piece of the puzzle: a professional photograph. People are biologically set to respond to the human face, and we all like to see the people we’ll be working with before making important purchase decisions.

Also, being that real estate is a very personable industry, we needed to put our best face forward to make the Depend on Dakota brand as approachable as possible.

Depend on Dakota headshot

We hired a local photographer to take headshot photos of Dakota. During the shoot, we made sure Dakota had the proper posture, smiled wide and looked directly at the camera. We wanted someone to look at the photo and say, “Wow, Dakota seems like a friendly, confident real estate agent.”

Tying it all together, we now had a memorable brand name, informative logo, and a friendly, professional photo. The Depend on Dakota brand was finally ready to meet the world and start making millions.

Depend on Dakota branding

In my next post I’ll take a closer look at how we promoted Dakota’s new brand to the public through multiple channels and how we began building a multi-million dollar real estate brand.

Looking for more real estate marketing inspiration? Visit our Real Estate Marketing Ideas Page for email marketing tips and advice on what to send. 

About the author: Bryan Caplan of BJC Branding is a Master Certified Authorized Local Expert for Constant Contact. BJC Branding, based out of the Greater Boston area, provides educational workshops and marketing consulting services to a wide range of businesses. Learn more.