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Estate agency boards: still relevant?

Property searches start online – so why are there millions of estate agency boards on the streets of Great Britain? They may say more about you than you think.


estate_agency_sign_boardsThere is a commonly held belief that 95 per cent of property searches begin on a property portal. This belief has, of course, been hugely supported and indeed promoted, by the property portals and if you were to ask the ‘man on the street’ where he looks for property and he will probably say that he looks on the portals first and then contacts individual agents when he sees a property he fancies.

If this is truly the case, why do estate agency boards still exist? Going even further, why do online estate agents, who are not burdened by tradition, have signboards?

The answer is that the real journey to a new home does not, after all start with the portals. It starts in the mover’s head. People move home for many reasons, including the old ‘death, divorce and debt’ scenarios, but also for a new job, a new child, a granny annexe; a whole host of events and desires may launch the idea of a new home.

If you are moving to another county, or even another country, you will naturally start by scouring the internet for properties and information about the area.

However, most people move home within just 2.5 miles – in London that distance reduces to an average of just 1.3 miles. So you can be sure that most people that are moving know their area. And in their area, (unless it is an area like Hastings where signboards have now been banned) if they are even vaguely thinking of moving, they will notice when a sign goes up on a property that they like.

This is really where the moving journey starts, sometimes it starts purely because they have seen a For Sale board, with dreams of buying that particular house. The signboard is the trigger, seen and ‘logged’ in the potential mover’s brain, before they look on property portals, before they visit estate agencies.

The business of boards

Signboard suppliers report that business is brisk, both in rebranding initiatives and the consequent supply of new boards. Kremer Signs work for around 5500 estate agency offices throughout the UK – corporates and independent estate agents. Since the start of the year Kremer Signs have produced over 650,000 for sale/to let signs, including nationwide rebrands for Strutt & Parker, Carter Jonas, Marsh & Parsons, Douglas & Gordon.

Gary Gosney, Kremer’s Sales & Marketing Director, says that 2014 has been very positive as far as the housing market is concerned, “Agents across the country have been focused on refreshing
their image, fighting hard to stand out in a very competitive market. Over 129 new customers have chosen Kremer Signs to rebrand/ re-design their boards over the past 10 months, which is great testament to our design team, who have vast experience in estate agency branding.”

Gary estimates that the ‘board supply’ market is worth about £8-10 million per annum and there aren’t very many manufacturers fighting for market share – the other major player is Signboard, who have specialised in the design and manufacture of boards for 30 years – and business is till growing, says Andy March, “We have seen growth of over 25 per cent so far this year, serving well over 1000 agencies including Your Move, Knight Frank, Belvoir and Savills.”

Signboards also supply the various components that go with the boards, but they don’t offer board erection services; which is also, clearly, big business. Agency Express gets a major share of the work, operating through its network of 110 centres across the UK. Their board erectors carry out 80,000 property visits per month, for 6500 estate agencies; they are just about to erect their five millionth board – that is a heck of a lot of boards, in fact, if you erected them all side by side they would cover the distance between London and Istanbul!

New boards please!

So the signboard remains as an important element of the estate agent’s promotional armoury, but there are many signboards out there on the streets, and there may be several very similar houses in those streets, so yours has to stand out, your brand has to shine, be memorable, your name has to resonate with the person who is, maybe, driving, or on a bus, or rushing to get the children to school – how do you do that?

We have seen many agencies rebranding in the last 12 months, launching brighter, sharper, clean, attractive branding that speaks to the passerby and, if you get it right, reflects where your agency stands in the market.

For many people, the first time they notice your branding is when they see one of your boards, so you have 0.5square metres to get your message across.

So – who are you? Where are you? What makes you different?

Where do you sit in the market – Classy? Upmarket? Fun and studenty? Traditional? A little wacky? Do you ooze reliability? Are you fresh and pretty? Are you staid and businesslike? Are you uber cool?

Are you a little bit bonkers? Whatever you want to be, make sure the board reflects it! To me, the board shown at the beginning of this feature – Ewe Move – certainly sets out its stall; bright, modern, memorable and very lively. It also brings a smile to your face, which is a bonus and the franchise’s website (the next port of call) continues the funky theme.

Which do you favour? Classic and strong… standout… contemporary… aspirational?

1 Classic and strong

Reeds Rains has recently undergone a redesign of its boards, providing an interesting challenge for Signboard, who manufactured them and Agency Express, who erected them – all 12,000 of them – in one week. They chose to continue with a traditional styling that reflects their 146 years in the business and the strength and value of that longevity.

2 Standing out

Miles and Barr’s rebranding was completed earlier this year and they chose an interesting cut out shaped board. Stuart Barr, Founding Director of Miles & Barr, said, “With the introduction of our new branding we wanted our boards to STAND OUT, with Kremer’s expertise and knowledge they sourced the reflective material and together we have achieved our goal.

“We have worked with Kremer Signs since the very beginning of our journey back in 1998, they are a professional and highly respected supplier and have always given us exemplary levels of service.”

3 Contemporary

If there are two colours that quietly shout ‘2014’ they must be duck egg blue and aubergine (or blue and purple if you prefer more traditional terminology). These colours are breaking out in interior design, fashion and even, as I saw the other day, in a new breed of two-tone cars. Henry Adams, formerly sporting a much more traditional red and green image, have embraced these beautiful colours in a rebrand that has transformed not only its 14 offices, its website and its boards, but has repositioned itself as a bright modern agency, very much fit for purpose in the 21st century.

However, while Henry Adams’ senior partner Richard Williscroft, marketing partner Vicki Wright and members of senior management were all very happily involved in the new corporate design, Richard clearly believes that there is more to business than your image, “We know that what matters to our customers is the quality of the service they receive,” he says. “With our loyal workforce of nearly 150, we strive to provide the very best service in as friendly and efficient a way as possible.”

4 Aspirational

South West London estate agent Aspire has launched its refreshed brand to deal with the demands of a growing agency in a changing London property market.

Matthew Dabell, a director of Aspire, said, “Since the launch of the Aspire brand in 2003 the company has been successfully growing – from one office to the network of eight agencies we are today. During that time the London housing market has also changed dramatically, as has the demographic of our customers, and a rebrand gives us the opportunity to ensure that we are not only relevant but that we are communicating to our customers as clearly and appropriately as possible.”

There is a multitude of agencies operating in the area, all occupying the same (few) square miles, creating a lively, competitive market, Matthew says, “Whilst our network of eight offices means we have South West London pretty wrapped up, our aim is to create a brand which reflects our entire network working as one entity for the benefit of our clients.”

The graphic design agency, Ideas Factory, was tasked with the rebrand. Chris Wigan, Creative Director, says, “We based the new brand around what the word Aspire means; to aim for; to desire; to want. The triangular symbols are used as a device to communicate this ‘aspirational’ theme while making a subtle nod to the A in the word-mark. The design needed to combine a timeless quality with a vibrancy which was reflected in both the typographic style and the colour palette. The combination of the slate and burnt orange colours also gave us an instantly recognisable platform to build upon for the aspire brand.”

Matthew added, “We have been successfully trading for 11 years – growing the company and improving our reputation daily. Our original brand grew organically and has served us well, but as we look to expand further into new markets, we need to ensure that we are fit for purpose and ready to go. Our rebrand does just that.”


December 26, 2014

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