Century 21 touches franchises with 2012 plan

by Victor Lund on April 12, 2012

Century 21Century 21 is cool. And that is a new thing for a 40-year-old real estate brand. I purchased my primary home from a Century 21 agent because of the agent, not because of the brand. However, in the past few years, Century 21 started looking cool. Being a cynic and a skeptic, I did not really believe that they were cool. Sotheby’s is luxury, Coldwell Banker is business, BH&G is lifestyle, ERA is old school, and Century 21 is Middle America. None of those brands are cool. That changed for me today.

WAV Group works with lots of brokers. They are mostly very large brokers and often independent than franchise. We do not have any franchise or non-franchise beliefs. Either way, if you are a broker – you need to make your business strategy work and that’s what we help with. A franchise is immaterial, but if you have one, we will help you leverage it.

About 6 years ago, WAV Group began to consult with an 80-agent company called Century 21 Hometown Realty.  The company became a Century 21 franchise in 1978, 7 years after Century 21 got started in Orange County, California. The ownership is local and they are our personal friends.  In spite of the chaos of our industry, Century 21 Hometown Realty now has 350 agents and continues to grow. WAV Group is not responsible for the growth, but we are on the team and that is exciting. I am not sure if we learned more from them or if they learned from us. Either way, it’s working out. Success is like a gift horse.

All brokers think about franchising. Some brokers hate franchises, some brokers grow large enough to become franchisors, other brokers love franchises. There is a colorful and healthy array of belief.  Today, I saw the good and healthy side of the Century 21 franchise, and for that I am grateful. They are not slackers.

Since joining the company in February of 2010, Rick Davidson has only been in the office about 100 days. The balance of his days was spent traveling the world, meeting the Century 21 owners and agents everywhere. He is doing the hard work of leadership, which is building trust relationships with his flock – 180,000 strong – one at a time. If you believe that great businesses are operated by leaders who know their company – then Davidson is on his way to becoming a great leader. It’s cool that he started with the people. He can figure out Parsippany anytime.

If you were on the planet earth last year, you were somehow touched by the Century 21 marketing campaign: Smarter. Bolder. Faster. They did not spend as much money as some other franchise brands last year, but they spent wisely and had an impact. Bev Thorne, who is also a new face at Century 21, orchestrated the campaign as the Vice President of Marketing. It was the first time in more than 21 years that a real estate company had Boldness to run ads during the NFL Superbowl. It worked out to the tune of about 1 Billion impressions – more than the company had earned with two prior years of marketing. I guess you could say that was Smarter.  I have not been able to figure out the Faster bit yet – but by daughter is a fan of Apolo Ohno.

Smarter. Bolder. Faster will continue to be the message for marketing for the Century 21 brand in 2012. There will be some cool new twists. They plan to use much of their commercial inventory and rework it for sponsorships in Horse Racing, the Olympics, and the US Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams. The company already has 98% brand awareness and 93% brand preference among home buying consumers (Century 21’s data). They are not introducing the brand, they are dusting it off.

In summary, Davidson is working the streets to connect his brand to the people that wear it. Thorne and the rest of the organization are backing him up with an inspired new effort. I respect that and think its cool.

I think lots of other brands are great too. But today was a Century 21 day – and it was more fun than Century 21 days of old.

 

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