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February 13, 2007
hob_logo_nav.gif One of Chicago's more widely recognized inns, the House of Blues Hotel, will take a fresh name and image this spring as new operators attempt to push the 353-room hotel further upscale.

Gemstone Hotels & Resorts International LLC, the hotel operator, said a $17 million renovation will transform the Marina City property into a more chic and luxurious destination, to be renamed in May as the Hotel Sax Chicago, in deference to the city's musical traditions.
December 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
The National Association of Realtors - (The Voice of Realty) - has a page on which they tell potential home buyers and sellers How to Choose a REALTOR.

Let me summarize their guidance:
  • Make sure you hire a REALTOR because they are held to a "Code of Ethics (which in many cases goes beyond state law)."
  • Working with a REALTOR that has access to a Multiple Listing Service "will give you access to the greatest number of homes."
  • Make sure you ask your REALTOR to clarify state "regulations, so you know where you stand" on the duties for your type of agent.
  • Know the difference between a buyers and a sellers agent and make sure you know whether your agent is representing you or someone else.
  • Check that the agent has an active real estate license in good standing.
  • Check what real estate designations the agent holds.
  • Will your agent "show you homes that meet your requirements and provide you with a list of properties he or she is showing you" in exchange for your commitment to work with them?
I just don't get it. I'll respond to each item with an eye to how the REALTOR and/or consumer is affected or represented.
  • Use a REALTOR because they're held to a "Code of Ethics." First, why would anyone point out that people need to be trained in ethics. Does the REALTOR profession attract unsavory types? Second, I checked on the Code and found that it contains 17 unique articles and 81 standards of practice. That's a whole lot of stuff to assume that every single REALTOR in the world has memorized. Even with the Code hung on the wall where they can see it every day I'd wager than less than 1% of REALTORs could list every article and practice. If it near impossible to live and breathe by the Code then why have it at all? (Other than to tell people you have a code.) The required 15 hours of training per year (I think I have that number right) just isn't enough to memorize the code and keep current on other real estate issues. FWIW- I'd bet that Google's Code of Ethics is known by 99% of their employees - and they can probably recite it perfectly.
  • MLS access gives you access to the biggest number of homes. Okay. MLS does give you access to homes, and people do use it - but in many cases it doesn't give you access to homes that are listed by owner and most MLS services are restricted so that only agents can search them, meaning that if your agent uses one as the sole method of advertising your home then people without an agent won't be able to find you. In most cases MLS gets you access to REALTORs, not buyers. (I understand why NAR would want this - as it does help REALTORS... but it doesn't necessarily mean that the client will be best served.)
  • Have your REALTOR clarify state regulations/Buyer-Seller Agent Distinction. I've been in at least five real estate transactions and this has always happened without my prompting. I know I should care about it, but it isn't top of mind for me. REALTORs have it as part of their spiel - but repeat clients know the spiel - saying they either represent you, the other guy, or both... then you sign something and get a copy showing what that role is. Also, given that REALTORS (potentially) have a higher code isn't it more important to learn about that? Why is this the customer's responsibility?
  • Check that the agent has an active real estate license in good standing. This is common sense, but I know exactly no one that has done it. Ever. I've asked a dozen folks and everyone laughs at me. Yes it is the law, but it isn't the consumer's job to out the impostors. Seems like something NAR should be doing on behalf of its constituency, no? (I certainly don't check every restaurant for a liquor license when I buy a drink. Do you? And I certainly don't check for health-code violations online - even though they are available - because if I only ate at the clean places I'd never go out.)
  • Check what real estate designations the agent holds. What exactly does this mean? What kinds of real estate designations are there? What is the advantage of having one - or more than one? A search turned up at least twenty designations on NARs own site. Rather than checking on what the designations are doesn't it make more sense to ask what the designations give the client? Will they make more money? Will they save money? Will they have a smoother transaction? Will it be faster? Does a desgination that doesn't provide a material benefit to the consumer matter? Seems kinda like putting makeup on a pig. If designations are important then isn't it more important that an agent have a designation that specifically represents the situation the buyer/seller is in? Should a non-specialist recuse themselves if there are better options available to the buyer? (Certainly seems like the ethical thing to do, doesn't it?) Do they need to disclose that there are others that specialize in the area the client is interested in? (Again... ethical.) Do they need to disclose that designations exist at all?
  • Will your agent "show you homes that meet your requirements and provide you with a list of properties he or she is showing you?" If you are an agent and all you do for your clients is show homes and make lists then you don't deserve to have clients. If I told people that the reason they should work with me is that I make names that fit requirements and I show them candidate lists I can't imagine that anyone would ever hire me. This level of service is assumed. If you don't show houses and give lists you go out of business. So why ask the question?
If I were a REALTOR and found that my clients were being given guidance like that seen above I'd be calling up NAR and telling them to get their act together. The NAR is hurting the good REALTORs and doing no favors for the brand by allowing the bare minimum to be passed off as allowable.

I have heard from REALTORs that the annual training requirement can be fulfilled in a single marathon day - and that there is no test given to confirm that the information learned is actually learned. There's no follow-up weeks or months later to see if the information is retained. One REALTOR commented that a few people in the room had actually dozed off. (Apparently the only requirement is that you be physically in the room... coherency and consciousness are not mandatory.)

In my light reading of the Code of Ethics I couldn't find a rule against this, so it must be okay.

Why not figure out what actually makes a good REALTOR and focus on those qualities? Don't ask what people are looking for. Don't use focus groups. When people are asked what they look for in a REALTOR they don't know how to respond. And getting a whole group of people together gives you a whole lot of answers that are provided because they don't know how else to answer. Sure people want ethical REALTORS. We also want people who breathe, who are decidedly male or female, who like food, who speak our language, and who don't swear at us under their breath or launch into song when they get stressed. I'm guessing the latter options didn't show up on the surveys, but I'd wager that breathing would actually be found more important (and no less irrelevant) than ethics. Ethics is a given. People don't want to deal with unethical people in any business. So don't talk to us about whether or not you're ethical.

Training in ethics doesn't matter - being ethical matters - and you can't promise that. What can you promise? What about creative services? What about taking care of paperwork or fast transactions? What about a promise to never ask for a piece of information more than once? What about keeping track of what the strengths and weaknesses of each house visited are and helping clients keep things straight? What about restricting your services to areas in which you are qualified to deliver informed opinions - and referring business elsewhere when you're in an unfamiliar neighborhood?

I don't want a taxi driver, I want someone that can actually help me.

What about providing services that matter?

The NAR is sick. Once enough of their constituency notices and comments perhaps they'll take some medicine.

Prescriptions are available...

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 9, 2006 | Tate Linden
You may have thought it wasn't possible, but it is. I'm going to write yet again about the confused brand that is REALTOR... or is it REALTORdom? ...REALTORness?

Would you believe that I receive about a dozen hits a day from REALTORs - and a few letters a week too. So far everyone has been in agreement about the problems with the REALTOR brand. Unfortunately I haven't had a single post from a REALTOR willing to speak out against the problems with NAR or the representaton they give to REALTORs.

That hasn't changed - on my site. But I came across a post on the Sellsius blog where a whole bunch of REALTORs have vented. The post in question shows the top 10 complaints with the NARs site. Seems like the association that is supposed to represent all REALTORs is only representing those with deep pockets. Here's a sampling of the complaints:
Charging extra for enhanced listings Charging extra for leads Sponsored links divert traffic away from member listings Banner ads distract consumers Lack of member trust in a for-profit website
I had no idea that the NAR was doing things like this. Some I can see as reasonable - there's always going to be preferential treatment for larger or wealthier members - that's the nature of organizations. Elephants rule. As for other aspects I'm a little stunned. If I was represented by an organization that sold advertisements on my own product pages I would be miffed. They're not just being unhelpful, they're actively working to lose business for those that they represent.

I would assume that any organization that represented me (hypothetically) would allow me the courtesy of selling to my prospects once they had found me. The NAR continues to offer alternatives to my targets even after they've selected me as their REALTOR.

How can the REALTOR.COM problems be fixed? How about:
  • No competitive links from detailed listing pages unless the REALTOR is compensated for the clicks. Google does this for free - and REALTORs are paying NAR for the business they lose.
  • Increasing the default level of service given to a listing to at least the level provided by free sites such as Craigslist. One picture? Are we in 1995, or what?
  • Banner advertisements on a REALTOR's listing page should pay the REALTOR, not NAR.
  • REALTORs should be able to have their own banner advertisement on their listing pages (for a fee, of course) - and should be able to veto advertisements from those that work in their farm area.
  • REALTORs should never have to pay for leads from their own representative organization. If the organization isn't there to help businesses succeed then why is it there at all? Shouldn't membership fees cover the minimal effort required to forward contact information?
If I was a member of an organization that worked this hard to make a profit off of me I'd probably not be a member for very long.

Why are there so few REALTORs willing to rock the boat or leave the organization? Why is the NAR so overt about not representing their constituency. Why won't anyone speak out on this blog other than me?

Wait... I've heard about stuff like this.

Oh crud... is the Mafia behind this?

Tate Linden John Doe 123 Main Street 703-555-1234
December 5, 2006 | Tate Linden
It has been far too long since I've mentioned the REALTOR brand respresented by the National Association of REALTORS. So long, in fact that I've got a backlog of things to discuss.

First up: How do you say "REALTOR?"

Other than the apparent need to SHOUT the word (and yes, the NAR demands that you capitalize the whole word) the pronunciation isn't exactly clear. Check out this link that shows the regional preferences for saying the word out loud.

Upon examination you will find that there aren't any significant preferences. The pronunciation seems to be pretty random.

This can't be chalked up to regional differences - like the word "Crayon" can. When you take a look at the comparable map you'll find that the pronunciation "Cran" for "Crayon" is used commonly in the Northeast, but not as much elsewhere.

Why am I bothered by this?

I am bothered because the NAR exists to represent the interests of its constituency, but doesnt seem to do a good job of it. Realty is a verbal industry where REALTORs should be communicating via their own physical (audible) voice. According to the survey less than half of the respondents are saying the word correctly. And it isn't the fault of regional dialects. My own REALTORs often used the incorrect pronunciation, and my family is split as well. If the question of whether the word was pronounced "REEL-ter" vs. "reel-TOR" had been asked I'd bet we would have even fewer folks saying the word correctly.

If you were responsible for the success of a brand that most people couldn't pronounce what would you do?

Me? I'd do something a lot like David Fletcher suggests and start by helping my own membership say the word correctly. If the Rotarians can recite a twenty-second speech at the end of their meetings (often populated by a few REALTORs) then REALTORs should be able to say their own brand correctly in their meetings at least a few times.

C'mon NAR! Let's see some progress on the REALTOR brand. Pronunciation is an easy fix. It won't be so fun when I bring up the questions that NAR tells the end-client to use when selecting an agent. (My regular readers had better know what question the NAR suggests buyers and sellers ask first. And bonus points if you know why I think it is pointless.)

(This may turn into a theme this week unless someone can find me a person at NAR willing to listen...)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
October 31, 2006
Americans blame Cookie Monster for obesity in children. Producers change Cookie's tagline to "Cookies in Moderation!" [Tate sez: Picture the Cookie Monster stuffing cookies into his mouth in moderation... Doesn't work, does it? If this is true then we've just killed off an American icon with an overdose of Political Correctness.]

Second Helpings, a group that rescues prepared and perishable food from stores and restaurants has updated its image and has renamed its newsletter "Peas and Carrots," followed by the tagline, "Little Bits of News That Go Great Together." The group's new logo features a chef lifting a pot with heart-shaped steam rising from it. [Tate sez: Nice... it's okay to have "second helpings" if it is for charity? Where's my moderation now?]

Millionaire Fair an exhibition opening in Moscow this weekend. Organizers estimate the fair has attracted some 10,000 visitors every day -- fulfilling the event's unofficial tagline "Millionaires of Russia unite!". Ironic nod to an old revolutionary call for the world's working proletariat.

Bikini Ban. An appealing Britain ad campaign showing a Latvian model photographed in a bikini in Eilat, the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv. The photo taken on the Tel Aviv beach includes a tagline reading: The 24 hour Mediterranean city, Tel Aviv. Ads pulled by the Tourism Ministry as not to offend orthodox sentiments in cabinet.

Van delivers tire service to your car. The tagline on the back of the truck is usually what catches people's attention: "Notice: Driver carries no old magazines or burnt coffee."

Hachi Tei Restaurant uses Pelicans, Shark and Walrus' to go for the obvious. Restaurant uses strap line: ‘For those who like their sushi really fresh’.

Patt, White GMAC Real Estate office has changed their name to Pocono Advantage Real Estate. Now they can not even be located in the forest of Pocono related sites.
October 13, 2006 | Tate Linden
Our blog has become pretty popular amongst the Real Estate crowd. We get a half-dozen hits a day through Google and Yahoo search engines from people looking for help with Real Estate, Realty, and Realtor taglines or names. We also get a few links from realty professionals that seem to like our stuff. (Thanks folks!) Sure, it isn't a deluge, but the flow never seems to stop.

Interestingly, of the hundreds of realty visitors we've gotten on the blog we've never had a single inquiry about how we can help - other than one of the following questions.
"Can you point me to any FREE name and tagline resources on the internet?"

"Can you show me where the free real estate slogans... Or free real estate taglines are?"

"Do you provide free Realtor taglines or free Realtor slogans?"
Not much variation, is there? We get these questions a lot. And we never hesitate to provide links to those resources. (In fact, you can click right here and here and here and here and here and even here if you just want to get that free help right now. Just be aware that some of the help provided may have trademark or other legal issues for you to wrangle with.)

Okay... now that everyone except for you has left our site I'll get down to my real issue.

Here's my question for the realty folks:

How is it that people working in an industry where they are constantly fighting against low-cost or free resources (such as the "Save 6%" and "FSBO" options) such a huge number of professionals try to boost their own business by using the exact same class of service (free) they warn their own clients against using? Is it that they don't see the value?

Not only this - but these same professionals ask for help - and they leave a trail of crumbs that prove they're using free services.

Let's take a quick look at the type of advice being given on the free sites. Here's a real-life sampling of suggsted taglines from the free services:
Let our experience work for you Take a Q from the crowd and call Que Scott first Experienced in Living and Loving Bucks County making sure your real estate needs are met Trust us to find your dream Home
See anything here that sets these agents apart from their competition or gives their prospective clients a reason to do business with them? I'm not sayin' that these slogans can't work... I just don't see that any of them are adding any value. Just check how many hits you get for the key phrases like "Let our experience" "your real estate needs" and "find your dream home." When you see tens of thousands - or even millions - of hits you know there's a problem. No one will remember your slogan, and no one will think about what it means since they hear it just about every day from every other business.

One of our recent projects involved coming up with a slogan for a local real estate company. The owner of the company worked with us over a period of two months to develop (among other things) an effective slogan that has never been used in real estate previously. The slogan speaks directly to the target market, suggests a whole suite of unique services, and allowed the firm to develop a concrete personality that compells target prospects to do business with them. It also filters out clients that won't appreciate what the company offers. Last - the slogan takes advantage of key aspects of the company owner's personality... so very little work was needed to implement the slogan across the brand.

For those of you that think the "filtering out" aspect is losing you business, think again. If you could get rid of all the tire-kickers in your business wouldn't that allow you to spend more time either with your existing valued clients or working on finding prospects that are more likely to sign with you? This is more than just focusing on a neighborhood - it involves finding a lifestyle or life-stage that is in need of your services. And one would hope that no one else is actively serving that lifestyle right now - and there aren't many lifestyles that fit that description - especially when it comes to realty.

If any realtors are still reading this and think that good slogans can still be found for free we encourage you to go for it. In fact, if you can find a good source of free slogans we'll add it to this post so others can benefit - and we'll provide examples of the slogans suggested.

But of course we're always willing to take on new realty projects if you feel you can't get what you need for free.

...Oh... and what's the slogan we developed for our client?

Why not ask them yourself? (We reserve the right to remove the link if too many folks write to 'em.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

August 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
This post is for the many Realtors that read our blog, and for anyone else that might be interested in finding an incredible Realtor to help you purchase your next beach home.

Some of our regular readers may remember that we somewhat recently purchased our Stokefire Southern Branch in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We wanted to acknowledge that we received an exceptional level of service from... yes... our Realtor.
June 29, 2006 | Tate Linden

Thanks to an anonymous email I'm blogging about the Realtor GRI program today. Don't know what the GRI is? Apparently neither does most of the world. This doesn't stop the National Association of Realtors from charging their constituency extra money for additional training - and the right to use the GRI logo (and taglines! - but we will get to those in a moment) on their business cards and other marketing materials.

GRI stands for Graduate REALTOR Institute. As stated here,the GRI symbol "is the mark of a real estate professional who has made a commitment to providing a superior level of professional services by earning the GRI designation. REALTORs with the GRI designation are highly trained in many areas of real estate to better serve and protect their clients."

Okay... so if GRI's are trained to better serve and protect their clients, then what are the normal everyday vanilla kind of REALTORs trained to do?

June 26, 2006 | Tate Linden
Regular readers know that Stokefire rails against most real estate agents who hold up their pets in photos as if to say "Oh, and I like cute things too!"

A quick summary of why we don't like this technique in most cases -
June 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
I'm a huge fan of Minor League Baseball - and went out to the Potomac National's game this past weekend to soak up the Americana. I've always been fascinated by the advertising that goes up along the fence... and it was pretty impressive this time. Some great local businesses ("Fat Punks" restaurant for one) and a smattering of representatives from larger organizations.

On this great day there was a single advertisment that hovered like a cloud over my otherwise sunny experience. Yep - a Realtor again. I'm not going to name names, since I agree with the idea that we should be supporting the local teams. I'd hope, however, that with that support one could realistically expect to get something in return.

This Realtor had a picture of themselves with their little pet (I was too far away to see if it was a cat or a dog) and had the following slogan:
June 12, 2006 | Tate Linden

Who is advising the National Association of Realtors with their latest campaign? In their latest bold move, the NAR has chosen to focus on some pretty odd stuff. The message?

Paraphrased, it says "We're not just Realtors, we're your trusted advisor, your friend, and ... wait for it ... we make your dreams a reality."

First, if anyone ever told me they were my trusted advisor I would immediately cross them off the short list of folks that actually were. Second, an association representing many thousands of people cannot offer much in terms of friendship. That's a personal connection between two individuals, not a corporate policy. As soon as the organization says it it becomes disingenuous.

And as for 'making our dreams a reality'? Why is there such an attraction to this phrase for Realtors?

May 31, 2006 | Tate Linden
Round and round the wheel goes, where it will stop no one knows...

Evidently the more I talk about Realtors and taglines the more people come here looking for the information.

So, let's play the game. Can you name the companies that have selected the following taglines?
May 25, 2006 | Tate Linden
One of the great things about a blog is that we get to see basic information about who visits our blog. In the past few weeks we've found that more people come here looking for realty taglines than anything else. Wonderful. We welcome all kinds at Stokefire and Stoked Brands.

But there's a bit of an issue here. Realtors looking for a tagline as the key to their success are looking in the wrong place. A tagline cannot develop a Realtor's identity unless there's a unique core to wrap the tagline around. If you're a Realtor like all the other Realtors then you're going to end up with a tagline like everyone else. What does this mean?
April 25, 2006 | Tate Linden
I've been working with a Realtor in the DC area for a couple months and have done a large amount of research into the competitive landscape - only to find that there really isn't one. No one is competitive. Sure, there are consistently high performers, but there's no rhyme or reason behind the performance. There's one guy that wears a top-hat, one woman that loves cats and enjoys a good party, there's another that dropped out of school to become an agent, and another that donates money to the school of your choice... and then there's one that has absolutely no marketing message at all - just a picture of a sexy looking young blonde woman holding a phone (okay, so the last one isn't a surprising success...)
April 7, 2006 | Tate Linden
Day two at the Community Business Partnership is in full swing (as is our Naming Contest), and it is truly amazing. What a difference. I've always known that location was a big deal for business, but - as a virtual company - I had never really felt the impact personally. Sure, location is the first, second, and third most important thing in real estate, but in branding? Come on... How much can location really contribute to a brand? Let me tell you how much. A. Whole. Lot. I've met with more people today than I've met in the past two weeks (granted, I was on vacation for part of that) and all of them have been potential clients or service providers. I can see you're wondering what this has to do with branding. Well, one piece of a brand's identity is accessibility. This is not just in the virtual world where everything should be just about as accessible as everything else. In the real world I used to work in a beautiful, though inaccessible, basement office. Clients were prohibited by law from visiting me on the premises, so I 'rented space' at the local coffee houses or used client sites. I actually rented executive space when I really wanted to impress someone - but none of it felt very genuine and it didn't represent the level of service Stokefire provided. Quick diversion - I'm not a big fan of the way many executive suites are used or marketed these days. The idea that a small business would want to lie (overtly or by omission) to my clients or prospects that I have a big shiny desk and an Aeron chair feels repulsive. What happens when your prospect finds out? Won’t they be a little upset that you deceived them to get their business? Perhaps more on this another time. …and… we’re back. I had about a dozen prospects and business partner possibilities literally walk through my door today. Bakers, lawyers, bookkeepers, printers, chefs, tech specialists, consultants, and even a nurse. I would have met exactly none of them if I hadn’t been here. The great location has reinforced my belief that having one’s own brand together prior to gaining market exposure is incredibly important. Each time someone came through the door I was able to compellingly talk about my own brand and the services that I provide – and then connect them to the prospect or partner’s situation. “Location, location, location” doesn’t really work for branding as-is. But location is important (critical even) for success. The problem? Location can't be considered until you know who it is you need to reach. Further, you can’t serve the people you need to reach until you know exactly what it is you’re offering. After all, if you can’t compellingly state why people should buy from you then they’re probably not going to do so – and what’s the point of a great location if you can’t close on the leads that come through the door? I’m thinking (after about 30 seconds of contemplation) that my version of the phrase would be something closer to, “self-knowledge, market-knowledge, location.” Flawed, I’m sure, but it is at least a nudge in the right direction. Location is very much a part of the equation, but is pretty much irrelevant if you can't connect with your target's needs. Just think about the poor folks selling sunglasses in the mall kiosks in Seattle. Great location, lots of crowds, but no compelling reason for anyone to buy.

Anyone know of other businesses (real ones) that have the location but miss the mark with the brand they've implemented?
April 3, 2006 | Tate Linden
The Washington Post had an interesting article on Real Estate agent advertisements over the weekend. Follow the link to: Answer Man: Grimacing Over Real Estate Agent Ads.

Stokefire has helped quite a few Realtors and brokers craft their brands and we've yet to be convinced that a picture in an advertisement or business card is critical. The referenced article seems to back us up on this.

The current thinking in Realty seems to be that one doesn't sell a house, one sells one's self. Anyone can get you the house of your dreams, but only I (Blonde haired, dimpled, smiling) can get it for you in my uniquely personalized way.

This thinking may have worked a few years back, but now with more than 70% of Realtors (Coldwell Banker's numbers from ref'd article) putting pictures on their cards you may be more unique without a picture than with one. I've sold three homes in the last decade and have witnessed the change by looking in the 'card tray' after a showing. Everyone's cards used to look the same because they were conservative and respectable. Now they look the same because they have a picture, tagline, three phone numbers, and are essentially a jumbled mess of information. Obviously I don't think this is an improvement.

This is not to say that I think personal branding is bad (I don't.) Personal branding is great, but I just don't see a picture as critical for business success unless you're a) a model or b) a personal trainer. These are two industries that really do depend on looks for success. If 70% of the competition wasn't doing the same thing in Realty then perhaps this method would work, but as it is, each new photograph makes all the rest less impactful.

So, if a Realtor's smiling face isn't enough to reinforce a brand, then what is? How about using an original (or at least regionally unique) message? Search Google for Realty taglines and you'll find thousands or even millions of hits for things like "Home of Your Dreams" and "Find You Your Ideal Home." How do I feel about tags such as these? How should you, the target client, feel about them? How about insulted? *All* Realtors should be trying to find you the ideal home, so saying it in the valuable space of a business card or advertisment is wasted space. It's like Stokefire having an ad-blitz with the phrase "Stokefire - We Breathe!" [Ed. - that's a keeper!] There's no added value - you're just telling people you provide the same service as everyone else - and worse - that you're not as creative as the better ones.

Here's another way to see this. If you were going to sell your house, wouldn't you want to know that the person selling it was going to be able to have your house stand out somehow from all the rest for sale in the area? If a Realtor can't get themselves to stand out, then how the heck are they going to have your home do so?

Don't even get me started about the big Realtor campaign hitting the airwaves now that essentially shouts "Use Realtors - We've Taken An Ethics Course!" Not only does this not say that Realtors are ethical, it points an unflattering light on the fact that Realtors might have been unethical in the first place. Just because someone sits through a four hour lecture on what it means to be ethical does not mean that they have achieved a state of ethical being once they're done.

I truly value the services that good Realtors provide. The ones that get it - that Realtors can increase the value of a home, that they can take care of most of the difficult aspects of a home sale (such as negotiations, paperwork, prepping the home for sale, etc.) - are worth far more than the six percent that they frequently charge. The ones that don't get it are worse than going it alone.

That's enough brand poking for today. I may come back to this at another date to get into some of the finer points of Realtor branding and why a bad agent is worse than no agent, among other things.