A perfect real estate brand experience

Both kids had been taken to school. We returned wet from the downpour that was now flooding the city below. I reached for the French press. Lori cranked up the fireplace, then settled in with her Macbook.

I love this Website

Halfway through a quiet breakfast, she spun her laptop around and said, “This is my favorite real estate site in Portland. I love it.”

Lori read my face as I scrolled up and down. “Don’t judge it,” she advised. “Use it.”

A perfect brand experience

I spent nearly an hour on the site. It took me a few minutes to work through the dated interface. I tried to see beyond the less than appealing aesthetic and kludgy architecture.

This website did so much wrong.

But ultimately I came to understand why my wife is drawn to the site:

It’s a perfect brand experience. Here’s why:

Focus. The heading on the site reads “Moving to Portland”, addressing a very specific action that defines its focus. From a marketing perspective, this is a golden start. The owner of this site, Susan, isn’t trying to reach everyone – a critical error made by most real estate pros. She’s honed in on a specific clientele. A user gets that the second they hit the site.


Voice. “Susan’s guide to Portland. Let me help you find a home and neighborhood. Not only does this complement the heading, it strengthens it by addressing the things that matter most to her visitor. Relocating can be exhilarating but it’s also frightening. The last thing people want is an anxious salesperson. Susan doesn’t sell, she guides.

That difference is articulated in a consistent voice throughout the site.

Transparency. By placing market charts that openly illustrate market activity right on the home page, the viewer is immediately presented with the reality of this stubborn, cascading market. The news that follows provides context.

This effort seduced my wife. It led her to trust Susan, despite the fact they’d never met.

Navigation. Six Oregon license plates. In an odd order. “News” first, “Home Search” last. Most of the links take the user away from Susan’s site. This sort of navigational heresy actually kinda works here. It supports a branding play. Susan, remember, is about guiding the user. Not selling them. These links support her claim. It seems like a small thing. It’s not.

Design. I am a design freak. This site disappoints by most objective measures. And yet, after a while, I could care less. It has depth. Soul. It’s attended too. It has personality.

The Oregon license plate buttons are just so Portland – a city that is anything but crisp, polished or refined. Instead, we’re a bit grungy. Soggy. Tattooed. Eccentric. The navigation on this site is in the same vein. And it feels right.

The design reflects who Susan is. A bit old fashioned. Unassuming. Smart. Caring. Fun. An individual.

Content. Design experts agree: keep people interested and they will scroll down a Web page.

Look down the left column of Susan’s site. Imagine you are relocating. Search tools. Visitor guides. Climate information. Tax information. “Living Green” content. A host of school information. All of this resides on Susan’s site. Best of all, it’s date stamped. That tells the user the information is fresh. It also says something else to the user: Susan cares.

Have nice rainy day

I called Susan to report a dead link while writing this post. Turns out she’s on holiday visiting grandkids. But I spoke to Shelly, her assistant. She told me about Dave, Susan’s husband. He maintains the site. For him and Susan, It’s about educating the user. And helping them move to Portland. That’s it. Nothing else.

If that’s not branding, what is?

Shelly thanked me for calling.

And wished me a nice rainy day.