When fine isn’t good enough

“Fine works to a certain point… but one day you wake up and fine is now bad. We didn’t want that to happen.”

These were words that Red Oak Realty CEO Vanessa Bergmark spoke as we were wrapping up the final stages of launching her company’s new logo and identity system, story and tagline.

See, Red Oak’s previous identity was “fine”. It was a simple red oak tree that had become well known among locals in Oakland and Berkeley over the past 40 years. The tagline, “Seriously Local,” was also well known and loved by agents. And Red Oak was in the middle of a streak of successful production years.

From the outside, it would be easy to question why this company chose to rebrand at the time it did.

But Vanessa and her team saw things differently. They had an opportunity to give the logo and identity a bigger job – to work harder for them now and going forward, and to better represent the strength of the company and the trajectory it’s on. They also understood that what was fine now could one day lead to disinterest. That possibility was unacceptable, especially with Compass rolling into the East Bay market.

The approach

When we started our engagement with Red Oak, we discovered a bold and energetic brand beneath that old red oak tree. By peeling back the veneer of marketing and design we found a rare authenticity and candidness that defined the brand experience for both agents and their buyers and sellers.

These critical elements of what the brand has evolved into were not represented in the old logo, the old tagline, the old story. So the decision was made to retire the red tree and craft a new symbol and language that matched this amazing company.

Our team included myself as the Lead Strategist, Patrick Sanders as Creative Director, Marc Davison as Chief Creative, Corina Allender as Project Manager, and Jesse Ragan, a Lettering Specialist we brought in to perfect the typography of the word mark. We worked in tandem with Vanessa, Red Oak General Manager Cynthia Gerlinger, and their marketing team.

Together, we went through a discovery process that included onsite workshops with their marketing and leadership teams and agents, a competitive analysis, a deep dive into customer personas, and a visual audit of their entire library of brand and marketing assets.

We then built a strategy that articulated the brand’s value and story, as well as unique attributes that would inform the visual work to come. We were deliberate in every detail so that the result would nurture a connection with new buyers that are moving into Red Oak’s communities from San Francisco, Silicon Valley and other nearby cities.

The strategy also resulted in a new tagline, “Good move,” which better reflects the brand’s approach and uniqueness and gives them a broader vessel that can be used in consumer campaigns and in recruiting.

The response

Red Oak is a true family, and each member of the family is fully invested and serious about this brand.

When we first set foot in their office, they had a logo and brand they loved, a tagline they adored and, yet, a clear sense that they needed to push beyond them.

So, no pressure for 1000WATT, eh?

Agents’ response at the launch event and in the months since has been overwhelmingly positive.  

Patrick Sanders, 1000WATT’s Creative Director who led design on the project, revealed the new logo and identity system from the stage at a company meeting in Berkeley, CA in January where agents cheered and caught newly branded t-shirts shot from a cannon in the back of the room. (Seriously!)

Vanessa and team put on a lively launch, fully stocked with branded t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, water bottles and canvas bags for every agent and staff member to proudly wear home – and many did.

Here are a few examples of the work we revealed:

Our design team went beyond creating a logo and built out an entire system with a fully developed color palette, patterns and texture that Red Oak could take and run with in their marketing for years to come.

The pattern came from the negative space in the letters. What really worked was the fact that it reflected the eclectic nature of the people and homes in the East Bay neighborhoods that Red Oak serves. And the vibrancy is intended to connect with a new generation of agents and buyers and sellers who are drawn to modern, energetic brands.

In the span of a few months, we were able to help a company that was already successful and on the outside looking “fine” get to a place where the outside matched the energy on the inside. Fine is now excellent and ready to carry the company forward.


On a personal note, working with Red Oak Realty has been particularly satisfying. Since I live in Oakland, I get to see this work out in the world every day. I stare at the bus bench outside my office window. I snap photos of every for-sale and open house sign I see in my neighborhood.

For me, it’s been a great reminder of why it’s so important to poke holes in things that appear “fine” and how we often need to push past what works to get to what’s truly amazing.

Get a powerful new logo and identity system that will carry your brand forward. Hire us.