Our Head of Marketing explores his thoughts and experiences about taking MakeUrMove on a staged rebrand process.
When I was first told about MakeUrMove I was excited. A technology business based in the middle of Manchester that had ten years of history, a really strong customer base, and which had done only a limited amount of marketing. That’s got to be music to any marketer’s ears?!
I went to have a look at their website and the first thing that jumped out at me was the PINK. For anyone who knows what I’m about as a marketer and the brands I’ve developed in the past, I am all about bright and bold colours. Lurid pink is completely within my repertoire. Already, I’m seeing this as a good fit. However, I did question if there was too much pink!
I’ve got to admit it, I didn’t immediately understand what the business did. You had to take very specific journeys through the website to find certain kinds of content, which didn’t help me easily identify what they wanted me to do, either.
The branding was a bit challenging as well. The strapline was The Online Letting Experts. I couldn’t really square that strapline with all the amount of pink and the whole implementation lacked the kind of trust signals that would indicate expertise.
I also disliked the nature of the strapline itself. Anyone can say they’re the online letting experts or an online letting expert - anything from a lettings agency to a lawyer - so what does that mean?
Initially, I felt a little uneasy about the brand name. Sure, this is a company that has been going for more than ten years, virtually establishing the online letting agency industry in the process - by forcing giants such as Rightmove to change their pricing policies - and trailblazing for the swathes of competitors that entered the market in the following few years. But that UR….
The Ur in the middle felt dated. A little too early too mid-noughties for my tastes. In fact, it felt a bit dot-com bubble. Also, the brand name felt more orientated to the tenant than the landlord and it was clear - even at this early stage - that the tenants are an incidental audience, in many ways.
On top of that, MakeUrMove is a functional brand name. Functional brand names are difficult to future proof as they don’t remain relevant to a shifting marketplace and can often be outpaced by the product/service they are designed to represent.
Brand names should be easily recalled and repeated. If a person attempts to recall MakeUrMove, they may well write it down or search for it in a search engine as Make Your Move. There is a 2013 film called Make Your Move which could also cause brand confusion.
Plus, whilst the UR makes the brand more unique, the brand isn’t that distinctive as there are a number of competitors using Move in their brand name. By using the word Move, MakeUrMove blends into the other property brands out there. Anecdotally, the team have told me our audience often confuses MakeUrMove with the likes of YourMove and Rightmove.
So I knew there was an immediate impact I could make in determining the company’s purpose, creating some new branding elements, as well as a new website design that would provide a few more clues as to what the business is all about and funnel customers to the additional services that were virtually hidden. That would be a great place to start. I could then get the inbound stuff sorted. Then move onto campaigning.
Soon after I started with the business, we ran a range of brand research tactics. We spoke to customers, staff, potential customers, suppliers, trade bodies and industry publications etc. In this process, we developed a deeper understanding of the wants, needs and desires of our customer base.
It was also at this point that we tried to get our heads around developing some kind of positioning that would work well for the two core audiences we naturally have: Landlords and Tenants. We needed to come up with a brand that would suit both. So we had to develop an understanding of not only what each audience thought about us - as a tech provider/software solution and also as a letting agent - but also about what the two audiences thought about each other.
There is a lot of mistrust in this industry. Tenants feel they are lining the pockets of landlords; landlords fear tenants will end up costing them thousands and everyone distrusts agents, who they feel charge too much for the minimal effort.
But this isn’t about marketing a traditional letting agency. This is about marketing a technology solution that just so happens to do many of the things an agency does but in a more efficient and automated manner. We need to communicate that without losing sight of the fact that ‘letting agency’, ‘hybrid letting agency’ and ‘online letting agency’ are prevalent parts of the landlord lexicon.
I almost immediately floated the idea of a complete rebrand, however, after some interesting conversations with various stakeholders, it was clear there was little appetite for this. Partial rebrand and slower brand evolution it is then! The UR stays but there are plenty of improvements that could be made (and still can!).
One of the core differentiators between ourselves and most of the other software solutions for landlords is the expertise we bring to the table. Having a range of accredited property management experts within an online letting agency is where the notion of the original strapline; The Online Lettings Experts, came from. So we wanted to ensure that ethos was maintained as a part of the renewed brand.
After reviewing all the brand research, we decided a good starting point was trust.
We ended up going with the strapline: The Home of Good Landlords. This works on a number of different levels. The system is a platform/centre/hub/home in which they can manage every aspect of managing their tenancy, from promoting their properties, organising their portfolio and finding support for their tenancies.
We also understand that homes are at the heart of the private rented sector, so it delivers a subtle message about the industry we’re in.
We could have gone for: The Home of Landlords, however by choosing: The Home of Good Landlords, we communicated with tenants a trust signal about our service and about the types of landlords that use our technology. This also challenges landlords by setting a level of expectation on them, before they sign up. It also challenges them whilst using our system to always act as a good landlord.
The word good is a useful adjective that we use throughout the messaging in order to create join up with everything we do. Our business as usual activity is based around the hook: Find Good Tenants Faster, which provides a promise about the service to landlords that is similar, from a positioning perspective to the promise to tenants in the strapline.
An additional issue we found was how our customers perceived us. They perceived us to be the same as a traditional letting agency and they mainly focused on the tenant find element of the service. Most of our customers had little or limited understanding of the broader services available through the platform or how they could use the system throughout their tenancy.
Our system helps landlords find tenants faster, it helps them keep costs down, it enables easy communications between landlords and tenants and it helps landlords to stay compliant. Of course, every solution provider out there faces this issue, after a while, the innovation gets taken up by all the competitors and everyone has the same benefits.
Our mission statement grew out of the technology itself. We went with “To improve the world of renting by bringing landlords and tenants together through people-focused technology.” It’s a functional mission statement, but also gives a hint to the previous online letting experts strapline and gives us a much broader social purpose, which has also been core to various parts of our activity, including PR, thought leadership and lead generation.
We also decided to tone down the pink. There is still plenty of pink throughout the branding, but it’s just used in a much more subtle manner. We did this because looking at our customer feedback, many of them commented that they didn’t like the pink, it was also something that had been mentioned by various stakeholders and was clearly not universally loved.
I understood where this overuse of pink had come from. I’ve done this myself in the past. Following the acquisition of the business, a reorganisation of the team, new leadership, new offices etc; that’s when the rebrand had taken place. The output was bold and shouty. This was a relaunch statement of intent, in almost fluorescent pink! It screamed: “We’ve arrived!” The thing is; it wasn’t a relaunch, this was an established brand changing its colour palette, changing its logo and updating its website. This probably should have been an evolution of the existing branding, so as not to cause more disruption. Being so close to a rebrand and having floated the idea of rebranding again, it was clear the best step would be to evolve the brand slowly and in stages.
So, whilst using an almost identical colour palette (we added a grey/green accent colour) and using a more restrained version of the logo’s font, we developed a less in your face version of the brand that suggested a more mature, established and confident business.
We’ve some way to go with evolving the branding yet. I’d love to see the reintroduction of a brand mark at some point. I’d also like to develop a more unique illustrative style - which I think may grow out of the redesign of the product and which can be retrofitted to the website and various other pieces of design.
And although we’ve developed videos and radio ads that have a consistent approach, audible branding is off my radar right now - again, we might be able to address that in the product redevelopment. I’ve got ideas for notifications and audible cues involving home-related noises such letter boxes snapping shut, keys jingling and doors closing.
Evolving the brand affords us the opportunity to develop ideas based on things that work, whereas all-encompassing and expensive rebrands can result in compromises being lived with for years. So this is just the start.
This has also seen the codification of the brand, in the brand guidelines, take a more relaxed approach. Different rules could be added in as we discovered them rather than having a definitive document from the beginning. Whilst the team and roster of agencies remained smaller this was easily manageable. As we’ve started to grow, there has been an increasing need to stress test elements of the brand and make the brand guidelines more robust. It isn’t a constitution and this is a transitioning. Expect the brand to grow and adapt and evolve as we go along.
MakeUrMove is a tech company and has to move faster than most. It’s important to recognise that this is an ever-evolving process and our brand is informed by every touch point we have with our customers. From brand elements such as our logo, our colour palette, or their implementation on our website and in our collateral, but it’s also what we say in our emails and PR, how we talk over the phones etc. It’s everything. It’s got a life of its own and we have to give it the ability to grow, adapt and develop.
The private rental sector is rapidly changing and MakeUrMove is being redeveloped at a rapid pace. I was excited to start this journey and I am now - more than ever - excited to see the direction the brand and business takes in the next year or two.