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Optimizing an Existing Brand

Real Estate Category Disruptor

Of the many things that make the NYC rental market unique, one major distinction was the absence of a Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a centralized database for housing rentals and sales that exists in most other cities. In the absence of such a system, the New York listings site StreetEasy had become the de facto MLS for this huge market after the company’s swift growth and subsequent category disruption.

The platform has changed the way city residents search for housing — often to the chagrin of brokers.
The Guardian

Multiple Channels Plus a Dual Audience

Roughly a decade old and in the midst of evolving its brand, StreetEasy enlisted Combo for strategy and design services. Although StreetEasy had completed a rebranding assignment 12 months prior that resulted in a 200-page brand guide, the work was not, as it stood, executable, particularly across different internal teams. StreetEasy needed to equip its multiple channel teams — social, email, blog, editorial and even product/website — with actionable steps for rolling out the new brand. Plus, it had to contend with the complexity of its dual audience and appeal to renters as well as the agents and brokers who drove the company’s primary revenue stream.

Enabling Brand Execution

Over the course of about nine months, Combo picked apart the branding guide and sat down with StreetEasy’s internal teams to understand each channel’s distinct needs. Learnings from those meetings led to the realization that more was needed than just creating channel-specific guides. Combo designers and strategists put their heads together to rethink if and how certain color systems and brand tones, for example, would be applicable to carry through across all channels. Further, StreetEasy’s brand work needed to be translated into activation guides that, again, could be channel-specific and speak to different audiences while adhering to master brand standards for overall consistency.

Don’t become the wrong kind of case study for other brand-builders. Be consistent.

Filling in Missing Pieces

In the course of creating the brand execution guides, Combo came across issues and missing pieces to the brand world. Designers developed a new illustration perspective as well as a new photographic point of view. Additionally, they developed a cross-channel tonal system that provided a map for internal teams about how the brand tone could flex across channels.

Pivoting the Relationship With a Key Audience

An integral part of executing the brand was to be intentional about appealing to a key audience that was known to view StreetEasy as an outsized business expense — a necessary evil, even — rather than as a business tool: real estate brokers and agents. Despite this perception, the reality was that a lot of brokers and agents utilized StreetEasy functionalities to help further their business. Combo worked with StreetEasy to take a closer look at how the messaging coming out of the rebrand could influence this attitude, developing new communications tailored to agents and brokers so that the relationship with this audience could evolve along with the brand itself.

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