Michaela is Luxury Presence’s Design Director, Brand & Marketing, and managed our rebrand.
Since Luxury Presence launched in 2016, our brand has massively evolved. Our tech has advanced, our product portfolio has expanded, and our vision has grown. So at the end of 2021, we embarked on a rebrand to better reflect where we are today and position ourselves for the years ahead.
Now that we’ve had time to reflect on this undertaking, I wanted to share some key learnings in the hopes that it helps others considering — or in the midst of — a rebrand.
About Luxury Presence
Luxury Presence is an all-in-one real estate marketing platform that helps agents, teams, and brokerages build their brands, attract more business, and stand out from the competition.
At the core of our company is a love and respect for entrepreneurship. Real estate is an industry of entrepreneurs. Our clients are business owners looking to grow. Like all entrepreneurs, they take risks, bet on themselves, and try to create better lives for themselves and others.
Mapping out challenges ahead
Evolving a brand identity is never an easy task. As a newly-hired Design Director, I was skeptical about doing a project of this scale in-house. I’ve seen other companies do it successfully, so I knew it was possible — but it still felt like a herculean task.
Phase 0: Setting the stage
Before we started, I had a few important questions. Was the executive team aligned? Were the scope, budget, and objectives clearly defined? Was the roadmap realistic? And as a remote-first company, how would we ensure that everyone felt heard and on the same page?
I started this journey by digging in and learning as much as possible about our company: our history, leadership, culture, existing brand, competitors, aspirations, inspirations, opportunities, and limitations.
Phase 1: Goal-setting and planning
Assessing and auditing our current brand was the next step. Collectively, the team felt that our identity was no longer communicating the right message. The overall goal became to change that. That was easy.
The harder, and bigger, set of questions revolved around our company name. Was the word “luxury” helping us or hindering us? Did it feel current? Our name helped us to get where we were, but would it allow us to continue to scale?
Beyond a very long list of deliverables that needed to be updated, I also defined our success metrics, including social engagement, follower growth, traffic, and employee advocacy. Then I outlined a team structure, with the internal and external team members needed to make this rebranding happen.
Looking at the scale of this project, I planned optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic timelines. In the optimistic scenario, we’d launch our rebrand at the beginning of 2022. Realistically, I aimed for the end of Q1. Our pessimistic scenario meant a launch at the end of Q2 2022*.
Phase 2: Gathering the right research
Making this experience as inclusive as possible was one of my primary goals, as building something as important as brand identity should never be done in a silo.
To ensure broader participation of our team, I redesigned some of my go-to offline workshops in FigJam, an online whiteboard tool for teams. Besides these exercises being incredibly fun (once we figured out how to play music for everyone; pro tip: you can do this through advanced sharing settings in Zoom), it was also very insightful.
Getting alignment from the executive team was just as important. For the first two weeks of the process, I held 1:1 interviews with everyone on the leadership team. My aim was to land at a shared understanding of what Luxury Presence represented at the moment and what it should represent moving forward.
Revisiting my notes, I found these four major takeaways:
- Our product is really premium and innovative
- Our team is building super-powerful tools.
- Our competitors are either big, slow, and technologically dated, or modern and nimble, but serving everyone.
- Our identity needs to resonate with high-end, well-established agents but also be aspirational for agents who are starting out.
To my pleasant surprise, my concerns about alignment and unclear expectations were removed even before I had a chance to voice them. The tight alignment of the executive team and a supportive company culture helped kickstart the process smoothly and without issues.
Phase 3: Finding our new proposition
What makes a good company brand? It’s more than having the right visual elements or a solid brand story. A brand is also not a logo or a combination of hues from a color wheel. It’s the product of deep consideration of your company’s purpose, position, and personality.
That’s why the real work started after the research, interviews, and workshops were completed. I summarized the findings to uncover these insights.
The goal here was simple — connect what matters to our business with what matters to our customers. For instance, how do our goals connect with the goals of our customers? How does our mission address our customers’ pain points?
Beyond that, I aimed to find a creative concept that could translate these findings into visuals and our broader identity.
I’ve presented the 100+ page-long strategy deck in one of our weekly branding meetings to key stakeholders (a lot of those slides were images). Here’s a framework I recommend for getting started with a strategy deck. If you’re looking to build a strategy for an early-stage startup, a one-pager with your 3 “Ps” (purpose, personality, and promise) will often do the trick.
After some minor adjustments, we landed on our new proposition.
Phase 4: Making things visual
As we moved from purpose to impact, we started defining our brand system. This is the visualization of brand strategy: brand logo, tone of voice, colors, composition, photography, typography, and motion.
To speed up our work streams, we hired a verbal identity consultant to help us build our tone of voice guidelines. Together we enhanced our brand story and refined our personality traits, writing principles, and value proposition.
Simultaneously, I started to work on mood boards for our identity. Moodboards are all about exploration and alignment. While you can try and explain how you want a design to look in words, sometimes the clearest explanation comes through visual examples.
My aim was to capture our essence and personality traits. Even though I had a clear idea of what our identity should look like, I challenged myself and looked for out-of-the-box ideas. I ended up creating three distinct brand concepts and a mood board for each. After the final mood board was chosen, I moved forward with working on our visuals.
For the refined direction of the new Luxury Presence brand, it was important to reflect the heritage, a strong connection to the real estate industry, and timeless symbolism of access and new opportunities.
We based our identity on the insight that Luxury Presence is the key that unlocks the potential of your business. It opens new doors, helps you create new connections, and allows you to reach heights you’ve probably only dreamed of.
It took a few rounds to land on the final logotype: a minimalist version of the key that took our brand to the next level while expanding existing brand equity.
Phase 5: Testing
We are a proudly data-driven company. That’s why, before we moved to the next step of building our new brand, we paused to test the work we’d done so far.
We wanted to understand our customers’ perception of our new identity and attitude towards it. Moreover, we still haven’t made a decision about our brand name.
Together with an external user research studio, we developed a tailored set of brand tests to generate meaningful insights about our brand and our assumptions. We then ran three unmoderated tests.
In the first test, external participants were asked to reflect on the brand’s visual appearance. The brand perception was tested both internally and externally. All participants were asked to share their alignment, or misalignment, with the core values we hoped to convey via our new identity. The final tests focused on the perception of our current name and its simplified version.
We were well aware of possible biases. By its nature, visual identity is highly subjective and some of our participants might have had a familiarity bias. Also, our assets were limited to static Figma prototypes.
Despite these constraints, our test results showed highly positive results. The majority of participants felt the Luxury Presence brand was very relatable, and their perception aligned well with our goal values and personality traits.
What surprised me were the name test results. We ran an A/B test, creating landing pages that controlled for the graphics and messages but used different brand names. We directed ad traffic towards them to test for bounce rate, time of page, and conversion. Our tests had three target audiences: internal employees, our current clients, and our target audience. When we combined the results, the split between the names was almost 1:1.
Internally, employees preferred the new name Presence. Our current clients preferred our existing name, Luxury Presence. Interestingly, the name seemed to have no impact on our bounce rate, time on page, or conversion rate.
We hoped that data would give us a sense of direction. However, the data told us something very clearly: a brand’s visual identity is highly subjective. A brand is never experienced in a silo; it’s always perceived in context.
Ultimately, the final decision was up to our CEO. We presented the pros and cons of both directions, using the data we collected to support our arguments. In the end, we decided to keep our original name, Luxury Presence.
Phase 6: Building the visual system
For many realtors, starting their online marketing journey is a big step into the unknown. Having relied on personal recommendations most of their professional life, digital marketing can feel like opening an unfamiliar door. This can feel scary and uncertain but also exciting and full of potential.
Our new visual system subliminally captures this dichotomy. We play with light and reflections within interior design. Doors, windows, and glass all let in light from dark corners. Bespoke interiors and architectural design became an inspiration for our broader visual language.
One of the important considerations for our brand identity was that it needed to work in motion. Today, motion is something that every user expects. It broadens our storytelling possibilities, creates emotions, and adds life to our brand.
So, how does one approach a motion-first identity? First, you should focus on creating your storytelling system. Like in product design, a good motion identity begins with a few core storytelling elements: your atoms. Once atoms (technical specifics of movement) are defined, you can stack them together to create molecules (micro interactions), organisms (interactions), templates, and eventually videos.
We developed tests to determine our motion principles. The time we invested into the process is already paying off, as we’ve been able to significantly cut down the time needed to develop the look and feel of new videos, both in-house and externally.
A picture is worth a thousand words
For a product-driven SaaS company, illustrations are undeniably one of the most important parts of the brand stack. There’s no better way to translate the benefits and features of your product than through meaningful imagery.
We use illustrations to convey complex ideas, simply. My goal was to create a system that is easily scalable with our ever-growing product offering. I defined five illustration categories based on use case, medium, and format: Hero, Call Outs, Tilted, Grid, and 3D. These categories can also be combined. For example, we can create a Hero Tilted illustration or a Call Out Grid. This flexibility prevents us from being restricted while ensuring everything we do feels on-brand.
In many ways, the internal launch is more important than the external one. My teammates, Luxury Presence’s employees, are our best ambassadors. It’s important that everyone feels included, well-informed, and excited for what’s ahead.
That’s why we invested a lot of time into planning and preparing our internal rollout. We decided to merge the brand launch with one of our monthly All Hands meetings. I teamed up with the leadership team and our CEO Malte to plan the cadence of the virtual event.
We created a short presentation explaining what was changing, why it was changing, and how it would help us scale. Then we played our new brand hype video. Reflecting back on the launch day, that video was one of the most important assets we’ve produced — it created so much hype and excitement.
If you’re thinking about creating your own brand hype video, I recommend investing in custom music. I’m convinced ours was the secret ingredient that helped sell the concept and our work.
The external launch happened shortly after our internal launch and was planned by our CMO and marketing team. To make it more impactful, we decided to tie our rebrand announcement together with news of our successful Series B funding.
This included a PR agency-driven push and an employee-driven push that was successful thanks to a simple communications kit we developed. We also released our new website and did a social media takeover.
This wasn’t a precious, refined campaign. We were thinking and working like product designers, embracing iteration and continuous improvement. It was an exercise intended to help guide future assets and applications, especially the website.
If I were to do it again…
Reflecting on the past year, there are a few things I would do differently:
- Test your website, early and often
Go with a slow roll-out approach for your website update. When you are changing graphics, messaging, and information architecture all at once, it becomes impossible to isolate which variables impact site performance. Test, analyze, iterate, and test again.
2. Add a dedicated project manager.
I was in charge of countless brand identity projects, which meant not just managing one project but also the rest of the brand management team. If I were to do it again, I would hire a dedicated project manager to keep us on track and ensure everything happens on time.
The future of the Luxury Presence brand
So, now the new Luxury Presence brand is in place. But it’s only the beginning.
Now we need to manage, monitor, and adapt it along with our products and our industry. To do that, we need defined goals, the right team, clear communication and processes, and a well-managed budget and operational infrastructure.
At the end of the day, a brand is how people think and feel about something — and so much can influence that. Visuals are a big part of it, yes, but so are words… and experiences… and ideas. And that will always be true, whether you’re consciously cultivating those elements or not.
The goal of brand building is to guide as much of the experience as possible. We’re in the process of that. And I’m excited to share more of that process with you!