Goodbye, Gold Sportcoat: Century 21 gets a modern reboot

Brad Platt knows it won’t be easy, but he’s enthusiastic about the pending reboot and rebranding of the venerable Century 21 real estate franchise.

“We’re excited about the revised look and feel,” said Platt, the owner/broker of Century 21 Northland and Century 21 Sleeping Bear.

Platt said the new branding is reflective of the changes that have taken place in the industry and the corporation over the past 40-plus years since Century 21 debuted.

“It’s more modern,” Platt said. “The gold coat [concept] got tired and old. It’s a major undertaking. It’s expensive but I’m glad they did it.”

Today’s Realtor is college-educated and comes from diverse backgrounds. Fully 63 percent are female, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Platt declined to provide exact numbers on the cost of the rebranding, saying only it would be “tens of thousands of dollars.”

Signage at the company’s 12 offices will be changed, as will the yard signs, print and online media, all of which must be emblazoned with the revamped trademarks. The company is bearing the brunt of the costs.

“We want to do our best to make sure our agents aren’t taking a hit with the new changes,” Platt said. “We have 12 offices, and exterior signs will need to be replaced. The corporation is partially subsidizing it but there are time limits: It has to be changed over in 12 months.”

Century 21 debuted in 1971 as the first national franchisor of real estate offices. Today it has 7,400 offices and more than 111,000 agents.

“It’s an iconic brand,” said Platt.

Cara Whitley, the chief marketing officer for the corporation, told RealEstate magazine that the old logo projected the wrong message about the company and its agents: It was overly busy, old-fashioned and behind the times.

“By eliminating the complexity and dated iconography, the new identity provides a clean and clear stage … to shine through,” she told the magazine.

The company is also working to embrace today’s real estate buyer who looks at properties on phones and tablets. An ad campaign with ESPN is part of the campaign, as Whitley said sports fans are typically in the prime home-buying segment of 25-49 age range. Century 21 will also purchase advertising on broadcasters such as ABC, CBS, Fox and Fox Sports, and on digital channels such as Hulu.

With the corporate-wide changeover, Platt is also changing the name of the Century 21 Sleeping Bear offices to Century 21 Northland. He said when the company first bought the Sleeping Bear offices, keeping the previous name made sense, but this is the perfect time to bring everyone under one umbrella. Platt said the agents in those offices in Frankfort, Empire and Beulah are embracing both the new look and becoming part of the Northland team.

The corporation is offering franchisees several options for the look and feel of the new branding efforts, allowing offices to decide what will work best for them. Platt said some bring to mind areas or regions that he doesn’t think would work in northern Michigan.

“There’s about a dozen variations. Some look like Tempe or more urban areas, [like] downtown Chicago,” he said. “We’ve gotten our agents’ opinions and chosen two new ones.”

Platt said he believes the changes will “resonate” with potential clients.

“It’s cool, new, a little sexy,” he said. “At the [Century 21] convention in Orlando, it was about 80/20 enthusiastic versus not. There was a new buzz.”