DONALD ROSS RESIDENTIAL - Branding, Design and Marketing


Who are they?

Established in Ayr in 1980 as a small surveying and estate agency practice, the original Donald Ross business earned an outstanding reputation for selling high quality homes before being bought over in 2005. The company continued to grow and emerged as Ayrshire’s leading estate agency, with significant impact in rental and letting sectors.

Why change a successful brand?

“Over the years, the business and the market had matured. We started to feel that the company looked old-fashioned, even though our processes, offerings and attitude were anything but,” said MD Steven Miller. “We had to communicate that we were not stuck in the past. We had to maximise our potential.”

The entire corporate identity came under scrutiny. Miller drew up a shortlist before selecting Darwin Brand Consultants.

“Apart from impressing us with the imagination and originality of their creative work, Darwin struck a common chord with us in that they too are a small family-run firm, inherently motivated to succeed by consistently doing outstanding work,” said Miller.

What was the brief?

Together, both companies agreed that the established corporate identity was creating misperceptions within the marketplace: it was holding the company back and did not reflect a business providing a dynamic, innovative service.

Everyone recognised that care had to be taken not to compromise the signature approach of the company, which had earned a local reputation for the personal touch as well as open, honest professionalism in every detail.

How did Darwin home in on the solution?

Extensive research confirmed, among many things, that buying or selling a house is an emotional experience, made more so by exceptional practical and financial factors. Additionally, women account for a predominantly high percentage of purchase decisions.

Darwin positioned the client as not simply a franchise or just a local office: Donald Ross Residential offers excellent specialist local knowledge and advice, and the customer experience is to a very high standard, driven by the company’s commitment to putting the customer first. The Donald Ross Residential approach makes life as easy as possible for every customer, who is appreciated as an individual.

The answer that emerged is light, bright and above all passionate. Summarised in the tagline Passionate about Property, it’s a clean-cut, open solution that wears its heart on its sleeve – refreshing honesty and friendliness are prized assets of Donald Ross Residential. Colours and shapes were chosen to emphasise the energy and positivity that typifies the company, which all help it stand out in an environment that too readily settles for me-too solutions. Pink denotes the Sales side of the business, green the Letting, and those colours also help differentiate the uniforms for the two facets of the business.

As part of the rebranding, the Donald Ross Sales & Letting Offices have been radically refurbished to help all clients enjoy their experience when dealing with the agency. The previous, “officey” atmosphere was swept away in favour of a more comfortable, welcoming environment of lower chairs and tables in an airy space, staffed by friendly receptionists instead of the more usual, slightly intimidating ranks of sales people behind desks.

“Working closely with our interior designer, we aimed for more of a modern coffee-shop feel,” said Vincent Bissette, Darwin’s MD. “To create a relaxed mood, from even before you step inside. We even persuaded Steven to upgrade the coffee-making machines to a top-class model, as we know that the accumulation of little things enhances the customer’s feeling of being truly appreciated. Also, the premises are now easier to see into – we lowered to waist height the displays of images of properties, so from the pavement outside you can see exactly what a nice place this is. It inspires confidence from the outside in. The old-style, floor-to-ceiling stands of images of properties created a barrier we didn’t need.”

The windows are still working hard, though: vibrant, high-tech visual displays ensure that properties stand out to maximum effect, and deliver information on the company, all helping fulfil Steven Miller’s desire for branding with innovation.

“Given that a company’s brand consists of every aspect of the business, whether it is printed material, advertising, the buildings, staff uniforms, signage, the website, vehicles, the furniture, you name it, it contributes – or detracts from – the overall branding campaign. Donald Ross had the foresight to undertake the rebranding comprehensively, and maximised the effect,” said Bissette.

The Result

Soon after the launch, it was announced by Donald Ross that, following the rebrand, their Sales & Lettings Offices have both enjoyed a significant upturn in business.

The sum of all the changes is a remarkable increase of 20% within sales business and in 90% of Donald Ross landlords finding a tenant in under four weeks. “Volumes in footfall and enquiries are up,” confirmed Miller. “We’ve increased market share across a wider audience and the rebrand definitely affected the demographic reach.”

“By bringing in the objective talents of Darwin we now have a clear, relevant direction and a brand that lives and breathes our personality and approach to selling, letting and buying properties. The response from customers old and new has been gratifyingly positive. Taking in all aspects of the business, it’s been our best ever year.”


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