John German are one of the UK’s oldest estate agents. Since 1840, they’ve been selling homes in the Midlands to happy customers and are seen as a vital part of the local community of each home town they have a shop.
Due to recent acquisitions across the county, John German (who had more than doubled their shops and business in recent years) was going from strength to strength. But, with that speed of growth, some shops misunderstood that they were now part of a bigger group of estate agents. So, John German decided to re-examine their overall brand proposition and involve as many old and new staff members as possible in the process.
A lack of awareness of the overall John German ethos and corporate marketing style, meant that individual shop managers were given total discretion when it came to marketing their own shops to their local community. This was not how John German wanted to function.
This is where we came in, John German asked We Are Ghost if we could help define their brand and create the first overall campaign for all their new and existing shop managers. John German wanted everyone involved in the process of defining their brand and what it stood for, rather than have everyone be told what to do. They wanted everyone on-board and to be excited about the future of John German, but more importantly, they wanted them to understand how and why it came about.
First, we wanted to build some trust in the process John German were about to go through and have everyone involved from the very beginning. So we arranged that a manager and another member of staff from each shop visit We Are Ghost for a day of exploration.
Through our Exploration Sessions we worked with the John German team to find out what it was that makes their estate agents so valued by their communities and what was the secret to their longevity in the industry.
Our Exploration Sessions are designed to draw out small snippets of information that wouldn’t necessarily come out in normal conversation. They are a communal activity that let’s everyone have their say unhindered by office politics, with all ideas expressed and debated. We know from experience that with our clients, the more they think they know something, the less they actually talk about it. We find that our sessions always bring out a clear and concise direction the company should take next – no matter the question needing to be answered.
With John German we wanted to explore their core essence and what it means to their customers and staff. We had nearly 20 people in the session and we started off with some fun basic questions, but by the end some valuable information and developments had emerged that no one could have predicted.
Once the Exploration Session was done we compiled an extensive report on what was said and gave conclusions on what actions they should take going forward. We established that the highest value placed on John German was ‘trust’. Trust in the staff and their local knowledge, trust in always doing the best job for their customers and trust in a well established company.
John German have historically done a different campaign each season, from photographic to just typography designs, but never the same messaging or style from year to year. But now with their new found voice, they wanted a campaign style that they could truly call their own season to season.
The new style needed to be approachable, locally orientated but corporately universal. Through our talented designers, a style began to emerge that covered the varying buildings styles they sell, the different types of clients they service and mix of town and rural locations.
The design style used local landmarks for each shop, with houses they had sold being highlighted on shop posters, local advertising, customer print materials and much more. This style allowed the marketing to be relevant to each shop, but also to the company as a whole. Combining the ‘trust’ language we created with wording that the corporate marketing team and each shop manger could use, John German has begun to speak as one coherent voice to their customers.
It was great to see the Exploration Session for John German providing answers to questions the client hadn’t even thought about. In particular, we came away educated with answers to questions the client previously felt they couldn’t answer.
Also, for our design team the illustrations created involved a team effort from nearly everyone in the studio. It’s not very often a campaign comes through that’s pure illustration, but this job was very much enjoyed by all the Ghost team.
Once, a consistent strategic approach and visual style had been implemented and John German understood their main ethos (trust), it was clear they now had one voice and a core value for the company.
The result in this new thinking meant that John German could quickly established what needs to be said and how to say it, and be consistent with local and regional marketing. More than that, everyone from new recruits to well established employees now know what John German stands for in the 21st century and that it is more relevant today than it has ever been before to their community.