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Branding That Works: Apartments.com

Jake Gibbs | August 9, 2016 

What makes a brand great? In this series we’ll explore successful branding efforts and break down the elements that make the brand a success.

We’ll start with an interesting case study.

How do you take an unsexy product and turn it into a powerful, memorable, competition-dominating brand? You follow the footsteps of Apartments.com.

What Do They Do?

“Change Your Apartment. Change the World,” claims Apartments.com in tongue-in-cheek fashion. Apartments.com helps apartment seekers find the perfect apartment to live in. With easy-to-use filters and apartment info (rent, location, size, amenities, etc), the website makes consumer lives easy. Apartments.com makes money by passing on leads from interested potential customers to the apartment managers and owners.

Who Is Their Competition?

Apartments.com competes with Rent.com, ApartmentFinder.com, and ApartmentGuide.com directly. It competes with Realtor.com and Zillow.com indirectly since those websites focus mainly on home buying instead of renting.

How They Achieved a Great Brand

Apartments.com understands that a brand has to stand out from the crowd. This inherently means leaving the safe road and venturing off into uncharted territory. They boldly went to curious, fun, and edgy places with the following traits:

  • HUMOR: They don’t try to be overtly, obviously funny, but their brand is full to the brim with passive, smile-inducing humor.
  • THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: They portray themselves as the future of apartments, thus implying that all other competitors as outdated. Apartments have been around for ages, so this again is a funny way to make them be at the “cutting edge” of an industry that isn’t really cutting edge. This has a psychological effect of making consumers want to be on the forefront of technology when it comes to finding apartments, even though the technology to find an apartment isn’t really ground-breaking.
  • CONFIDENCE: Everything about Apartments.com shows confidence (even intentional overconfidence). This has the effect of making consumers confident in them, because who doesn’t want to follow a confident brand?
  • ENDORSEMENT: Smartly, Apartments.com found an iconic figure, actor Jeff Goldblume, who is the company’s spokesperson, posing as a Silicon Valley Maverick named “Brad Bellflower”. He is not only a gifted actor, but is an excellent face of the company, doing what Flo at Progressive Insurance does.

Now let’s take a look at how they use design, tone, and words to bring their brand to life.

To get a feel for the tone of their brand, just listen to the transcript of these videos. Note their over-the-top style. It’s quite entertaining and memorable. Get ready to hold back a chuckle or two.

Now let’s move to how they achieve branding through design.

Take a look at these examples from their website, ads, and videos.

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  • Color: To be futuristic, edgy, and modern, they chose electric green contrasted with black and white.
  • Fonts: Again, their fonts are very non-traditional. They feel futuristic, cool, and fun.
  • Shapes: Notice the use of squares and lines portrayed in a digital way. Again, this makes the brand feel futuristic and cutting-edge.

To summarize, Apartments.com hit the jackpot with their out-of-the box, hilarious brand. When you think about apartments, any of their competitors begin to feel boring and irrelevant when compared with the fun, future brand that is Apartments.com

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Jake Gibbs

Jake Gibbs | Design Specialist

Jake Gibbs is a Design Specialist at ListEngage and an expert at designing and building elegant, cross-platform compatible, mobile responsive emails and landing pages on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. From brainstorming and ideation to polishing the final product, he loves the creative process. Jake has worked with more than 60 clients since joining ListEngage in 2014. Some of his projects have included L’Oreal, Vanguard, Carhartt, Harvard Business School, RCI/Wyndham, Huggies, and Planet Fitness.