I remember learning about marketing and advertising during several of my college courses, and brand loyalty is a concept straight from Marketing 101. If you are unfamiliar with the term, in retail it describes the fact that some buyers never waver from their decision about which detergent to buy, or which toothpaste. Some people consistently use the same brand for these purchases, so they are "brand loyal".
About three years ago, I met with a dynamic guy who had been running his own carpet-cleaning business, and he was looking to get into real estate. This freshly-licensed young man had been referred to me by a dear friend, and I was more than happy to give him a chance.
During our meeting, he mentioned that he was meeting with several companies, which I consider to be normal these days. In the end, his decision was between our company and a "big name" brokerage which shall remain nameless for the purposes of this post.
I was offering an exceptional deal for this person, but he was convinced that going with the national name would help to ramp up his business faster. The other company has a fine reputation locally, but they were not offering anything that would assist a new licensee to increase his/her business. I had leads by the bucketful from our websites, and I was willing to train him one-on-one (as I do with all of our new agents). Additionally, he would have zero out-of-pocket expenses other than the commission split. None of these amenities would exist at the other brokerage.
When he called to tell me of his decision to work elsewhere, I told him that I was impressed that he called, and I also expressed my frank disappointment in a (somewhat) gentle way.
While I could understand his logic, I did tell him that he would probably regret not accepting the offer to work with us, since the other company wasn't offering to help him in any perceivable way. I also told him that I thought he would understand after he had been in business for 6-12 months. I left the door open if he changed his mind later. I never heard back from him, and he is no longer in real estate. I truly think he could have been a big success given the RIGHT opportunity.
I know that I can't speak for other markets around the country, but here in Austin, buyers and sellers typically don't care a whole lot about the company name. They are much more concerned with the service and/or exposure that you are able to provide as an agent. In that way, I would say that the vast majority of people here are "agent loyal", and they are more concerned about the level of individual service that they receive rather than the company name on the sign or business card.
I realize that this is not the case across the board, and that there is a small percentage of prospects who want to work with a specific company. This has always been an interesting phenomenon to me, since all of the individual offices are run by different people, and the service experience is far from consistent. Unlike McDonald's or Crest toothpaste, you really don't know what you are getting just by choosing a specific real estate "brand".
This is strictly my opinion. I have been in the real estate business full-time for over 11 years, and I have only come across a small handful of clients who seemed to care about the name of my company. Actually, many of my clients never even think to ask which company I work for until they are holding my card or watching me put a sign in the yard.
Thanks for your time!