How Compass Succeeds In A Super Saturated Market
Matt Spangler

Whether you’ve gone through the process of buying a home or are simply an avid viewer of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing, you know the experience can be complex, frustrating and sometimes downright volatile. However, in a time where it seems like everyone is striving to get in on the real estate game, many companies have attempted to make the process more seamless.

Many who’ve tried though, have not achieved this as well as Compass. “Powered by data, technology, and deep expertise,” Compass has completely refined the home buying experience. Matt Spangler, the company’s head of marketing explains how Compass has thrived within this saturated market and successfully rivaled competitors.

Online real estate destinations have grown to prominence in recent years. What is it about Compass’s marketing strategy that allows it to stand apart from competitors?

When I look at other brands like Apple or other modern brands that people get really attached to, I find a lot of their success can be attributed to executives getting out of the way of their product. Rather, they really champion their products, putting them forward and putting beautiful things around them. There’s no real need for fancy ads or taglines; all we ultimately need to do is show the amazing product we’ve created.

For us specifically, much of our product is people. We really recruit the best people in this industry and revolve our marketing strategy around people as products. In our photography, we make our agents look as wonderful as possible, truly making them look like stars.

And that’s never really been done before. Normally agents just have a headshot that’s used over and over again that, frankly, is quite poorly done. There’s never been the thinking to take the best people and make them look as beautiful as we can.

And when it comes to the homes on our site, we do the same thing. We’re not just highlighting empty rooms, it’s really about the life you’re trying to lead and creating a future for yourself. Home buying can be very complicated and intimidating, but we try to lessen that.

Basically, empowering the human interactions and putting our creative energy into marketing strategies to promote that has been how we’ve separated ourselves.

How does incorporating Compass’s “tech” expertise function to help brand the company as a whole?

When thinking about technology, we want to try to develop things our agents can actually use. A perfect example of this is this new tool that we just launched called Collections. It’s basically a workspace or collection of homes that you care about that you can then share very easily with the agent that you work with.

Prior to this tool when searching for a space it required endless emails, disconnected communication, arranging for your sister to come and see it etc etc. But with Collections, we can empower the human interaction and the relationship via technology.

How has Compass’s high caliber and consistent imagery perpetuated a distinct brand “voice?”

I believe this industry is one that benefits greatly by the thinking of minimalistic brand design. Because we have so many different agents with different backgrounds, photography really acts as the hero in real estate.

So this minimalist kind of brand style and foundation that we utilize is very black and white and then we add pattern as a texture and a color to enhance it. We’re not the red brand, we’re not the green brand, we're not the blue brand, we’re every color because texture and pattern provide the color within photography and makes it stand out more.

How does the idiom, “a revolution in real estate” work as a reflection of Compass’s brand and how does it function to attain new users?

That’s one we use occasionally, but more often we use the idea of a more sophisticated real estate experience. Or sometimes you’ll see us using the phrase “building the future of real estate.” I think the reasons we’re more drawn to that line is because we recognize that the process of buying a home can be complex and we want to say that we’re always trying to be better at this. We understand this is a long journey and we don’t have all the answers, but we’re working across the industry to try to improve as much as can. We want the process to be more streamlined, more seamless, more sophisticated and we want it to be more consistent.

And that’s really all about building the future of the business and the industry which “building the future of real estate” definitely speaks to more. Whether or not we’re actually creating a revolution in real estate, who knows? That’s not really for us to worry about. What we care about is inspiring greatness in our people and our clients to have that better life and find that right home. It’s much more about guidance than it is about revolution.

From beginning as a single downtown office with a different name, what growing pains in terms of marketing did you endure in becoming ‘Compass’ as it is recognized today?

It’s not easy to own a name like that digitally, but it has ultimately reaped great rewards. We had to have a lot of coordinated efforts to make it happen and the hard work certainly paid off.

When you search Compass we’re now one of the first things that comes up which gives us that much more power. The sophistication and simplicity of our name along with the meaning behind it has paid dividends beyond how much we could've spent on media and advertising for the same recognition.

What advice could you offer early stage startup founders looking to compete in saturated markets?

There are so many markets that are so saturated that building technology to power human interactions is what creates a huge white space; it certainly did for Compass.

I would also say investing in strong brand design is really important. You need to think about the brand and really invest and push design thinking and design systems to form a tangible foundation early on.

And if you do that that, it helps so many of the other friction areas. It fosters recognition, inspiring people to want to work for you and so many other things. This holds true especially in a super saturated market where if you don’t have great design it’s hard to stand out.