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Jawitz Properties: Damon Jawitz

Eskel Jawitz Real Estate went from being a small regional player to the national big-time

Juliet Pitman

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Herschel Damon

Running a small, successful family business is one thing. Expanding that business to become a national market leader in just two years is another, especially when the industry in which you operate is the notoriously competitive one of real estate. Jawitz Properties is one of the few companies that has managed to make this transition.

Central to the success of the expansion has been a highly successful rebranding exercise that opened up new opportunities for growth and allowed the company to focus its attention on what was required to go national and do so successfully

Eskel Jawitz, founder of the company, has developed a reputation for integrity and service over 30 years, and his name had long been the strength of the company’s brand. But when sons Herschel, chief executive and Damon, franchise director, joined the company, it was time for a change.

“The company had become more than the person of Eskel Jawitz himself, and the brand needed to reflect this while still retaining the essence of what Eskel had built up,” explains Damon Jawitz. But this wasn’t the only impetus driving the Jawitz brand overhaul.

The market had changed and customers were far more sophisticated. The challenge was to meet their needs with a professional and sophisticated brand, as well as expand into areas that the company had never before operated in.

For these reasons, the brand transformation that took place in 2004 was about more than just getting a new font, new logo and new corporate colours. As Damon Jawitz says: “We needed to look at the company on all levels and implement changes that would allow us to enter the new territory we wanted to expand into.”

So many companies make the mistake of thinking that change, growth and success will follow naturally from a new look and feel, but what Jawitz Properties did right was to investigate how behaviours needed to change to embody the new brand, thus ensuring that the facelift went more than just skin deep.

Part of this was getting marketing experts to conduct an extensive 18-month market research and strategic exercise to ascertain precisely what customer needs and expectations were. The new markets earmarked for expansion – Cape Town, Plettenburg Bay and the areas of the West Rand and Johannesburg South – were comprehensively investigated.

Finally, branding experts were called in and the new look and feel decided upon. Jawitz Properties was the name chosen as it echoed both the past success and foundations built by Eskel Jawitz, while at the same time moving slightly away from the man as an individual brand and reflecting the new future of the company.

Corporate colours were changed from black and yellow to the more sophisticated black and stone. The company now had a new face. The next step was to decide on new values that would drive internal behaviour.

Damon Jawitz outlines the challenge of launching the brand to staff, none of whom were aware that a new brand was on the horizon. “At the company’s 35th birthday party, we unveiled the new brand internally and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The next day, everyone had new business cards and all buildings had new signage. We wanted to ensure an overnight transformation,” he explains.

Intensive training and workshops with staff ensured that the values and desired behaviours of the new brand were entrenched.

“A successful media launch and communication with the public was vital to ensuring customers understood that, although they may see a different For Sale sign, what they could expect from us was just an increased level of professionalism, integrity and service,” he adds.

In addition, the company has invested in developing a strong outdoor media presence, making extensive use of billboards and street-pole ads. The exercise was long, involved and costly, but it has paid off. Market awareness of the Jawitz Properties brand is at an all-time high.

“There’s no doubt that people know who we are,” says Damon Jawitz. But the biggest tangible benefit is that the increased brand presence has been matched by phenomenal business growth, especially in the lucrative Cape Town market.

In just two years, the company has gone from having three offices in the Johannesburg area to a national presence, with 18 offices and over 300 employees. If you’re looking for an example of how to do it right, there’s no doubt that this one foots the bill.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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