I couldn't help but ask about the origin and purpose of those really loud jackets last week when Tom Kunz, president and CEO of Century 21 LLC., stopped by The Bee's offices for a conversation about the real estate market.
Friday, we ran an abbreviated version of his response in the print edition Home Front. But the entire longer story was funny, interesting and quite business-like. This is, after all, earth's largest residential real estate firm. (FYI, this picture above is of Kunz on the left giving an award to a pair of Realtors from Australia. Hint, I think you can tell what firm they're with by those loud jackets).
Here is CEO Kunz's entire answer.
"It's a marketing tool. That's all it really is. When Century 21 was founded in California in 1972 some of the competition in the marketplace was a company by the name of Red Carpet and they had a red coat. And so at the time it was kind of the thing to have.
"Our original colors were maroon and brown. It was something that set us apart and because we marketed it so well for so many years it still stands out. If you watch any TV show or a movie where they want to show a salesperson, a real estate salesperson without a for-sale sign or anything there, they usually call us and see if they can use our coat.
"For a number of years it went away, from about 1992 to about a year and a half ago. Yet it was still recognized as a professional real estate person. When I took the job (in 2004) and we started investigating: do we bring it back, it was one of those hard tasks you have to look at.
"From our agents' standpoint it was either they like it or they hate it. There's no gray area in between. The issue is it doesn't matter if you love it or you hate it. It's a marketing tool.
"When I walk through a neighborhood or get on a plane...I average one and a half to two leads a flight because I dress this way. When I get in because of of what's going on in the industry, when they seem me in this coat they know I work for Century 21 and they want to know: 'What's going on? Is it really going to hell in a handbasket. What's going on?'
It's our Nike swoosh," said Kunz.
(For the record I saw part of the the 1980s movie "War Games" over the weekend. Sure enough, Matthew Broderick's mom was a real estate agent and she wore a gold coat. And who can forget the goofy gold coat scenes in the Adam Sandler golf movie, "Happy Gilmore.)"
Image courtesy of Century 21