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There is more than one way to brand yourself, and for First Team® Real Estate, a traditional marketing plan just wouldn’t do. For the company, recently named the favorite real estate firm in the Orange County Register’s 2011 “Best of Orange County” readers poll, building a strong relationship with clients and focusing on trust, compassion and understanding are top priorities. Their innovative marketing campaign, My Story, fits right into those values and—since its release in September—has made quite an impact.

When Cameron Merage founded First Team in 1976, he was fresh out of college and eager to make his way in the hot market in Newport Beach, Calif.

“The real estate business is interesting,” says Merage, regarding the reason he decided to start First Team. “It is rewarding, with lots of opportunities, but mostly I was drawn to it because I saw that you could do a phenomenal job for your clients, and the value that was added to their life financially and personally was tremendous, and the satisfaction and gratification it brought them immense. So I felt a moral obligation to do that.”

From the beginning, driving value to the consumer was the philosophy at the heart of the company, and this is the vision that remains intact today. The My Story campaign focuses on the buyer’s experience in purchasing a home, and how working with First Team directly impacted their life.

According to Merage, the campaign was inspired after they were voted a consumer favorite in the reader’s poll. “We wanted to understand why consumers chose us as their favorite firm, so we started asking questions and we found a large number of inspiring stories in which our agents were instrumental in helping clients solve problems, overcome challenges and reach goals,” says Merage. According to him, these stories displayed the caring and spirit of team work, inspiring First Team to capture them in a way that would resonate with clients and showcase their philosophy.

Since its launch, First Team has found this unique campaign extremely effective, and an important tool for reaching consumers on a personal level. Merage feels that it has further shown what his team is: an independent firm born and raised in California, with a commitment to community. Additionally, Merage notes, in a market where many consumers are seeing declining home values or experiencing financial stress, My Story shows the caring and emotional side of real estate.

In the weeks after My Story’s launch, First Team saw a tremendous spike in website visits, with visitors staying on longer and sharing videos with friends via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. The company also noticed a substantial rise in inquiries from potential clients, proving that non-traditional, outside-the-box marketing campaigns are an effective way to gain the attention of the client. By focusing on the emotional attachment between consumers and the company, explains Merage, they feel they have really been able to make an impact.

Moving forward, the My Story Campaign will include print, video and online recruiting components. “The social media participation is the most exciting part of the campaign,” says Merage, who explains that clients who haven’t participated in videos can share their stories online through various First Team social media platforms.

“The campaign has allowed consumers to understand the values that drive First Team, creating a sense of trust and confidence—which we are constantly seeking—that they will be treated well and that their needs will be met and exceeded,” Merage states. “For First Team, this is an absolute. This is what I measure our success with.”