AMAC rebranding pays off as brokerage picks up market share


In the midst of the pandemic, Alex MacWilliam Inc., the oldest real estate brokerage on the barrier island, decided it needed to modernize its brand. 

In mid-2021, the company hired a top brand consultant and came up with a new look and fresh marketing approach, with a bold orange four-letter logo – AMAC – and strong emphasis on the terms neighbor and neighborhood. 

The initiative paid off.

Based on data for the first four months of 2023, the company has gained substantial market share since the rebranding and its dollar volume is up nearly 20 percent over the first four months of 2022 – a lucrative period when the pandemic real estate boom was still underway. 

“Going into the year, I was afraid all the challenges in today’s economy would hinder our sales,” said company president Alex “Buzz” MacWilliam III. “Every day, we listen to the news and every day we are afraid of another bank failure or a recession or the debt ceiling and I thought all that would shake confidence and reduce demand for homes.

“But it hasn’t had that affect for us. January through April, our unit sales were down 16%, but our dollar volume was up 18%, from $85 million last year to $101 million this year. And we leapfrogged over several of our competitors in market share.”

MLS data aggregated by real estate analytics firm Terradatum shows that the company moved from fifth or sixth a couple of years ago to third in overall market share for all types of property in Indian River County in the first four months of this year. 

Crucially, the company was also third in luxury sales, with more than 10% of the million-dollar-and-up sales on the island and across the county.

It also sold houses quicker than any other major brokerage with an average of just 56 days on market before closing. 

“Our rebranding is starting to mature,” said MacWilliam. “People are more aware of our brand as a family-owned company with deep local roots. The new eye-catching colors and modern logo, along with our videos that are widely seen on Facebook and YouTube and other platforms have had a big impact in getting new clients and sales agents.”

“We asked two agents we hired last week how they heard about us and they said they fell in love with our YouTube videos,” said Alex MacWilliam IV, Buzz MacWilliam’s son, whose nickname since childhood has been AMAC.

The videos, which run as pre-content ads on YouTube, feature a mix of historical images of Vero Beach and contemporary vignettes with Alex IV and others talking about the company’s history and philosophy in lively scenes at recognizable Vero locations.

“Welcome to our neighborhood,” Alex IV says in one, emerging from Corey’s drugstore onto a busy sidewalk across the street from the company’s office on Ocean Drive. 

The core message of the videos and the rebranded marketing effort is that Vero Beach is Alex MacWilliam Inc.’s neighborhood, where its owners and agents have been greeting newcomers, building relationships and selling houses for 74 years. 

Alex IV said people often recognize him on the street or in stores and stop to talk about how much they like the neighborly vibe of the videos and the company’s new approach. 

Ryan Heller, co-founder and creative director of Helium, the agency that designed the rebranding, said in 2021 that MacWilliam’s deep roots on the island were integral to the creation of the new look and message.

“You want to make sure there is an authenticity to who the company is that roots them an idea, a concept, a place, whatever the story stems from,” Heller said. “Knowing that AMAC has this incredible history in Vero set the foundation for us. It was great to have that story and that history, but then we had to move on to part two – how do we make it relevant in today’s market?”

“We want to maintain our connection with our primary demographic, which is the 65-plus community, but also be more appealing to woman and younger buyers and agents,” marketing manager Tammy Adams said in 2021.

“Our community is changing,” Adams continued. “There are a lot more younger people, millennials like AMAC, 30- or 40-something moving into the community, often coming home to be close to parents and have grandchildren close to grandparents.”

“I meet people around town all the time, millennials who have just moved here from Chicago, L.A. or New York as part of the COVID shift in migration,” said Alex IV. “They can work from home, and they love the lifestyle here. I’m hoping the new look will help us attract that demographic as customers and agents.”

When the company debuted its rebranding in October 2021, Adams told Vero Beach 32963, “It will take 12 to 18 months for all of this to fully integrate into the community so that people see AMAC and know instantly that is us. We will look at where we are a year and a half from now to measure the success of the new brand, to see if we have picked up market share, had an influx of people visiting the website or improved in other ways.”

April was the 18th month since the launch and the project appears to be right on track.

Buzz MacWilliam said the company’s focus on educating and mentoring agents is another reason for its good results this year. 

“We subscribe to multiple real estate newsletters, including some that come to us daily from the Florida Real Estate Association,” he told Vero Beach 32963. “We spend at least 45 minutes of each sales meeting educating and making sure our agents are aware and really know what is going on in the market and the industry.”

“What AMAC does is they stay on top of changes in the real estate market,” said Alex MacWilliam agent Shannon O’Leary. “They keep us informed about new rules and regulations at the state level and within our local real estate association. They also keep us informed about issues the brokerage may be facing with individual transactions, such as a permitting issue or an insurance challenge. They educate us so that we are experts in our field.”

“One of the things we do is work with our team to make sure they properly value their listings for sale,” said Buzz MacWilliam. “The result of that is our listings sell faster than the listings of our competitors.”

The management team – Buzz MacWilliam, Alex IV and Kyle Von Kohorn – devote most of their time to assisting and managing agents, not selling, and are available to agents seven days a week, including afterhours. 

“The three of us are in the office frequently,” said Buzz MacWilliam. “We tell the agents, if we are here, our doors are open. Come in and we will help you. If its afterhours, or they are not in the office, we tell them to text the three of us simultaneously, and whoever is available first will get back to them and help them with their problem.”

“Hands down, the ability to reach one of the three brokers at any point in time is key,” said Phil Sunkel, who joined Alex MacWilliam as an agent a month before the rebranding was rolled out. “When things start to go awry in a deal, it is invaluable to have the knowledge immediately at hand to handle any situation. Any time I have a question or need advice, I can easily reach Buzz, Alex or Kyle.

“Another key factor to the success of the AMAC team and myself stems from the incomparable local knowledge and relationships our brokerage has with the community of Vero Beach. I have a client who develops large apartment complexes and finding land for high density developments in Vero is nearly impossible. However, due to Alex and Buzz’s extensive relationships, we have been able to present this particular client with several very appealing properties that are not for sale on the open market.”

Buzz MacWilliam has been president of the company since 1980 and has firsthand knowledge of every real estate up and down over the past 43 years, starting with the 14%-18% interest rates in the 1980s, through the doldrums of the 1990s, to the epic boom and bust in the early 2000s, right up to what he calls the “totally unprecedented” market brought on by the pandemic.

“The current market is still on a positive upward trend,” he said in his office last week. “The number of sales is down . . . but prices have remained strong and are still increasing at a modest rate in most areas of Indian River County. 

“History teaches us that a market correction is bound to happen sometime, but I doubt it will be in the second half of 2023.”

Whatever happens in the market going forward, the company is ready to continue adapting to changing times, same as it has for more than seven decades, according to Von Kohorn.

“Adapt is the key word and concept,” he said. “Alex MacWilliam has been able to succeed all these years by being flexible and adaptable, and that is our philosophy going forward.”


Leave a Comment