The Lones Group – A Lesson In Brand Awareness

Brand awareness. Companies pay big bucks for it or work very hard to get it. Often, they do both.  Anyone that says that a good brand is easy to come by is sadly mistaken.

I happen to recall a situation where Chicago’s Horizon Realty damaged their reputation by suing someone over a tweet about mold. From what I recall, the lady that was sued said “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it’s okay.” A person from Horizon responded to the lawsuit publicly by saying “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization”. Let’s just say, I don’t think Horizon got the best bang for their buck in that one…

Fast forward to yesterday when Inman News posted a story titled “Real Estate Zebra hit with trademark suit.” ( Sorry there isn’t a link but they run a subscription site and you probably can’t get to it unless you want to pay for it. If so, find it at inman dot com. )

The Inman article immediately grabbed my attention because Daniel Rothamel, the author of “The Real Estate Zebra” blog, is someone I happen to respect quite a bit. I can remember meeting him in 2008 at the very first real estate barcamp in San Francisco. He’s a class act, for sure.

Apparently, the Lones Group, which lists an address in Bellingham WA on their web site, feels they are  the only ones that should be able to use a zebra in their marketing of anything real estate related. If you type “The Lones Group” into Google, they list a description of themselves as “The Lones Group provides complete marketing solutions for the Real Estate Industry”… Yes, marketing solutions FOR the industry. What’s crazy to me is the fact that Daniel IS a real estate agent. I don’t see how the two compete for business. One appears to market TO the real estate industry while the other markets to buyers and sellers of real estate.

Of course, if someone decides to slap you with a lawsuit, you can either roll over and give in to them or you stand up and fight for what you believe in.

So far, there has been quite a buzz about the ill-advised suit filed by the Lones Group. Yes, there will always be two sides to every story and these two sides look like they will have to be dragged through the court system before a decision is made. I don’t know anyone at the Lones Group and had never heard of them before yesterday. What I now know is that they write something called a “Zebra Report”. For years I have known Daniel as “The Real Estate Zebra.” Similarities? Maybe. The fact that WA and WV are over 2500 miles apart and the parties are two different businesses, kind of makes my head spin when I think of why this suit would be filed. In fact, some people might consider a lawsuit like this a type of brand suicide for the Lones Group.

If you want to learn more about the case, you should take a look at the article titled “The Lones Group v. Rothamel: A case study in destroying your on-line reputation”. It’s another well written blog post by Jay Thompson who knows a thing or two about building a powerful brand.

To me, the damage done to the reputation of The Lones Group will far outweigh anything they could possibly hope to get from “winning” a lawsuit. I’m sure there will be many more articles written about how one hurts their  reputation by filing something like this. I believe Jay will be adding them to his blog post, and there will be many comments on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I guess the lesson here would be to think before you sue…

If you want to learn more about how to help Daniel fight this lawsuit from The Lones Group, you can visit the Zebra defense fund web site:


Now for a disclaimer that I basically stole from Jay. ( I hope he doesn’t sue me .) I am not an attorney in any way, shape, or form.  I consider Daniel Rothamel and his family (also parties to the lawsuit ) personal friends. And until yesterday, I had never heard of The Lones Group. I have no idea if they are good at what they do, nor do I really care – that’s not the point. The article above is simply my personal opinion, which I freely admit is biased and slanted due to my relationship with the Rothamel’s.


  1. says

    The things I find so amazing are;
    1. They are suing someone 2500 miles away in a different line of work (branding vs agent).
    2. They are a real estate branding company suing a real estate agent who blogs to a large audience of real estate agents.
    3. It appears they never called him up and try to work something out.

    Three strikes and they’re out of here! Their vaulted reputation has been shredded by these actions/inactions.

    • says

      Eric, I believe they asked Daniel not to use the Zebra brand but I am not 100% familiar with the types of communication they had. Regardless, it seems rather strange to me and points 1 and 2 are very well taken. :)
      Thanks for stopping by.

      • says

        I believe the only contact on the part of the Lones Group was a boilerplate cease and desist letter to stop using all zebra imagery and references to zebra. Anyone who knows Daniel, knows that…
        1. He certainly doesn’t need a zebra to be relevant.
        2. He bends over BACKWARDS to help people and I am sure – with a simple phone call from Lones Group explaining their concerns (since no one has ever heard of them) he would have come up with some solution that would have actually helped their business. That is who Daniel is and how her operates.
        3. Suing for $75,000 dollars in damages and including Daniel’s broker in the suit (a broker who has nothing whatsoever to do with Daniel’s activities as Real Estate Zebra does not appear to me to be – in the spirit of a win-win resolution.

  2. says

    You know WA and WV do start with a W – maybe that is the basis of this suite – they have so many similarities Daniel must be stealing from them – how dare he be a potential client – live in a state that starts with a W and – use a zebra – could have made for the perfect marketing ploy to ask for his business – this Lone company will soon be very lonely.

  3. says

    Isn’t Daniel in Virginia rather than West Virginia.

    Washington comes after Virginia in the alphabet … a Washington Company comes after a Virginia agent.

    Coincidence? I think not!

    Remember … Virginia is for lovers, and for people who love what Daniel has contributed to the industry.

  4. says

    As long as I’m making the rounds today, let me say first that I’m not an attorney, but I think the social media crowd has made The Lones Group case today.
    You guys have spent the day, or two, villifying a member of the Real Estate community who has yet to twitter.
    Daniel on the other hand did go to REBar? in San Fransisco, and by some of the photos online he is attempting to do some speaking. He’s building a little internet community that may look like a stepping stone to training, speaking, and marketing.
    That is the role of social media isn’t it? Marketing?
    So whether Denise has a case or not attempting to bully her probably hasn’t done Daniel a lot of good.

  5. says

    Something smells very rotten in Bellingham WA, and as I blogged this morning to the Lones Group – Zebras are not the only animals with stripes – shame on them – who can “own” a Zebra?

  6. says

    I can’t believe that the Lones Group could be so short sighted. You would think after seeing literally hundreds of negative references to their company and as many or more supporting and defending Daniel. If I was Denise I would reach out to Daniel and try to smooth things out before her entire brand implodes.

  7. says

    A zebra is such a generic image. It is ridiculous that the Lones group thinks they have supreme use over an animal image. Did they really think they would be the only one in the USA using a catchy black and white image.

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