The discovery, acceptance & management of life's gaps

The Stranger in the Zebra Suit

Sunday 27 February 2011 - Filed under Branding + gaps + thoughts

When I got up this morning I had no idea who Daniel Rothamel, aka: The Real Estate Zebra, was. Less than 8 hours later… I started following him on Twitter, @RealEstateZebra, asked to connect on LinkedIn and found myself blogging about him.

Why… you ask? Spend a couple of hours reading what his friends and colleagues have to say about Daniel Rothamel and you will want to be his friend too.

Checking my Facebook account this morning I came across a post by long time friend, Jeff Turner: Pay Attention To Your True Brand. You might remember Jeff from my July 2009 post, Living Your Brand. As expected, I enjoyed Jeff’s post and found his insight refreshing. What I didn’t expect, is that I would spend the next several hours learning about Daniel Rothamel of Strong Team Realtors, a lawsuit and the social media storm that has followed.

Zebra-artGoogle Search = ‘zebra lawsuit’ turned up these images (*credits below)

Just 5 days ago, on February 22, 2011, Denise Lones, President of The Lones Group, filed a complaint and ‘Demand for Jury Trial’ against Rothamel and Strong Team. Beyond what The Lones Group must have imagined… while the District Court of Washington was processing the paperwork… the court of public opinion granted a speedy trial and a jury of their peers assembled overnight. What probably appeared black and white then, [Yes, I too have fallen victim to zebra imagery], must seem much more gray and uncertain now.

The Lones Group took a wrong turn long before they filed the lawsuit. As Jeff Turner pointed out in his post, they shifted focus from theirtrue brand to the words and images that simply represent it.” Urs E. Gattiker, in his ComMetrics post, Brand vs. Reputation, cites Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room,” and Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airways, “Build brands not around products but around reputation.” At this point, I doubt The Lones Group has any misgivings about what is being said when they “are not in the room.”

Regardless of what ultimately happens with the lawsuit, Denise Lones and company has managed to do some good. They have helped strengthen Daniel Rothamel’s brand, grow his circle of friends and ignite a popular twitter meme… #SaveTheZebra. They’ve inspired his supporters to speak out thru Facebook, YouTube, and countless blog posts/comments. Their actions even lead to the creation of a fund for Daniel’s legal defense. And last but not least… without Denise Lones grossly underestimating how truly connected and small the world has become… I might not have met Daniel Rothamel, our friend in the Zebra Suit.

* Image Credits…
Left: Pic of Daniel from Chris Brogan’s post: Are Zebras Endangered
Right-top: Pic of Zebra from Mariana Wagner’s post: The Lones Group Files a Lawsuit Against Strong Team REALTORS® Over a Fricken’ Zebra Stripe?
Right-2nd-from-top: Pic of Sign from’s page: The Lones Group vs Daniel Rothamel – Posts, Twitter Updates & Links
Right-3rd-from-top: Pic of Zebra on Laptop from Ashley Drake Gephart’s post: The Lones Group: a “case” of online reputation
Right-bottom: Pic of Zebra Pattern from Benn Rosales’ post: Would the real Zebra, please stand up? Realtor, blogger, sued

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2011-02-27  »  Russ Leseberg

Talkback x 2

  1. Steve
    1 March 2011 @ 10:46 am

    Thanks for reminding us that we should never complacent about our brand… whether our personal brand or the brand of our business. This event surely shows the power of social networking – that a collection of seemingly unconnected people can unite for a moment and get behind something quickly. That a new voice can be created through the connective tissues of technology.


  2. Heather
    3 March 2011 @ 8:16 pm

    Interesting article Russ. Been there, lived this. It can be hard to convince traditional business that their brand extends beyond the graphics, copyrights and trademarks into areas where there aren’t defined rules and lawyers can’t defend. As Steve said, you can’t afford to be complacent. Many just don’t want to invest and do the work that is required to avoid what inevitably may kill their identity.

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