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Self-Storage Marketing Lessons From AOL and Coca-Cola

Derek M. Naylor Comments

What do marketing campaigns produced by companies like Coca-Cola, AOL, Microsoft and McDonald’s have in common with you, the self-storage operator? My answer may sound brutally honest: very little. On the other hand, there’s a great lesson to be learned. Confused? Let me explain.

The Giants

When small businesses create marketing materials and strategies, they often look at the corporate giants for ideas. Yes, self-storage owners try to create memorable slogans, cute logos and graphics that are super-cool looking. Sound familiar?

Heavy disappointment sets in when all of the time and money doesn’t even begin to pay off. Don’t get me wrong, because the marketing campaigns executed by giant corporations do work very well for them. But, it works because of their markets, their products and their billion-dollar budgets.

Here’s the good news: Behind all of the glamour in their marketing departments is a strategy that works very well in the self-storage industry. In fact, I’ll bet you’ve seen it in action firsthand more than once already this month.

It’s called “integration marketing,” which basically means developing alliances. Let me give you an example by assuming you’ve bought a new computer in the past five years. Remember back to when you opened the box and were all excited about getting your hands on your shiny new specimen. It’s an electric feeling knowing you’re holding so much power in your hands.

After you unpack the box, get all of the cords and pieces connected, you can finally turn on your new toy. The first time your computer desktop pops up, you witness integration marketing at work. You have an antivirus software, Internet service provider, online music company and a few other software companies offering you free trials of their products. Most of the icons on your new desktop are not needed for the computer to function properly. Instead, they complement basic program needs. The oddity here is they are from third-party companies.

Obviously not everybody uses the free trials on their computers. But a significant percentage of new computer users will use at least one of the software programs pre-installed on their new systems.

AOL is one of the early pioneers of this strategy and still does it well to this day. Smartly, AOL marketing innovators realized people will need an easy portal to the Internet when they buy a new computer. If they’re not loyal or partial to a particular brand, they are likely to take the trial and, eventually, AOL will land the full deal.

The same is true of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. If you go to McDonald’s, guess what you’re drinking? A Coca-Cola product, baby! Have you noticed there aren’t any “Coke stores” around? Coca-Cola has mastered the art of integration marketing. The CEOS there realized salty and greasy food will make people thirsty. If soda is on the menu, it should be integrated with the French fries and hamburgers to create a full meal. And there you have it: integration at its most satiating!

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