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Self-Storage Marketing in a Fierce Economy: Taking Campaigns to a Whole New Level

Amy Campbell Comments

Just do it! Got milk? Have it your way. Melts in your mouth, not in your hands. Good to the last drop. Let your fingers doing the walking. 

I’ll bet you can name the products behind the famous branding above. They’re etched in our minds, often connected to memories. Companies like Nike, Coca-Cola and Burger King know how to create a message that will stick. But you don’t have to be a billion-dollar business to come up with unique and impressionable ad campaigns.

Last summer, Inside Self-Storage invited its print and online readers to share their most clever and impressive marketing ideas and pieces. The “Best in Self-Storage Marketing” Contest was open to facility owners, operators and managers nationwide. Dozens of submissions poured in, ranging from catchy print ads and mailers to funny radio and TV clips.

First-place winner Terri Gavins, senior manager of Storage Center of Southwood in Tallahassee, Fla., won $1,000 for her multi-faceted campaign. A YouTube video by Andrew Emory, operations analyst for Self Storage Management Co. of California, nabbed $300 and the second-place prize. His “Naked Storage” video used Lego pieces as props to grab attention and illicit chuckles. An eight-piece print-ad campaign by Stephanie and Joe Tharpe, managers of Lock Box Self Storage in St. Juliet, Tenn., also aimed to make an impression through humor. The Tharpes were awarded $200 for their third-place entry.

While the submissions varied in content and delivery, all had the same goal: to get the facility noticed and attract new tenants.
Make an Impression

There are several hallmarks of an exceptional marketing campaign. Of course, it must be simple and catchy, easy to recall, and original. Also, it must be repeated. Stephanie had this in mind when she created her facility’s newspaper campaign, which featured humorous images of her husband, Joe.

The ads contained several consistent components: a picture of Joe, the company’s name, address and website, and a tagline: “Come See the Difference.” From there, Stephanie varied the message and image to address a unique aspect of storage. For example, one focused on facility access hours. It depicts Joe as a disgruntled customer of a facility with limited business hours. The caption: “Unbelievable! I can’t get in my unit after 9 p.m.?” The ad answers, “Here you can!” Other ads concentrated on site security, business storage, boat/RV storage and more. Unique messages and Joe’s clever antics gave each ad a fresh look.

Elsa Carter, manager of Midvale Valencia Self Storage in Tucson, Ariz., opted for the theme “Movie and a Pizza” to attract new tenants and boost referrals. Every new tenant received a coupon for a free Blockbuster movie rental and a pizza from Papa Murphy’s. To market the program, she decorated the facility’s office with movie posters, DVD covers, movie candy and popcorn.

Carter also used the posters to communicate messages about the facility’s program. For example, an image of the Hulk was embellished with a bubble that reads, “Outgrown your smaller unit? Transfer to a larger unit and pick a movie or a pizza!” Carter really enjoyed putting this promotion together. “The entire theme implied fun, fun, fun,” she says.

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