As many self-storage markets become saturated, the need to differentiate your facility becomes ever more critical. Some operators have three, four or even more direct competitors at a time. Unfortunately, consumers often see storage as a commodity and are likely to choose the cheapest or the one closest to their home or work. The key to staying out of that race is to always be top-of-mind.
A good way to do this is with an eye-catching mural! While unconventional, bold artwork on the outside of a building has proven to be an effective way for storage facilities of all sizes to cut through the promotional “noise.” It might even integrate into your existing marketing better than you’d think.
Create a Sense of Place
If your self-storage property is on a road with a decent amount of traffic but doesn't have something noteworthy to make it stand out, you're missing the opportunity to rope in customers and community supporters. With every car that passes, you have the chance to create a memory and make your business worth creating a buzz. Most storage facilities aren’t taking advantage of that. By design, your buildings tend to blend with the surrounding landscape, making them as forgettable as a fire hydrant.
Having a prominent mural makes your building unforgettable for passersby. It can even serve a deep, growing need for your customers, which is to feel a sense of place. On a recent mural project I completed in a Virginia suburb, a resident said, “You’re turning [the area] into something more than a strip mall.” Lots of community members feel this way. A mural gives a project something to distinguish it from the sprawl of homogeneous, uncharacteristic retail buildings, and local people feel tend to like that.
The mural at Greenway Self Storage in Roanoke, Va., which draws lots of local attention
Supplement Your Marketing
If your self-storage facility has no distinguishing feature to help it draw attention, you may need to spend more money, manpower and precious time exploring other marketing to do that work. Being invisible comes at a cost. You’ll have to make up for your lack of physical prominence with more online visibility.
Alternatively, adding artwork to your property will boost your facility’s presence, online and off. A Facebook or Instagram post is the modern-day version of word-of-mouth. You must get people talking about your business! As we’ve seen with restaurants, retail stores and museums, you can motivate people to photograph and post your property.
Tom Dorathy, owner of Greenway Self Storage in Roanoke, Va., says people love to photograph themselves in front of their mural of a great blue heron. High school students even visit the facility to pose for prom photos by the colorful image.
StorQuest Self Storage, which operates more than 200 self-storage facilities in 15 states, has also enjoyed success with large-scale murals at its properties. A quick look at the tagged section of its Instagram page shows its artwork posted all over the internet, spreading brand awareness. “The murals really serve as an extension of our brand story and message. For us, it was simply being true to our company values in a way that aligns with the communities we serve,” says Michelle Bakva, marketing vice president.
The company’s mural of Kobe and Gianna Bryant is a prime example of this. StorQuest was inspired by the NBA superstar’s passion and dedication for his sport, which supports its goal to motivate viewers to live their best life by making room for all the things they love doing, Bakva says. “We felt it was an incredible way to pay homage to the community and inspire Kobe’s legacy.”
The mural at StorQuest Self Storage in Los Angeles, which honors NBA superstar
Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020
Not every self-storage company has a well-developed brand, but all can enjoy the interest that comes from adding artwork that resonates with the community. As markets become packed with businesses competing for customer attention, you need new strategies to stand out from the crowd. In this battle for awareness, playing it safe is the riskiest thing you can do. Whether it’s through an eye-catching mural or some other differentiator, your business must start experimenting with ways to be memorable.
Zak Goldwasser helps businesses create memorable customer experiences using art and design. His company, Refract Studio, operates on the East Coast and has completed everything from small-restaurant rebrands to shopping-center facelifts for large property developers. To reach him, email [email protected].