Drive around Dayton, Ohio on a sunny Saturday, and you are sure to see dozens of mascots trying to rent you an apartment. From Tigger to Spiderman, Clowns to Kings they are literally everywhere. I took a picture of this guy about a month ago. He, or someone else from his company, stands out on Far Hills waving at traffic trying to attract new renters. My first question is are these mascots a "Dayton Apartment Thing" or is this a bigger phenomenon? My next question is does this actually result in more rentals?
I do not fault the foot-soldiers in this battle, the mascots themselves. They are just following orders. I had to dress up as Uncle Sam and stand on the sidewalk waving down moving cars one time in college to try to get people to eat at the restaurant where I waited tables. It was awful. Aside from getting a lot of people to flip me the bird, it was a complete waste of time. Now, if a Halloween shop opens and wants to display its products, perhaps this makes sense. It is what they do after all, and a cool costume surely gets attention. Still for an apartment complex, it seems like it is a stretch. Sure they get attention, but getting attention doesn't pay the bills. Do they get actual sales revenue as a result of mascots? It seems like an interruption that people might laugh at and then eventually ignore as opposed to a growth strategy for business. And it is not that it is just one complex- Again, they are everywhere. To me, it seems like they could throw out the costumes and provide more organic ways to generate sales such as:
- Rewarding their tennants for referring new renters.
- Surprising selected tenants every month with a free apartment cleaning, paid for by spending mascot money on cleaning staff.
- Investing in making each unit of the complex fully loaded with wireless internet, new carpet, beautiful landscaping, free coffee and doughnuts at the clubhouse every day or weekend entertainment.
- Creating a renting experience so unique that people would begin to talk about how remarkable it was to live in the complex.
It is definitely easier to send a guy in a clown suit out to the sidewalk to wave at cars than it is to do anything I listed above. For all I know, mascots are the killer app of the apartment world, though I am a skeptic. Are they consistent with the story these apartment complexes are trying to tell the world? What type of living experience does a sweaty guy in a clown suit convey? Maybe it does work, and I am all wrong. Perhaps rental mascots convey the idea that "living here is fun, and you can get some free rent." (That is not the message I get) Still, is it more effective to get people's attention through a silly costume or through a series of word of mouth referrals generated by being the best possible place to live?
P.S. Look closely and you can see Jim Crotty's photo studio in the background.