Companies are sometimes tempted to misrepresent their product or services — however slightly — in an effort to attract more customers. Is this a good idea? Ariel Wan, the Director of Media, Marketing and Attraction at McKinley Companies, argues that honesty is always the best policy.
Plus: The difference between Florida senses of humor and Michigan senses of humor.
[00:00:00] Seth: Hello, and welcome to the Bad Marketing Advice podcast. This is the podcast where we invite marketing professionals to come on the show and to tell us about the worst piece of marketing advice that they have ever received. My name is Seth Resler. I’m your host. And I am also the founder of Community Marketing Revolution.
[00:00:25] We produce branded podcasts and virtual events for organizations. So if your company’s ever thought about creating a podcast to engage with customers or clients, or even employees, you maybe want to use it as an internal communication tool, please, go to communitymarketingrevolution.com. Joining us on the show today, we have a woman from McKinley Companies.
[00:00:45] McKinley Companies is a leader in multi-family housing and property management. They own and operate properties in Michigan and Florida. The director of media, marketing and attraction at McKinley Companies is joining us. She is Ariel Wan Ariel. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.
[00:01:03] Ariel: Thank you for having me.
[00:01:04] Seth: So let’s talk a little bit about McKinley Companies before we get to your horrible, awful, no good marketing advice that you’ve received. What does McKinley Companies do? Who are your target customers? And what’s the problem that you solve for them?
[00:01:19] Ariel: Yeah. So McKinley owns and operates a bunch of apartments. We’re in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And then in Florida, we’re in Orlando and Tampa. And so it’s, whoever’s looking for apartments. We really cater towards workforce housing. So people who are, you know, young professionals, they work full-time part-time jobs. So our demographic is really workforce housing. We have some students just because we’re in Ann Arbor and the university of Michigan is so big. But the majority of our residents that actually live with us are not students.
[00:01:52] Seth: All right. So the problem you’re solving is basic. It’s shelter. It’s that need, which if I remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, shelter is right up there with Instagram followers.
[00:02:00] Ariel: And yes. Yep. As important.
[00:02:02] Seth: Important things that people need. I gotta ask the why Ann Arbor and then Florida, are those two markets similar or are they very different?
[00:02:11] Ariel: They are slightly similar just in that there’s a ton of workforce housing. That’s centered by some major company in the area that brings a lot of jobs. So, you know, in the Orlando area, obviously the biggest employer is Disney, but there’s also a bunch of other universities in that area.
[00:02:28] I’ve only been working at McKinley for two years, so I don’t know the entire history, but I think it has something to do with one of the founders of the company or owners is from Orlando. And so he kind of built his company there. And then in Michigan, someone built theirs in Michigan, they kind of joined together is what I think is the history.
[00:02:50] Seth: Got it. Does that mean that you need different marketing strategies that you use in the different markets or they largely the same?
[00:02:57] Ariel: They are slightly same, but there needs to be some type of customization because it is still all apartments. They’re all, you know, similar types. Like we don’t do luxury housing.
[00:03:10] So the marketing, you have the internet listing services, you know, you have Zillow, you have apartments.com. Like those aren’t gonna change. We’re all going after workforce housing people. So there’s a lot of similarities, but you just need to make sure there’s a different humor for Michigan. There’s a different environment of people in Florida.
[00:03:30] So it’s almost like you have to.
[00:03:32] Seth: I gotta know what’s the difference in the humor between people in Michigan and people in Florida?
[00:03:37] Ariel: I like to think that we can be a little darker in Michigan because we just are just so upset right now with all the cold and rain.
[00:03:45] Seth: Yes.
[00:03:45] Ariel: Florida every day, they’re just like, oh my gosh, it was so cold today. It was 65 degrees and I’m like, it’s -14 here.
[00:03:53] Seth: We are recording this in April. And my sense of humor is particularly dark at this time of year.
[00:03:58] Ariel: Yes.
[00:03:58] Seth: It’s just when we’re at the end of this and we’re like, really, are we it’s raining today? Are we doing this again? It’s just, yes, I understand.
[00:04:04] Ariel: Yeah. I created a pre-leasing ad in the Ann Arbor area and pre-leasing in the rental world is when you kind of reserve your apartment for the summer. So you do it like really early. And the benefit to that is that you get to choose, like you really get to give them your priority, like list that you want. Like, I want end unit, third floor facing the pond, you know, and then chances are, you’ll probably get it. But when I was writing the ad, the landing page copy, it was January.
[00:04:36] And I was just like, so one of the page letters said, It’s January. I’m freezing. Why do I care about pre-leasing?
[00:04:45] Seth: I understand. I’ve had moments like that.
[00:04:47] Ariel: Yeah.
[00:04:48] Seth: I do wanna ask about something because you have a very interesting job title there. You were the director of media marketing and attraction. And I have not heard attraction in job titles very often. What does attraction mean?
[00:05:00] Ariel: Well, attraction means to me, um, I gotta imagine it’s, it’s sort of like a real estate term. You’re attracting people to your property. You know, they have terms like the market window has to look nice. And so I think the attraction part is to attract people to the apartments or make the company attractive.
[00:05:21] Seth: Almost like demand generation or something like that. That’s a term I, I will sometimes hear in marketing circles is demand generation.
[00:05:27] Ariel: Yeah. Yeah. And also increasing traffic, whether it’s web or foot traffic.
[00:05:33] Seth: Got it. So what does a typical week look like for you?
[00:05:36] Ariel: What I love about it is that it’s very different week to week, month to month. Seasonality definitely comes into play.
[00:05:42] Right now, I’m working on a brand and website refresh. So our brand right now is about 15 years old and, uh, we decided to take this on in-house to come up with like a fresh brand for McKinley.
[00:05:55] Seth: Right?
[00:05:56] Ariel: So we’re currently working on all of that stuff. And then the other part that’s really big is, is updating the website. So we’re gonna integrate that updated brand onto the website and also kind of custom build something for ourselves that has features and functionalities that will really help our sales people and also help the user experience.
[00:06:16] Seth: Got it. So a brand refresh that’s like dropping all the vowels from the word McKinley so that you look all techy and the millennials are into it, stuff like that.
[00:06:25] Ariel: Yeah. Yeah, actually, what’s actually really funny is that if you look at the logo now, it says www.Mckinley.com.
[00:06:32] Seth: Yep.
[00:06:32] Ariel: That’s the logo. We’re definitely dropping the www.
[00:06:37] Seth: That’s so 2005.
[00:06:38] Ariel: I know.
[00:06:41] Seth: Yes. All right. So here’s the question that we ask everybody who comes on the podcast. I’m so glad you’re here to, uh, share your story with us. What is the worst piece of marketing advice that you have ever received?
[00:06:53] Ariel: So this is marketing advice that I received at a previous job, not my current job. Just gotta clarify that, and we were running an event that was in the Metro Detroit area, but the main locations were all in Ann Arbor. Some people on the team were saying, oh, on the marketing materials, let’s list, the cities that are there that were in horizon.
[00:07:21] And I was like, okay. So I put Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Royal Oak, Detroit, and then the people reviewed it on the team. They’re like, let’s put Detroit first, and then Ann Arbor. And I’m like, why? And they’re like, well, you know, cause we’re in Detroit and a lot of the funding comes from the Metro Detroit area. We really wanna get people from Detroit coming to this and I’m like, but like I get it.
[00:07:46] But I feel like people are gonna notice something’s up when they look at all the locations and they find like one or two things that are happening in Detroit and the rest is all everywhere else. And so. I believe in honest and responsible marketing. And I think people are not dumb. They’re smart. They will, you know, see this and then they’ll connect the dots themselves.
[00:08:11] And in the end, it’s detrimental to the brand because you’re not being honest.
[00:08:15] Seth: No, I think that’s absolutely right. And especially here in the Detroit area, more than any place I’ve ever been, people are sensitive about whether you’re in Detroit or from Detroit.
[00:08:27] Ariel: Right.
[00:08:27] Seth: Or whether you’re not like it’s a, yeah. The reason Eminem’s movie was named Eight Miles because that is the dividing line between Detroit and the suburbs.
[00:08:35] Ariel: Mm-hmm.
[00:08:35] Seth: Real Detroiters, they don’t like it when you say you’re from Detroit, you don’t really live in Detroit.
[00:08:40] Ariel: Yeah. And it’s also like convenient. It’s like, whatever’s convenient from them, you know, like telling people like, oh, I’m from Detroit. And they’re like, oh, where’d you grow up? And they’re like, Novi. Okay. Yes. You know?
[00:08:52] Seth: Right. No, absolutely. So did you do it?
[00:08:56] Ariel: No, I refused. I was like, you need to fight me on this because I’m really standing behind this. I don’t think it’s honest. I don’t think people are stupid if we really want Detroit, number one, we have to actually do all the things in Detroit until we’re actually in Detroit as much as we are in the other cities. I’m not putting it first.
[00:09:16] Seth: Well, good for you.
[00:09:17] Ariel: And I think people grumbled, but then we ended up doing the right thing.
[00:09:21] Seth: Right. So, yeah, that’s great. Here’s the thing that I think is so important is that there is that factor of trust when you are dealing with customers. I mean, people want to engage with a brand that they, that they trust and they feel like is looking out for them and gonna do the right thing. And you can’t short circuit that.
[00:09:38] Ariel: Yeah, it’s so important. And I think it’s even more important to people’s lives in like the past couple of years, people are just sick of being lied to because it’s so obvious and people are talking about it.
[00:09:50] Seth: No, I, I think that’s great, especially, yeah, I think you’re right before the internet really, you could sometimes get away with that stuff though not in the long term, but now that we live in the age of Yelp reviews and Amazon reviews and you know, every other day I go on next door and somebody’s complaining about some contractor who didn’t show up.
[00:10:09] If you’re dishonest, people will call you on it.
[00:10:12] Ariel: Right? Yeah.
[00:10:13] Seth: Well, Ariel, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. So the lesson here is be honest in your market.
[00:10:19] Ariel: Yes.
[00:10:19] Seth: To some people that’s gonna seem really obvious, but to some people it doesn’t, and I’m always shocked when it doesn’t. So yeah, good for you for holding your ground. That’s fantastic.
[00:10:28] Thank you for being on the podcast. It was great to have you on.
[00:10:30] Ariel: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
[00:10:32] Seth: Again, this is the Bad Marketing Advice podcast. I’m your host. My name is Seth Resler. I am the founder of Community Marketing Revolution and we produce branded podcasts. If you think that your organization should be podcasting as a way to engage with your customers, please head over to communitymarketingrevolution.com. Thanks so much for being here. We’ll talk to you next time.
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