I recently attended the Inside Self Storage World Expo in New Orleans, Louisiana. During the show I spoke on branding as it pertains to the Self Storage Industry. I felt like everybody enjoyed the talk. Unfortunately, there's just not enough time, in the short 50 minutes allotted, to take an in-depth look at branding. This is an intense subject with intricate nuances, and even though people enjoyed it I felt like they deserved more. That is why I am dedicating the next three weeks of my blog to branding in Self Storage.
Over the next three weeks I will share some thoughts about branding as a whole and how it pertains to marketing in self storage. In a four-part series I will effectively cover many facets of branding. Next week, I will start with brand communities in an article called “Brand-Aid, One Audience Branding Together”. Week two will be about local branding called, “Tie a Steak Around Your Neck So The Customers Will Play With You – Branding Without Branding”. Week 4 we will cover social media branding in an article called to “To Friend or Not to Friend - Becoming Intimate in the Cold World of Branding”.
Branding is one of those topics so commonly misunderstood as marketing. If you were to ask a customer what is a self storage facility’s brand, they may answer the facility’s “logo”, “sign” or simply the self storage location’s “name”. These things are aspects of the brand, but they are not the entirety of the brand. If you asked an owner in self storage what his brand is, he may say “marketing”, “my logo”, or “my slogan”. These things are also true, but unfortunately they're still not the entirety of the brand.
Branding in self storage is the collective perception held in the minds of renters or potential renters about your self storage facility as a result of your marketing efforts. To put it simply, a brand is how cool you are because of all the stuff you do to be cool.
Everybody wants to be “cool”, right? If “cool” helps you make more money you can call me Prince! Or the artist formerly known as Prince, or is it the artist formerly, formerly known as Prince. When Prince dies, are people going to say the former artist formerly, formerly known as Prince? Is Prince even cool anymore? Who cares anyway? I just brought it up because how many times in your life do you get to say the former artist formerly, formerly known as Prince?
Even though you can’t get any further away from self storage than Prince, he is a great place to start when discussing branding. He was a personal branding trail-blazer. Even though the “one-name” thing had already been done by Cher, Bono, and Charo for that matter, no one had thought to rename themselves with a symbol. Even though Prince had only moderate success after Purple Rain with his other albums, 25 years after Purple Rain’s relevance, his name is still a household word.
Prince’s transformation to a symbol is one style of branding; personal branding. There are many different styles of branding: personal, corporate, institutional, employee or internal, city, etc… But every brand, regardless of the style, has to convey the six levels of branding.
Six levels are:
Attributes - What are attractive qualities of your brand? For example, Uncle Bob’s Self Storage in Houston, TX touts that they have inside access and climate controlled units to protect their renter’s belongings in such a humid environment. These are attributes of self storage.
Benefits - How can your product help the customer? It can get cold and wet in Portland, Oregon. That is why one of my favorite facilities in the country, Pearl Self Storage, offers benefits such as heated self storage units and covered load and unload for each and every self storage unit.
Value - Is this product a bargain? Will your customers save money by using it? Storage Plus in New York City knows the value of a dollar. That is why they offer the first month’s rental free at their self storage facility. Many facilities do such things, and given the current state of the economy, more people than ever are responding to offers that save them money.
Culture - is your product specific to the people or region? Often a city or state has its own style. Nowhere in the United States is this better identified than in New Orleans. With their Creole and Cajun culture, New Orleanians take great pride in being from Louisiana. They love their food and flair, which is why Mudbugs Self Storage is so successful in New Orleans.
Personality - Is your brand fun, serious, youthful or cold? AAA Alliance Self Storage in San Diego likes to position themselves as an authentically dedicated endearing group. They talk about the benefits of renting from a family owned and operated self storage company. On sites like upickstorage.com they speak of a “friendly and professional staff” that makes you feel like part of the family.
Demographic - Who is the brand audience? Who will use this product? Is your product a reflection of these folks?
Always when branding, it must be said, a plan must be made. Make your plan before you set out to brand your product. You must know what your brand conveys before you start to brand!
I heard a wise man say once, “If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up someplace else”. This is true in marketing your brand. The quickest way to waste money and lose market share in self storage is to not have a firm understanding about what you're selling and renting and why.
I called this article “Big Booty Branding” because of something I remember seeing on TV a couple years back. 15 years ago talk shows were very popular. Not the “informative interview” or “guest/celebrity” talk shows we have today, but voyeuristic fun shows that focused on the crazy lives of the craziest among us.
Shows like Jenny Jones, Maury, and Montel would parade regular folks out on stage for us all to examine. I believe the greatest appeal of these shows is that when you watched them, you always felt that maybe your life wasn't as crazy and dysfunctional as you might've previously thought given this new evidence brought to light by say…Jerry Springer.
One day after I had spent the entire morning researching a cure for cancer, I got home and turned on the TV. While sitting flicking through the channels I came across a makeover show by one of these hosts, I can't remember which.
On those makeover shows, in the event you've never seen one, is someone's “friend” determines that the person in need of a makeover because they dress too dumpy or too masculine for a woman and need to be gussied up.
On this episode the person whose friend determined they were in need of a makeover was overweight and dressed too provocatively. Her “friend” said she looked like a “hussie”. So before the makeover they paraded the lady out and immediately she began to make enemies with the audience. Her friend then addressed her as if this was one extremely serious intervention.
She just had a pink tank top and dark blue, very tight jeans shorts. Her body looked as if it were trying to escape from any and every give in the exhausted elastic of her clothing. She raised her hands in the air and gesticulated in a dismissive flick of her wrists and gave an introductory pirouette to the audience. They gasped.
Funny thing though, that girl with the big old booty knew just what her brand was. She said things like, “yeah I go to da’ club and get out on da’ dance flo and shake it” and “men like his big ol’ booty, so I show it”.
Now while, as a man, I disagree with the latter and at the time I thought I spoke for my gender as a whole. It seems like nowadays I may not though. With the rise in popularity of hip-hop in American music and the expanding waist-lines of today’s youth, the big ol’ booty has made impressive strides as brand.
What struck me at the time was this young lady’s tenacity and boldness. She had a plan, she knew her product, and by damned if she wasn’t selling it to her audience at “da’ club”.
Her story is absolutely analogous to our branding efforts in self storage. We must first know what we are branding. We have to have a plan. We have to by inclusive of the six levels of the brand, just like she was.
She had the attributes, she talked about the benefits of her “big ol’ booty”, and she knew the value, although she and I had different ideas of how valuable her proposition might have been. The culture of her brand was clear, her brand was fun and crazy so she covered the personality. Finally, she exclusively stated that her demographic was the men at “da club”. She had a plan, and she executed it to establish her big ol’ booty brand. I guess you can’t argue with that.
Obviously this is a humorous and illustrative way to help you remember to be attentive to the six levels of branding in self storage. You don’t have to have a big ol’ booty to brand, but if your brand is the big ol’ booty it helps. Next time you set out to brand your self storage facility, make a plan, remember the six levels of branding, and get your big ol’ booty on the dance floor and shake it; metaphorically speaking of course.