I’ve never understood our now mainstream fear of clowns. But I hold a strong phobia toward mascots—sports mascots, cartoon mascots, and especially toilet paper mascots.
So it goes without saying that I’m naturally skeptical of the increasing use of mascots in apartment marketing. Let’s see… Campus Advantage’s Cabana Beach (Gainsville, FL) has Copa the Parrot, Horizon Student Housing’s Edge Aparments (San Marcos, TX) has Mico the Mascot, Mills Properties (St. Louis, MO) has Millsy with the green mohawk…. Apartment mascots are not rare by any means, but it’s definitely not a go-to apartment marketing 101 methodology.
Withholding my personal misgivings for the moment, in order to determine the effectiveness of any given marketing strategy you need to first define your target audience, and in that regard we definitely see mascots more commonly associated with student housing properties and younger 20-something renters. And what does the mascot seek to accomplish for those audiences? Connection – A sense of Community – Unifying Identity – All things that unattached young adults tend to lack in those inbetween years after they leave their parents and then later regain a biologically reinforced social framework at the point of their own paternity. That considered, a mascot would totally make sense in order to build and fortify community and social connections for current and prospective residents.
So how can this manifest real benefits within a property’s sales cycle? According to Casy Van Zandt of Campus Advantage, “Our biggest benefit is we have instant name recognition.” A hand-out on your windshield or a faceless online ad is so easily forgotten. “But if we walk on campus with a huge parrot, and it’s handing out flyers, taking photos and having a dance contest in the middle of the quad, that sets us apart.”
And when it came to 4050 Lofts, a student housing community in Tampa, their giant plush turtle mascot was given credit for year-over-year increased traffic. “We’re not putting up things like ‘We’ve lowered our rent’ or ‘We have a renewal special,’” Van Zandt said. “We try to focus on the lifestyle and selling what the community is going to offer beyond the apartment complex.”
With a similar testimony, Cardinal Group’s Auraria Student Lofts took home 3 Student Housing Innovator Awards, due in part to its “Tealios” mascot — by far the most disturbing apartment mascot ever. But with his help, Auraria saw record turnaround and is a recognized industry example of savvy online marketing.
But the fame and money aside, can we all just acknowledge that mascots are horrifically terrifying?! If Tealios asked me to sign a lease, then HECK YES I’d sign. Not because I like him, just because I’m afraid if I didn’t he’d jump out at me from behind doors and lamp posts with dance moves that should definitely be reserved for people not in a unitard.