Service of Marketing That Misses the Mark

July 24th, 2017

Categories: Marketing, Real Estate

I love clever marketing ideas. This one was a puzzle and, as my friend Jim would say, “Amateur night at the Dixie Theater,” or my dad, “comme cheveux sur soupe” [like hair on soup i.e. out of place/irrelevant].

A clean cut young man rushed toward me on Third Avenue between 40th and 39th Streets holding out a brown thing wrapped in cellophane [photo left, below]. He didn’t say a word so I took it to be an intro sample for the unidentified object and kept walking. It didn’t look appealing.

A few steps later, a nice looking young woman reached out with the same brown object and I asked her, “What is it?” She replied that it was a pretzel wrapped in chocolate. [It also has some white marshmallow bits on top.] Now curious, I took it and the postcard that came with it [photo below, center].

Next I noticed, parked on the sidewalk, a cart similar to the ones that street food vendors use [photo right, taken later through a bus window]. This one wasn’t where such vendors usually park, at curbside, but well into a very wide sidewalk. It had the pretzel concoctions in the window and was decorated with images of a building like the ones on the postcard; copy from the card and a giant sign “House39.” There was someone inside but nobody around it or even noticing it.

This crew was promoting a new rental building around the corner and down the street. According to the postcard, rentals ranged from studio to three bedrooms starting at $3,910/month. The card lists amenities including a rooftop pool, hot tubs, yoga studio, children’s playroom and more. The postcard doesn’t say if the rent covers use of these features.

So what was wrong with the promotion?

  • The youngsters hired to pass out the treats didn’t mention anything about a new apartment down the street.
  • Pretzels or sweet treats have no connection, clever or otherwise, with apartment sales.
  • People walking down Third Avenue are random and just because they are in the neighborhood during the day they are not necessarily the demographic for apartments with rents that start at almost $4,000 for one room.
  • The beneficiaries of the idea were the cart rental and pretzel companies; the kids who made a day’s wage on a nice summer day; the postcard graphic designer and printer and the marketing company that was paid to create and implement the idea. I doubt that the building saw a viable visitor as a result.

The real estate developer, if fixated on doing something on the street, might have skipped the cart and had young people in a striking tee-shirt passing out key rings with the apartment’s address and copy that touted “find the key to happiness in your new apartment.” Or given the name of the structure, “House39,” they might have placed 39 self-stick, removable footsteps between Third Avenue and the front door with—if it’s not too obscure and vintage–references to the iconic spy film, “39 Steps.” A key ring to echo the “39 Steps” theme would suggest that readers “take the mystery out of where your next, best apartment will be.”

Can you find the connection–that passed me by–between the cart, the sweets and luxury apartment rentals? Have you noticed cockamamie, half-baked marketing ideas that people pay good money for and that make you scratch your head?


6 Responses to “Service of Marketing That Misses the Mark”

  1. ASK Said:

    OMG! Too overwhelmed by the idea of paying $3900+ a month for one room to even think about the effectiveness of the marketing campaign!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I was wondering if anyone would pick up on that! Maybe, if all the extras are part of the rent and the person doesn’t have to pay for a gym, sauna, etc. and they take good advantage of the add-ons, it reduces the rent but for one room…..ah…..maybe it’s a big room and it isn’t on the second floor so it has a view. But at rents like that they might have given Richart chocolates at least.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    A. There is no connection. B. Hand-outs are not learned treatises. Worse, they could be scams, so best policy is to walk on by.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    One of my dear friends used to love visiting apartments for rent whether open houses or model apartments in new buildings. She was happy where she lived; it was a hobby. I doubt even she would have been tempted by this.

    Scams are a worry. Just today I got a notice that someone wanted to friend me on Facebook. The invitation is on my phone in the Facebook notification section–it sports the FB logo. But I checked to be sure: They already are a Facebook friend. [He’s an artist and I like seeing his work and his comments about life but we’re not deep dish pals so I didn’t want to rely on my memory.]

    I wonder how many apartments cost “only” $3,910/month. I bet that the higher you go, the bigger the monthly rental even for the one bedrooms.

    Oh, and I haven’t eaten the chocolate covered pretzel.

  5. HB Said:

    As someone who spent over a decade of his life overseeing, amongst a number of other things, the marketing of almost 200 East Side condominium apartments in two quite different buildings, which we had either for sale or rent during the very difficult New York markets of the late 1980’s and early ‘90s, this question is like duck soup. So I’ll dive in.

    You are absolutely right, marketing has to stay on target to be successful. All the creative gimmicks and jazzy pitches in the long run will do you no good unless you are. They can also be very expensive, and we didn’t have much money around to spend on such luxuries. I found it was more productive to focus on the basics instead.

    Make sure to:

    Get a good super who in turn recruits an efficient, cheerful building staff.
    Keep your buildings physically up to snuff, clean and well managed.
    Have a sales staff which is responsive, well organized and truthful.
    Keep your pricing completive and realistic.
    Choose a managing agent who knows its business and communicates well.

    Forget the nonsense. The well managed building will always succeed best in the long run.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    When the basics are excellent, word gets out.

    But to fill an empty skyscraper, luxury or moderately priced, you need to get out the word and to spend money for the right things. Surely the developer had a fabulous open house for the best real estate agents in the city and the really top echelon would have been given the opportunity for previews and made to feel special. That’s where I would start putting my money. And the real estate, architecture and design media would be invited to its own event. Model apartments would be worth a detour, the decorators responsible on hand if possible. The photos on the postcard show a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows–on a curve yet. What a design challenge! Interior designers are almost de rigueur.

    And there wouldn’t be a chocolate covered pretzel in sight.

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