Street-smart NY storage ads tell it straight

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Best is yet to come ... if marketers build it
Best is yet to come ... if marketers build it

Walking the streets of New York City after a recent Sunday brunch, an out-of-town friend delighted in the sight of a woman making her way home in what seemed to be the outfit she had worn out the night before. "That's what I love about New York: the anonymity," my friend said.

That sentiment probably reflects the view of a lot of people overwhelmed by the idea of the city's population of 8 million people, more than 1.5 million of whom elbow each other for space on Manhattan.

To New Yorkers, New York 
is really just another small town. We constantly run into folks we know in places we don't expect to see them. We delight in discovering shared connections with people we've just met. We have unified experiences that bridge our economic, racial and social diversity. We're sometimes guilty of drawing a judgmental line between ourselves and the rest of the country.

Yet few companies would think of advertising to New Yorkers as if they were residents of a small (if blunt-spoken) town. This is exactly what makes Manhattan Mini Storage's advertising stand out in a city saturated with marketing messages.

"In my father's house, there are many rooms," reads one transit ad, referencing a biblical passage from the Gospel of John. Then the punch line: "Clearly, Jesus was not a New Yorker." "Why leave a city that has six professional sports teams, and also the Mets?" goes another ad.

There are endless creative executions; some more controversial than others: "Remember, if you leave the city, you'll have to live in America," "Oh, yeah, you'll fit right in in Connecticut," and "Nobody becomes famous in Des Moines."

At times, the campaign has crossed inexplicably into the political, but even then the filter is topical and New York City-centric. "If you don't like gay marriage," went one recent billboard, "don't get gay married." Paris Hilton's lawyers once sent a cease-and-desist letter to protest an ad with the tagline, "Your closet's so shallow, it makes Paris look deep."

The ads are clean, simple and visually distinct. They have a clear aim: Get Manhattan residents to store the things that don't fit in their apartments on the island, rather than using less-convenient, out-of-city storage facilities or (gasp) moving 
to the suburbs to get more 
space for their stuff.

While the ads may be aimed 
at New Yorkers, the principles 
of smart marketing apply to any brand: Know your audience, and deliver clear, relevant and differentiated messaging. There's also a lesson for those who believe it's impossible for a commodity product to emotionally engage consumers. Judging by their popularity and social media buzz, Manhattan Mini Storage's ads strike a nerve with New Yorkers who relate to their street-smart and funny tone. The ads have even been praised in the Arts & Culture section of New York magazine.

The vibe of the outdoor ads 
is consistent across all channels, including the company's website, YouTube videos and Facebook page. It seems to translate into business success, as well. With 17 Manhattan locations and more than 200,000 clients, Manhattan Mini Storage claims to be the largest personal storage company in New York and one of the largest in the country.

I'd keep going on about relevant marketing from a sharp marketer, but I've got other things to do. As a wise out-of-home ad lectures: "Stop posting weird sh!% and clean your apartment."

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