A real estate brokerage expanding into the Seattle, Washington, market got a lot of attention recently with a marketing campaign that may have misfired. The company installed about 1,500 small, green pig cutouts around the city to announce its new presence. The idea was to demonstrate how the company would “turn consumers’ piggy banks green with commission savings,” and the company also said that the cutouts would only have remained in place for a week. However, numerous Seattle residents took to social media to post pictures (and criticisms) of the campaign and show themselves throwing the little cutouts away. The company responded to the criticism by noting that all of the pigs would be removed by the end of the week as originally planned, although the process has been expedited. The brokerage also donated $2,500 to the Seattle Parks department and $10,000 to a social services and community housing advocacy group.

The pigs were placed mainly in parks, college campuses, and even public planters. The vocal population of critics complained that the cutouts were essentially “littering” and that local green spaces should not be used for “free advertising.” Prior to sending crews out to retrieve the pigs, the company did advise critics via its Facebook page to “try to have boar fun,” but later added, “Seattle…is a passionate city that cares about its residents, its image, and its community.”

Although the marketing campaign is being covered in the media as a failure, it bears considering that the company, while generating some negative media coverage, has certainly managed to make its presence in the new market known and, furthermore, conveyed its message that consumers will pay lower commission fees quite effectively. The green pigs were covered in numerous national media outlets, including by the National Association of Realtors and many local news outlets as well. All of these stories featured not only local complaints about the pigs, but also the company’s public statement about what it had intended, its donations to local organizations, and that the pigs had largely been removed from the area already. In fact, one highly critical news outlet dedicated nearly a full page to describing the company’s business model, including a full description of how and why it charges lower commissions.

Investor Insight:
Be careful what you wish for. Viral marketing doesn’t always get the results you may expect, and the penalties can be expensive. However, “face value” of a marketing stunt does not always tell the full story.

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Categories | Article | Market & Trends
Tags | Marketing
  • Carole VanSickle Ellis

    Carole VanSickle Ellis serves as the news editor and COO of Self-Directed Investor (SDI) Society, a membership organization dedicated to the needs of self-directed investors interested in alternative investment vehicles, including real estate. Learn more at SelfDirected.org or reach Carole directly by emailing Carole@selfdirected.org.

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