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Marketing gone awry

By Dan St. Yves

Of the many skills a Realtor must possess in order to succeed, there’s a few that tend to slip below the radar for mastering – advertising and promotion perhaps heading the list. That may refer just to the marketing strategy of listed properties to be sure, but sometimes as well to the actual sales agent’s self-promotional campaigns.

Before I cast stones in a glass house, let me confess that I made a few blunders of my own back when I still held my own real estate licence. I held it in constant fear of a marketing guru grabbing it out of my hands, after some of the ad campaigns I came up with.

One of my all-time favourite blunders was a series of cartoon caricatures that I commissioned about two years into my practice. Several actually worked out quite nicely; in spite of the recurring Clark Kent/Elvis curl the cartoonist exaggerated onto my forehead. If you’re going to take artistic license, at least fill in the bald spot in the BACK of my head!

The one in that series I wish I could have taken back before it ran was a cartoon of myself swinging through the African jungle on a vine – which may not have been quite so embarrassing if I hadn’t been drawn while clinging ape-like and loin-clothed to a similarly loin-clothed Tarzan, grinning like the local village idiot, bone-in-a-hair-knot-on-my-head, while making some sort of pointing gesture to a house for sale in the treetops. Politically incorrect on multiple levels, AND embarrassing – quite the coup!

Dan's early business card photo

Dan's early business card photo

Even the first set of business cards I had printed were a soon-to-be-classic example of “Do Not Do This” for new Realtors. Conscious of keeping costs down when I first started my career, I went out the front door of our real estate office and into the photo studio next door. An ad that ran on their window proclaimed, “Passport Photos, 2 Pics For 1 Price”.  Those savings would keep me in Kraft Dinner for weeks.

As the photographer wearily explained that he’d be taking two photos for the price of one for yet another thrifty fledgling sales agent, I thought to myself, “How should I pose for these pictures?” To my surprise, passport photos (back then) were shot two at a time, in a single snap, while I was still deep in thought trying to figure out how glamorous my pose should be. Instead of “I’m a successful winner”, I ended up with identical shots of myself in a casual sweater, chewing on my bottom lip, and winking like a pirate without his eye patch. The only thing missing in those shots were a series of numbers running across my chest.

Another apparent flaw in the arsenal of marketing choices I made was my vinyl car signs. If you are going to festoon your vehicle with signage, try not to:

– Park for hours “accidentally” outside your competitor’s national recruitment office. Which is on your manager’s way home.

– Read a newspaper while you’re driving, even if your ad does seem to be missing.

– Drop off advertising copy at a radio station that’s just below Cougars Nite Club.

– Go to a Commissionaires’ office to contest a parking ticket at length, where the only open parking meter is in front of a well-marked massage parlour/escort service. Which is on your manager’s way home.

 Humour columnist and author Dan St. Yves was licensed with Royal LePage Kelowna for 11 years. Check out his website at, or contact him at [email protected].