Free food, rent fuel viral buzz

It's not often that landlords encourage their tenants to throw parties.

It’s not often that landlords encourage their tenants to throw parties.

Halifax-based Killam Properties is doing just that with a ‘Heroic Gatherings’ promotion, designed to generate buzz. The parties started last month, and will run until the end of this month, with the potential to continue all year across its 8,500 units in Halifax, Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.

A supporting campaign by Halifax agency Colour revolves around ‘Landlord Lou,’ a fictional character who invites Killam tenants to place their food orders at landlordlou.ca. Party options are illustrated with corresponding photos of Lou – e.g., he’s decked out in a sports jersey for the big game get-together and a mud mask for girls’ night. The food is supplied by partners Boston Pizza and Swiss Chalet, and personally delivered by Killam property managers.

‘Food is a social object – something people gather around. We want to spark conversations,’ explains Carman Pirie, principal at Colour. Since apartment dwellers tend to socialize with other apartment dwellers, the goal is to get non-Killam tenants thinking about their own landlords, and whether it’s time to move.

The Landlord Lou microsite links to Lou’s Facebook group. ‘We’re trying to start a bit of a virus,’ says Pirie.

Colour infected Halifax with a student-focused viral last fall, when they introduced the character with three online videos showing him ‘coming to the rescue’ of hapless young tenants, as well as a zany guerrilla effort that involved thousands of plungers hidden around the city. The effort challenged current and prospective tenants to find 50 plungers for a free month’s rent, or 500 for a free year. Shortly after launching, the microsite landlordlou.ca/hero was garnering an average of 400 to 500 hits a day – not bad in its relatively small market.

The stunts were cheap to produce, and landed local and national media coverage as well as impressive ROI. ‘We created three videos for under $20,000; a comparable TV spot would cost $100,000,’ says Pirie. And Killam achieved vacancy rates of zero in all but one of their student-focused buildings. AB