Are You Afraid of the Dark?

When I was a young girl and came home after a night out with my family, I always stepped inside the house, turned on all the lights and immediately shouted, “Any witches, robbers or ghosts, please come out!” As you can imagine, the moments following that desperate plea were terrifying. Had a witch suddenly made her presence known, I don’t know what the next step would have been.

The dark—and robbers, though not so much witches and ghosts—continued to frighten me as a teenager. I remember one night in particular when I was home with my younger brother and we heard what sounded like someone breaking into the basement.

At first I brushed it off. I was busy watching the 73rd Annual Academy Awards, and due to a somewhat disturbing obsession I had with Julia Roberts, I refused to allow a potential intruder to make me miss her acceptance speech for Best Actress. But after a few more noises, I suddenly felt as though I might have to change my undergarments.

On the brink of having an accident, I grabbed a field hockey stick—just as menacing as a gun or knife, if wielded properly—and ran outside with my brother. Even though I was 14, opening the basement door and walking into a pitch-black room was too much to handle. Because when you’re in the dark, the risks are that much higher.

The same can be said for “going dark” in the apartment industry.

In the April issue of units, NAA’s Jeffrey Lee writes about apartment companies’ practice of testing how well a marketing source is producing traffic and leases by turning it off and measuring the impact. For some marketers, it’s the perfect test.

Mark Juleen, Vice President of Marketing for Carmel, Ind.-based apartment firm The J.C. Hart Company turned off a marketing source because he thought he was paying too much for it and not getting many leases in return. The period of dark testing proved him wrong: after a few months, traffic and leads dipped and Juleen signed back up.

Juleen went dark a second time with a different source and discovered there was no real impact, eventually turning the source off for good. Both tests were a gamble, but they were worth it for Juleen.

For others, the thought makes them shudder. The risk of potentially losing a lot of leads—like the risk of me missing Julia Roberts doing her famous cackle while clutching an Oscar—is too much for some marketers. They argue that going dark doesn’t provide any more clarity than precise tracking of leads through website analytics and toll-free numbers.

Before a company decides one way or the other, it’s important to understand the implications of going dark. Doing so can help apartment marketers determine whether it’s a strategy that can help them maximize their marketing return on investment. And take it from someone who had no strategy—save a field hockey stick—going into the dark: you need to understand the risks.

Fortunately, there were no robbers in the basement that night. I can’t speak for witches or ghosts.

For more on “going dark,” check out the April issue of units, which mailed April 8. The e-version is available here.