We've All Gone Mad

I’m often accused of putting myself in ridiculous situations just to get a good story out of it. I beg to differ—though the evidence is rather damning.

I guess I didn’t, for example, have to rent one bedroom of a two-bedroom apartment just to “save a little money” while vacationing in San Diego. I spent those two nights sharing a bedroom wall—and a bathroom—with a total stranger who believed in “good vibes,” a “positive aura” and drinking smoothies made of mystery super foods. She also believed in leaving her front door unlocked at night. “I believe that whatever you put out into the universe, you will get back in return,” she had explained. 

Apparently if you’re a good person, you’ll never get murdered.

…But you will get felt up on the metro. This happened to me a few years ago on an incredibly crowded ride into work. An Italian gentleman (I use the word “gentleman” loosely) took one look at me, liked what he saw, and proceeded to interact with me as if we were doing an underground routine from “Dirty Dancing.” And he did not look like Patrick Swayze. 

“Why didn’t you tell him to stop—or just move!” my friends always ask. 

But I really couldn’t go anywhere; that metro car was absolutely packed. Baby was in a corner.

My friends shake their heads—but then they laugh. Everyone loves an epic story, apartment residents included.

Thus, when Essex Property Trust came to Merrick Towle Communications (MTC) with a new property named Epic, the Beltsville, Md.-based marketing firm began thinking about ways to share (appropriate) stories.

“We realize the most effective way to engage anyone is through their emotions,” explains Christina Royster, Director of Engagement, MTC. “We’re not just selling places to live—we strive to bring to life different ways to live through the properties we market. For this particular community, “epic” is a story that’s typically larger than life.”

Royster says a vital selling point of the San Jose, Calif., property is the quality and scale of the amenity spaces, as well as the apartment features. Setting up a narrative that enables prospects to fill in the blanks about how they would interact with these larger-than-life aspects of the property is a great way to illustrate the potential lifestyle at Epic, she adds.

So Essex Property Trust and MTC did just that, in the form of Mad Libs—the 1960s inspired word game that offers a short story full of missing words, requiring participants to fill in the blank with a word from a specific category, such as a noun or verb. The completed story—often comical and somewhat nonsensical—is then read aloud.

In short, Epic residents were asked, “What’s Your Story?” on the community’s website, liveepicapts.com, and given the framework to share it. Metro escapades are not encouraged.

Epic’s own version of Mad Libs begins when residents are asked to choose their story’s style—bold, practical, classic, personal, edgy or modern. After selecting their favorite option, residents complete three fill-in-the-blank sentences. These are featured on the right side of the screen; to the left, information about the community.

The fill-in-the-blanks are then inserted into a computer-generated “Epic Story.” At the end, residents have the option of sharing their story electronically with Epic staff. 

If they’re really juicy, they can also be sent to me.

For more, including an example of an “Epic Story,” check out “Mad Libs Help Essex Residents Tell Their Story” in the August issue of units Magazine, which mails Aug. 11.