Podcast / 11.25.2019

What it means to be a D.C. brand

Episode Summary:

On November 20th, 2019, we had the pleasure of joining local marketing leaders representing 250+ brands to share fresh ideas on topics and trends emerging in the marketing industry at IC Summit’s D.C. Marketing Summit. We also had the opportunity to moderate a panel about “The D.C. Brand”—what it means to be a local brand here, what this city has to offer its residents and visitors, and what it takes to differentiate in such a crowded market. Take a listen to our discussion here.

Host: Clara Shannon, Marketing Associate, Grafik

Moderator: Lauren Leva, VP of Marketing at Grafik

Panelists:

Robin McLean, SVP of Marketing & Communications, Destination DC

Greg Menna, Co-Founder & CEO, District Donut

Julie Zito, Assistant VP of Marketing, American University

Melissa Fasano, Director of Corporate Marketing, Kettler Inc.

Krista Olson, Senior Director of Marketing, Washington Wizards

Transcript: 

Clara Shannon

Born and bred in the DMV, our agency has always been proud of its roots. But we’ve often wondered what exactly is the DC brand? What does it represent? How has it evolved?

Last week we got the chance to answer these questions and more at the DC Marketing Summit, joined by local leaders repping upwards of 250 brands. Our very own VP of Marketing Lauren Leva led a little panel all about the DC brand, with leaders from local staples like District, Doughnut, American University, Kettler, Inc, Destination DC, and the Washington Wizards.

We left feeling inspired and we hope you will too. What follows is a recording of our discussion. Take a listen and we hope that you enjoy. 

[Applause] 

Lauren Leva:

We’re a full service marketing and branding agency located in Old Town Alexandria, and we’ve been in this area for 40 years proudly serving DC and east coast clients. We’ve got a wonderful panel this morning of DC brands here we’ve got, Robin McLean, the SVP of Marketing and Communications from Destination DC. We’ve got Greg Menna, the co-founder and CEO of District Doughnut. We’ve got Julie Zito, the Assistant VP of Marketing from American University. And we’ve got Melissa Fasano, the Director of Corporate Marketing at Kettler. And lastly, Kristen Olson, I’m sorry, Krista Olson, the Senior Director of Marketing from the Washington Wizards. So thank you so much for joining me today guys. We are going to go through some questions and then we’ll open it up to the audience for Q&A at the end. So be thinking of things that you want to ask this awesome bunch of Marketing Leaders. 

So I want to start out with some stats just to kind of frame up the conversation about DC and the brands that are here. The city is growing, 2018 was the 13th straight year of population growth and the district and elected officials like to taught that there are 1,000 new people moving into the city every month.

A huge factor in this growth is international migration, which was responsible for 53% of the net increase last year, and population growth. And data also shows that at least a third of people who live in DC were born here. So there’s a great mix of both newcomers and tried and true locals.

So the first question for you guys that I have is about the DC brand, what we’re here to talk about. On a macro level, we’ve seen a decade of increased connectivity and globalization that’s kind of prompted a counter trend of localization and people really craving original and unique experiences. So what do you think makes DC unique?

 Robin McLean:

Well, maybe I’ll start, since I promote the city. You know, I think given our current campaign [that] we launched in January called, “Discover The Real D.C.” We think it’s about what we all, who live here and work here, experience every day. And so it’s not what’s on TV this morning. It is really the experiences of, you know, great restaurants, and nightlife and culture. And you can experience that, you know, in every quadrant of the city, in every neighborhood. And so that’s what I think the DC brand is absolutely about.

 Julie Zito:

For students who come to American we have about 13% of our incoming undergraduate students are from the DMV. We have a huge amount of students coming from outside this area and DC is a big attractor for them. About 40% of them actually stay after graduation. So they really are coming here because of all that we offer. They also see this as a place where they can make change and fulfill their purpose, as we were talking about this morning. So DC for them is really part you know, spending the day on Capitol Hill at your internship or maybe at a protest having a conversation that you never thought you’d have with someone from a different part of the world, enjoying the Smithsonian, you know it’s a place where they can study as well as really had an experience.

Greg Menna:

I’m Greg with District Doughnut, and we were founded on essentially being something very different than, as Robin said, what you’re hearing all of the time about what DC is supposedly like. In our experience, it’s not like all of those things. We started in 2012. And so we, my co founder, Christine, who’s actually the brains and creates really good things — I create problems but she, her idea of a pastry as a very experienced pastry chef is just to take something simple, and to make it that much better things that [thing] you already like. And so we, as a brand wanted to do that. And we wanted to, we wanted to approach DC similarly. 

It’s really neat, Robin, that you said in each quadrant of the city, you can experience what we call in our brand, “happiness found.” That’s what we’re always pursuing. How can we provide a little bit of happiness found for everyone that comes through our teal doors. But the idea that there can be a little slice of that, even though everyone is always saying that that’s not what’s going on here. We believe it is. And we want to be a little force within that because we believe it’s possible and we truly do believe if you have a District Doughnut, you’re going to be more happy than before.

Robin McLean:

I can confirm that.

Greg Menna:

I mean, I love salad, you know, it’s great and all, but you can only have so many salads. You need more calories. We have five locations now, we opened the first in Virginia a couple months ago, but we have one with Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast. We started in Southeast and then we proceeded to Northwest and then Southwest and now Northeast. So we — and it wasn’t specifically by design, but we just have tried to follow where are people who are who have the same ideas we do, where they going and buying things and that has been where that’s where we have been led. And that’s been really neat. Because we have been received the same way everywhere, which is like, we’re literally just making the best doughnut. And that’s it. We don’t we’re not trying to be anything we’re not. And I think people respond well to that. And DC is a place right now where a brand can. A brand has a unique opportunity because it is a big stage. But it’s not as if there aren’t as many, there can’t be as many players because there aren’t as many people total as other big cities. So it’s a really unique opportunity. And we’re loving being a little part of that.

 Krista Olson:

So obviously, we’re part of a global brand with the NBA. But I think from a local perspective with Monumental Sports and Entertainment, with our ownership, we’re very much investing in the city and things that go into it. So yesterday, for instance, we opened a new court, actually, three courts over in southeast D.C. Today, we actually are unveiling our new city addition, Nike jerseys are very inspired by DC and the elements of the city. We have games this week that have a college series representing different schools, working with local partners with Medstar with a mental health awareness night. So for us, we’re really looking at things from a macro perspective and how we can become represented on a global scale in terms of a basketball team. But also really looking at investing with our relationships. Destination DC is a great one, you know, that I work with on a day to day basis and really investing in those relationships in the city and really trying to build monumental sports as a larger entity that really impacts both business but also our fans on a day to day basis. 

Melissa Fasano:

And I’m coming at it from a real estate perspective. I’m with Kettler so if you don’t know we are actually a locally owned and real estate development company. We also do property management and construction. So a lot of DC, also all throughout Maryland, you know, Baltimore all the way down to Virginia Beach. We’ve developed many, many masterplan communities. What we do is we actually, you know, considering DC is such a melting pot and, you know, talking much to that transit transplant, you know, audience that we have here in the area, it’s really important for us to focus on developing a lifestyle tomorrow, but just developing a lifestyle tomorrow for all different lifestyle needs. So we’re doing it for everything from affordable, all the way up to luxury Class A high-rises. And so we’re really trying to ensure that we’re capturing exactly what any type of person that is moving to the DC area or that currently lives in DC is in need of. So, you know, that is, you know, one of the things that I think makes us have kind of a unique perspective on the DC brand and ensuring that we’re encompassing that in all of our future planning. 

Lauren Leva:

Wonderful, thank you all. I love that we have a representation of kind of a lot of different and very important industries in DC here. We’ve got real estate, academia, retail, sports, and of course, tourism.

So can you tell us a little bit about some of the major local trends that you’re kind of seeing within your industries and how that’s impacting your day to day marketing or business responsibilities?

 Krista Olson:

We have a tremendous relationship with the Washington Post. So for our overarching marketing and advertising budget, we actually work with all the different properties with them on just an extensive relationship of how are we transforming our digital advertising? Unfortunately, which I’m very sad about that the Express Metro went away this year, but how are we taking that and trying to retarget in a much more efficient way, more, much more effective way. We’re also looking specifically with Google on how we can do a better job of impacting our tourism, messaging and how especially for us. We have a new player, the first Japanese NBA player to be signed. And he has been just a phenomenon, to be honest. His name’s Rui Hachimura and the number of people that have come in from both the Japanese standpoint, but also from a business standpoint, is really impacting our business this year and trying to look at that and having conversations with Destination DC and Big Bus and how can we effectively market him and try to do new things for those types of fans and bring those experiences to our games.

Lauren Leva:

Krista, can you tell us a little bit about just obviously there’s a ton of momentum around DC sports right now. And some of the things that you’re doing to capture that and build on that excitement? 

Krista Olson:

Yeah, absolutely. So I think this is actually the first like full year and a half, I would say, of us doing a really good job of sport, our sports, representing and supporting one another. I think I actually am a big Boston sports fan. Grew up a big Boston sports fan.

But having been now in DC and working for the wizards and being part of the caps and mystics championships, which is phenomenon phenomenal. Being able to see the support that we’ve all had for one another, you know, getting John a Soto Jersey shipped out was a frantic moment on our side to try to get john wall to get that so we can put that on digital. Those are all moments that we’re trying to capture. We had a game actually the night of the parade for the Nats. And so you know, how can we do kind of last minute ticket deals, you know, we put up messaging on our marquee boards, and just simple things like that, that are just small but very effective to just show that we are district of champions, we do have all these different teams represented especially for us on women’s sports, I think is phenomenal, phenomenal. And, you know, having that team as part of our overarching brand has been really Exciting.

Julie Zito:

I’ll just add to that. You guys actually reached out to us about having an AU Night. So on December 5, the wizards are playing the 70 sixers, and it’s a unite and their special merchandise and for our students, they’re really here. American University is not known as a big sports school, I’m sure that won’t surprise anyone. But they actually really appreciate having the DC teams as their teams. We had a partnership of the Nationals for a number of years. The you know, Wizards night I think is a great opportunity for them to have sort of that major sporting events, and then go back to their major event which is, you know, thinking about, you know, joining the Peace Corps and changing the world, but it’s fantastic to have that access for them. And I think that’s another benefit of going to University in a major city, where you get to sort of adopt these other brands as part of your own. 

Robin McLean:

I’ll just get on the sports train, because it really is an opportunity to promote the city and so with a spotlight shining so big on DC these last couple of years since the Stanley Cup win and, and obviously through the WNBA championship and now being the World Series champs, it has given us an opportunity along with our partners at events DC to really promote the city from a sports perspective. And that’s both you know, business and leisure. So it’s booking the venues so it’s everything from Capital One arena to the entertainment and sports arena in Congress Heights to you know, NATS Park and so it gives us an opportunity to promote venues for business purposes, event purposes, but also to bring people to the city. So I’m assuming you’re from Boston, that would be the only reason you would be a Boston fan. Okay, so um, you know if you can have that experience down here in DC, following your team if that’s what you want to do, but you can also have that extended experience in terms of the city and that authenticity. And so that’s one of the trends we’re seeing is as we go out to market people are we’re first of all connecting to people in specific personas that we’ve done research on and an enter promoting to the sports enthusiast happens to be one of those eight personas. And so it’s a way for us for people to consider DC differently. 

Lauren Leva:

Interesting, thank you. 

Melissa Fasano:

And I’m gonna go ahead and hop on that train, but kind of take a little pivot. Kettler is actually the official property management and real estate development company of the Washington Capitals, the Mystics, the Wizards, and we are partners with Monumental Sports Entertainment. We also sponsor the second floor of the Capital One arena where we have the Kettler loft level. I’m not sure if any of you guys have made that association if you’ve been to any games recently. But a part of that campaign is large in-part because we want to make sure that we are marketing to all of those different groups, but also, much to Robin’s point, you know, we’ve got all these unique opportunities included in that sponsorship to make sure we’re, you know, not only getting back from a bit, you know, going through our business transactions, ensuring that we’re taking care of, you know, all of those markets, but also making sure that we’re bringing in the community. So we also do a series of suite nights where we connect with the VA, we have different veterans come in and partake in our sweet nights where we are, you know, we’re making sure that we’re taking care of them and being a part with them. And then in addition to that, we also work really closely with the children’s ENT, where we also bring them in for a suite night. So instead of repurposing just our sponsorship for business needs, we’re also trying to connect closer with the DC community and ensure that we’re helping out and becoming a closer part with that.

Lauren Leva:

Greg, tell us a little bit about in your industry, the foodie movement, and how that’s kind of helped businesses, smaller businesses, who you know, are maybe different than the traditional DC Steakhouse or kind of like stereotypical DC restaurant take off.

Greg Menna:

Sure. Well, I was first going to say I don’t have much to weigh-in on the last question, because a big partner of Monumental Sports is Dunkin Donuts. So, we, you know, we have a beef. I’m just kidding.

But the foodie movement is, you know, is a fascinating thing to me. And we certainly are, we certainly were right at the kind of peak explosion of that, at the beginning of our company. There were, you know, like five different supposedly gourmet doughnut companies started at the same time and there was not a single one ever before here and now there’s only two. So we’ve stayed standing. And we’ve kept we’ve kept moving. But I think, as I said before, I think what has allowed us to continue growing and you know, methodically it’s felt very fast to us. We try to be more methodical and we are truly a small team. I mean, it’s not much more than me, and Christine, and then our marketing, basically VP, who has – [it’s] been all three of us has been here since the beginning. And we’ve gradually grown. 

I think what’s been most fascinating is to watch things that are trend versus things that are staple, things that people want always versus things that they might be really cool and Instagram, but not a single person buys that. I can attest to that. We are now shifting everything we do in the next few weeks to be entirely based on data. For a chef, a creative chef, that’s a very…that can be very frustrating. When she creates you’ll never have a doughnut that’s better. But no one buys the thing because it’s like daunting, or everyone buys vanilla bean glazed, you know? It’s a really interesting phenomenon where everyone is, you know, they’re double tapping. They like the really cool thing. And the really cool thing that Christine creates that we come out with is actually better than the simpler one, but, people want simple. And so that’s been a very interesting, almost conflicting piece of intelligence, that a foodie movement would tell you wasn’t true, or that the number of Instagram likes would tell you. Otherwise, it’s been very interesting to begin the process now because we are much certainly clearly a much smaller brand and an up and company than the rest of the folks on the stage. But because of that, we have to pay immense attention to detail to what every single person is saying. On every channel.

We use a thing called Intercom, which is a chat function, where one guy in our company is listening to all the time and asking people you know– it’s like, he’ll be at a store and he also does that and ‘okay, what are they saying that like this’, ‘this happened at that store’ and trying to figure out how do we take all of that information and call it into which donuts do we sell? 

Because that determines everything else. And so I think the foodie movement is amazing because then it  creates an excitement about better things, better food in general. But it’s also a very, you have to be very wise to sift through and find out what do people actually want. Because that doesn’t, I don’t think that really changes in terms of, like, in terms of a macro category. I don’t know that that changes a lot. Certainly better versions and healthier versions. But what we find is typically people are going to buy the simpler thing, you just have to do it a lot better. And you have to treat them with kindness and it’s got to be genuine it can’t be a put on like your people that that other people are interacting with. They got to be really great.

Lauren Leva:

I think that’s a good segue into the customer experience and how that can help you build advocates after someone experiences your brand for the first time, and then tells all their friends about it, whether that’s on social media or elsewhere. I really liked that Martha from AARP talked about CX. And I would love to hear some of the ways that you’re measuring brand sentiment, customer loyalty, trust, all those types of really important parts of the customer relationship.

Krista Olson:

For us, we’re constantly surveying and following up game after game as to what our fans are looking for. Excuse me. This past summer, underwent a 180 million dollar renovation to our concourses and that was a direct result of our fans saying, ‘Hey, we need to be better and we need a better experience.’ And so we’ve brought in some local vendors. We do have Ben’s Chili bowl now that has come on. We worked with Jose Andreas on some of our concession menu-ing and just in terms of like general experience, we completely renovated all of our video board. So if you come now it’s kind of a little bit overwhelming, but there’s just constant imagery and you know, really perfecting what that looks like from a brand perspective, while also implementing all of our different partnerships, and what they’re trying to get across. But that is all definitely a direct result of a fan sentiment and their feedback to us as to, you know, this is what we need for you guys to do better in terms of our in-game experience.

 Melissa Fasano:

And, and for us, one of the things you know, throughout the past few years that I’ve been with Keller, we’ve gone through a substantial surveying program as well. We actually went from serving four times a year to our prospects and residents. Taking that feedback going through a process of vetting different organizations to try and make sure that we’re bringing the right tools and resources to enhance our programs. So what that told us was for 2019 we needed to gear up all of our surveying. And we actually turned it into a full lifecycle touchpoint survey where we’re now actually reaching our residents. At the 30-day after moving mark, we’re reaching our residents at the, you know, right after a maintenance service happens right after that transaction. And then once you go to into like the lease renewal process, so we’re constantly surveying on their experiences that they’re having with our staff.

From there, we’ve taken that feedback, we’ve completely revamped our customer service program for all of our on-site, property stuff. And we’ve gotten great feedback for 2019. And so I think for 2020, we’re just going to continue to build on that. We’re building out a loyalty program right now to try and ensure that all of our residents, especially in an area like DC, where it’s very transient and people are moving, there’s a lot of you know, businesses that are up and down the east coast. We want to make sure that if you’re moving from Kettler property to Kettler property, you’re remembering our name and the service that you had, and you’re also getting, you know, perks and benefits from staying with a killer property. So these are just a couple of programs and ways that we’re taking All that feedback and data that we’re gathering from those surveys that we’re putting out, and then putting them into action to make sure that, you know, we are really changing the program and ensuring that all of our residents and prospects are really happy with the service that they’re receiving from their killer stuff.

 Julie Zito:

I’ll just add, as a community of about 8,000 undergraduates and 13,000 graduate undergrads, and then hundreds of thousands of alumni, we have no shortage of feedback coming to us all the time. You know, Martha was talking about social media of Gen Z. We regularly hear, of course, on social media, mostly, when most students aren’t anxious to say, ‘Hey, you guys did a great job today. I loved that class that I had’ or, ‘Wow, you’re bringing [inaudible] to campus, how exciting is that?’ There is some of that, but a lot of it really is feedback of concerns.

So we have a listening tool. We have a team, really in the higher education space, that sort of reputational management crisis communications management is something that, I’m looking at my colleague from Georgetown, something that universities have had to adopt and very quickly pivot to, to that sort of team, and people have an expertise in that space over the past 5-10 years. For any of you, you know, the thing about a university is it’s, it’s not just something you consume, it’s a brand that becomes part of who you are. It’s on your resume, there are very few products you purchase, that are on your resume. As much as you might love a doughnut or a team. People don’t typically put that as part of their personal brand. So, you know, any sort of institutional change, any sort of policy, anything that they’re concerned about, you know, they’re very quick to make us aware of that. So in addition to ongoing social media feedback that we’re getting, as I said all the time, and we also do a campus climate survey. You also have alumni surveys, and the university does respond to these things, but we’re talking about pretty monumental sort of shifts and, you know, a new plan for inclusive excellence and, and things that really take time. It’s our student body is also very skeptical with sort of quick fixes. So it’s something that we are constantly monitoring, discussing planning budgeting for

Lauren Leva:

Robin, what about, from destination DC, how are you kind of listening or getting feedback on the visitor experience when someone comes to DC and what they liked, what they didn’t like, is that factoring into your marketing at all or your planning?

 Robin McLean:

Well, it’s not as specific as they can speak to just because it’s, you know, we’ve welcomed 24 million people last year, for example. So it’s really working with our partners, and magnifying those experiences. So it’s both inspiring what you can actually experience before you get here, but then it’s also highlighting what these amazing opportunities are, once you’re on the ground. I will say obviously social media plays into that heavily. Just from a consumer standpoint, you can kind of track there how people are feeling but it tends to be a really positive place overall. Even given I think the dynamics of the city and what our challenges are in terms of promoting it daily, it really you can’t beat up you know, a shot of the National Mall at sunset it’s still is the most popular Instagram, you know, posts that that when we when we use that, so that surprises us because we really highlight so much else beyond that, but there still is that traditional element. And then I will say that, you know, the things that we hear most often about the city are things like how clean it is, and when you start comparing that to other big cities in the US and how walkable, and so those are things that that we feel visitors feel but also media is saying about us. So, you know, Lonely Planet just named us the Second Best City to Visit in 2020. We were first in 2015. And so we’ve made it back on that list first in the US behind Salzburg in Austria. So like, it’s, you know, it’s an interesting thing. We keep using those accolades and ways for people to talk about the city. So whether that’s number one for women in tech, or it’s how sustainable the city is. Those are all the things that I think help tell the experience of what people can have here. We don’t track it, you know, by individual, but we certainly try to enhance that. Yeah, exactly.

Lauren Leva:

So as you’re starting to plan for 2020, and your teams are having conversations about where to put budget, where to put effort, what’s one thing that you are going to stop doing and one thing that you’re going to Start doing or keep doing part of your marketing plans.

Robin McLean:

For us, we’re going to focus, we’re going to continue with Discover The Real DC. And add to that an element for the DMV region. For the last 10 years, we’ve been promoting a campaign called, ‘Date Nights DC.’ And the idea was when hotels and restaurants really need businesses in January in February here in DC, it’s you know, it’s very quiet time. And so we want to impact that with visitation. So we’re introducing actually just started this week with a marketing campaign called stay local DC. And some of our research is showing that the thing that will make a local in this region stay in a hotel overnight is both value but also having that big experience. So it’s kind of like the high end luxury getaway, but also what is that value? And so we’re building that around big weekends that you can have in January in February. So some of that’s around sports, some of that’s around Restaurant Week. And other big arts and cultural exhibits and experiences that you can have in the city. So we hope that will fill our hotels and restaurants in 2020.

Krista Olson:

We’re really excited for the second half of the season just because we have some really specific themed nights that we’ve never done before. We’re doing a Japanese Heritage Night in January. We’re partnering with the National Cherry Blossom Festival and having an actual themed night. They’ve done it very successfully with the Nationals before and we’re going to lean-in on that. And we actually have a brewery hatch for cherry blossom ticket package. So it should be really interesting and I think that’ll get a ton of fans out to it.

We’re also trying, we work with a number of different pride organizations and are trying just a bigger pride night in March as well as an international women’s themed night as part of an MBA initiative. So just really excited to try all those different things out. I think for us, just because of team performance, we really need to lean-in on single game promotions and how we can be very nimble in our messaging. Just because unfortunately, the product in terms of wins is unfortunately, probably not going to be there this year. But I think the excitement still around NBA basketball, and the opponents that we have coming in, it’s still a phenomenal night out on the town and it’s still like leaning in on that. So that’s definitely what we’re looking for for the second half of our season.

 Greg Menna:

For us, we actually begin serving in a more effective manner really just in the past year, to be honest, because we, you know, you we grew quickly from 4 team, when we open the first door to now we open five locations. And that’s a that’s a pretty sizable number. And we and we opened three last year. So we and like I said, like none of us had any experience in the industry. At least I didn’t, Christine actually has, but not in growing like a food concept. We’re not like a restaurant group, we’re not a restaurant group that, you know, had massive backing and like, that’s not where we are. And so we we’ve done everything in a, you know, it’s the most hackneyed word but entrepreneurial manner possible, like just figuring everything out as you go making tons of mistakes and, and learning and constantly reimagining what you’re trying to do and figure out the problems that you have every day and truly, truly an entrepreneurial enterprise. And part of what we found was, is kind of the rub of our product in particular, our survey was like your price is too high. And we were like, ‘Okay, interesting.’ It’s the same price as every other pastry you’ll get at every shelf on any coffee shop. But people think it’s too expensive. Every part of it’s made by hand, but it’s still too expensive, interesting. And so it’s just because the historical price for our product category is like 85 cents, you know?

 So it’s been really interesting to take that information and say, all right, well, then how are we going to deliver the same quality? And so then you’re into this whole other set of considerations. Okay, we have to tell our story effectively, people have to understand what they’re eating and why it’s so much better than other doughnuts and why you won’t feel terrible after you eat one. It’s because it started, you know, 36 hours ago with like, real French fermentation of a real dough. It wasn’t mixed in, you know, 20 minutes. And so telling a story of that, and why we do that, because we want to make something better. We want people to have something that’s ‘Wow, that is so good. And now I have a little bit of joy.’ And so we’re trying to trying to reimagine what a doughnut should be not in a, in a silly way, but just in a this is much better. Everything about it’s better. And so and it’s genuine. And if you go to any of our stores honestly and I’m not afraid to like make this bet, but are like the managers of all of our stores four of the five stores managed by our managed by, by women, like our company is founded upon amazing women that are like that are able to balance treating customers well when they’re treated terribly, which is most of the food industry. And you know, holding staff accountable and like it’s just an amazing thing to watch the effect of that and to see the amazing ways in which our leading ladies have like, have cared for people, our employees cared for customers. It’s really just been amazing and all that, like is the story.

 And so we were just trying to figure out we got to be able to tell the story better because what we’re doing is unbelievable. And what I’ve watched happen as we’ve just tried to grow and continue to be smarter in how we make our product efficiency as any good business This needs to like, and because you got to sell lots of them if they’re $3. And that’s still too expensive. So it’s really an amazing kind of combination of things that to see we have to tell the story really effectively. So that’s what we’re, we’re we’re working on right now is figuring out how do we tell the story really effectively so that it, it really hits the folks that it needs to?

 Melissa Fasano:

I think I can speak to the expensive conversation. You know, we get a lot of that pushback too, I mean, it’s the housing industry, it’s apartments in DC, ouch to your wallet. It’s very expensive in any type of living here in the city, and the outlying areas as well. And so one of the things that we’re really trying to do in 2020 is ensure that we are leading with the value. So the value that you get when you live in a Kettler community. Let’s be honest apartments right now they’re highly amenitized. Our competitors do a fantastic job and ensuring that they are developing these immaculate properties is with everything from full service concierge 24 hours, you know, to package pickup to Amazon lockers, we have that as well. But what we want to lead with is, you know is that value that you’re getting from the interaction that you have with your Kettler employees and your Kettler staff, the friendliness that you experience the community that you become a part of when you move to a Cutler building. That’s something that we’re trying to include in our marketing campaigns for 2020. Making sure that we’re sharing that on our social media channels, making sure that we are sharing that in every opportunity that we have just like a speaking engagement or a groundbreaking like we had yesterday and Florida actually. And so there’s, there’s a lot of opportunities for us. We previously were doing very much strong awareness, you know, trying to put our stake in the ground on social media and say, ‘Hey, we’re Kettler. We’re here.’ But now we’re taking the content and we’re really making a shift. We want to be driving conversion. I mean, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all here for. And so trying to find an opportunity when it comes to real estate marketing, to position ourselves to be providing that conversion and what that ROI looks like for us. So we’re actually turning all of our campaigns in 2020 into those very conversion specific campaigns, trying to get those lead conversions from social media, from email marketing, from any of the interactions that we’re having on site, any of our loyalty and perks programs. So we’re actually rolling that out full scale. So we’re going to pull back a little bit on the awareness, we were still doing a lot of that we’re really using our color off level for that which we love, especially since conversions a little more difficult to track in a grand scale like that. However, we’re targeting our campaigns and ensuring that all of those programs that we’re rolling out have that ultimate end goal.

Julie Zito:

Yeah, so you know, I think part of the questions stop. I don’t think there’s anything we unfortunately can stop doing. You know, we are not only the central marketing, communications division for the university and have a lot of major initiatives that we need to support in every level. But we also serve as sort of a partner agency with a lot of with our internal schools and colleges and division, so I wish there were things that we could stop because I feel like we just keep starting new things. But in terms of the year, I think that, you know, just sort of to Greg’s point, you know, we tell a lot of great stories. We have a lot of amazing stories. We’re very lucky to be very content rich. I mentioned the Smithsonian earlier, the executive director of the Smithsonian Loni Bunch, is a double alumnus of American University. He’s also the first African American executive director of the Smithsonian. Susan zorinsky, CBS president, President CBS News and alumna of AU, so the first woman president of CBS News. First one president of CBS ad sales also is an angel. I’m so we have fantastic stories. We’re not super nimble about telling them quickly. And you know, stories like Loni Bunch are ones that we tell it for time, but there’s also students doing really wonderful things and the moment is gone. And, you know, we sort of catch up to it and then talk about It may be an annual report or strategic plan. So I think that something that we’re talking about in our leadership team is how can we be more nimble, and higher ed is not really typically known to be that fast moving. So it’s something that we’re going to have to kind of reconsider in terms of, you know, how we’re approaching things, the team that’s working on them and how we’re going to get those messages out.

Lauren Leva:

Thank you all. One more quick question before we turn it over to the audience. And this is off the record. Which DC brand Do you love the most besides your own?

 Julie Zito:

The NATS of course. Amazing. Super fun. What a great year. But I’m also going to add Pitango, which I’m a big fan of Pitango. It’s all about food. Greg, right. So yeah, not only do they have an awesome product, but they really work on the actual variance piece. I don’t know how many locations they have, but there may be like five in DC? They have like game nights. They have prosciutto tasting nights. And I went there once and somehow I don’t even remember signing up for an email and I get emails from them all the time, but it’s always like, well, I don’t know. I’ll go to a prosciutto tasting night! Oh, and gelato. Why not? That sounds awesome. So I think they do a good job.

Krista Olson:

I’m really into books so I love Politics and Prose, Kammer’s…I think all of them are just they they’re all are very unique. And I love, like, all the different events that Politics and Prose hosts and [I] have definitely frequented a lot of.

Robin McLean:

I’ll just say, I really shouldn’t answer that question. But I’m, I’m a big shopper. And so I’ll just say Shop Made in DC. Love it.

 Greg Menna:

It doesn’t count as a brand. It’s because it’s just one restaurant. Currently. It’s because I know the chef so well. The Dabney, the chef Jerimiah Langhorne, he’s become a personal friend of mine through really interesting connections that go back to like when I was five. But because I, I feel that if I were an incredibly talented chef, and I could start a really, you know, amazing restaurant, it would be similar. And how he approaches the people that he has on his team and his just amazing attention to detail. That’s what he cares about. And he’s just a genuinely good man. Like he’s not, he doesn’t have an ego. He’s really ingenious and I’ve loved how he approaches, serving people because that’s what he’s trying to do is like, serve people and do it with incredible specificity, according to who he is. So I don’t think he’s trying to do something that’s like contrived, he’s just, the creativity that’s there. It’s simple in some ways, but really imaginative at the same time. So I really like him and I hope, I hope he’s going to continue. I know he’s actually he’s going to open another restaurant. Sounds really cool he was telling me about so, yeah.

Lauren Leva:

Yeah, that’ll be neat. Mellissa? 

Mellisa Fasano:

So mine is actually a person, a local artist, Taylor Kampa, who I believe you probably know. And she’s actually done some fantastic work. Yeah, she so I have to go to Taylor’s I actually went to high school with Taylor Kampa. She’s a phenomenal local artist. If you are not familiar, please look her up. She’s done artwork, obviously for District Doughnut, a little PR play there. But um, she also has been commissioned for a lot of work for all the Washington sports teams. So she’s done. If you haven’t been to Circa in Penn quarter, or I guess Chinatown, I guess we should call it and she actually did all the artwork for the entire inside of the restaurant before it opened. Unbelievable. She’s got you know, art local artists like jazz artists. She’s got Capitals players, she’s got Wizards players, [there’s] a little bit of flavor for everyone. Unbelievable artists and local homegrown from the area. Definitely check her out. Her name is Taylor Kampa.

Lauren Leva:

Thank you all for humoring me with that one. Any questions from the audience for this group? Before we break? Any type of question.

Audience Member:

I’d be interested in the same question but for brands that have been around for a while, we’re in historic city and around for over two centuries. Curious what the panel thinks. [inaudible]

Robin McLean:

I’ll answer that question before anyone else can, but the Smithsonian, I think that fits the bill and it is one of the tent poles still of how we promote the city. All of those museums and the National Zoo are free, and no other city in the world can match that.

Julie Zito:

It’s great for students on a college budget, too. So it’s fantastic draw…AU has been around since 1893. So we’re one of those older brands. You know, I would say, certainly, I would think campus looks very different now than it did then not only the physical space, but the student makeup. You know, we try to evolve with the city as it evolves. It can be you know, there was an earlier question about sort of local trends. And one of the things that affects our students a lot, of course, is, change in the federal government. And for example, with the hiring freeze and the State Department, you know, a few years back that students who came here really to do that and then sort of had to, they’re getting ready to graduate and they had this plan and they have to rethink that. You know, it’s isomething that we definitely feel the change in the city, and how that can change the environment and, you know, people’s aspirations on campus.

 Lauren Leva:

We had a question over here.

Audience Member #2:

I get to be the one talking in the mic. So you all talked a little bit about telling your stories

effectively. But of course, the story is different for each of your brands. And I’m really curious what types of stories you’ve found to be the most effective, not necessarily the channels that you’re using, but actually what stories resonate the most with your demographics?

 Robin McLean:

Sports and food. And I think even going a little more micro to things like rooftops, rooftop experiences in the city is a major one and we can see in the investment from hotels that are under development will be debuting that almost everyone has that type of experience to offer.

Julie Zito:

And there’s a reason for that because they’re amazing views and DC students want to see themselves, you know, in living here being here, you know, working here So, but for graduate students and undergraduate students, it’s, you know, a current student profiles, alumni profiles. You know, we have a student who, well they were at a you as an undergrad started in our incubator, a biodegradable straw. He graduated around right around the time DC bands, straws. So, you know, he’s pretty excited, right? And it kind of started there. So those sorts of stories where people can see themselves and say, like, yeah, maybe I’m not gonna invented by a degradable straw, but maybe I’m going to, you know, do this other thing. So that’s what we tend to focus on alumni and current students. 

Melissa Fasano:

We, we find that home brand is actually really interesting to our residents. It seems like everybody is very interested in the content that’s about, you know, what does your home look like? I want to see a home tour, how are you designing your apartment, small space living? These are all topics that I never really thought about till I became a part of the multifamily industry, but they’re very relevant. I mean, if you think about your day to day life, whether you’re in a single family, home row home or apartment, community, work, condo, you know, you’re constantly or maybe not constantly, but at some point in your journey, you’re looking into ways that you can showcase your personal brand in your home brand. And we find that that content really resonates with our audience.

 Krista Olson:

Yours is definitely like behind the scenes content, anything that gets somebody into a locker room. I think the other thing which is exceptional for both the WNBA and the NBA is that we had Natasha Cloud and Bradley Beal represented as the community leaders for the entire league. They were they both received that award. And just the impact of both of those groups and the things that they’re doing out in the community especially in Morty is down content that people are resonating with but also because it’s relevant to their lives.

Lauren Leva:

So thank you all so much. This is a really great discussion about DC brand. And I think everyone will be here afterwards to answer questions if anyone has any follow ups, but thank you all.

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