Marketing Your Listing By Exploiting Anne Frank Is Just Gross

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When New Mexico builder Abrazo Homes named its floor plans after iconic historical women, it ignited a social media firestorm. Here’s why using celebrities and cultural figures without permission to market your business is such a bad idea.

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By now, you may have seen the New Mexico builder Abrazo Homes, which took some heat on social media this week for naming their new construction floor plans after women celebrities and significant historical figures.

Using figures like Anne Frank and Harriet Tubman to market and style floor plan descriptions is inappropriate. Not only is it in poor taste, but honestly, it’s lazy and a possible legal liability, using potentially trademarked names to sell homes for profit.

When I think of the accomplishments and bravery of these women, a commercial, box-style, tract-built home in the desert certainly doesn’t come to mind.

Honoring this brave woman by talking about a bar top and walk-in closets? That’s disrespectful.

Management claims that the floor plans were meant to honor their namesakes, but considering that they also had a set of home floor plans named after their favorite specialty beers, you have to wonder how much honor and respect went into selecting the names.

In a statement to The New York Times, Brian McCarthy, a co-founder of Abrazo Homes, said the company decided to name floor plans after influential women when it was founded 14 years ago to “acknowledge their place in history.”

“We recognize that the language used in the plan description is insufficient and understand how it might come across as insensitive and lacking awareness,” McCarthy told The New York Times in an email on Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate that this oversight has diminished our sincere efforts to pay homage to some of the most remarkable women in history.”

Exploitation is the act of profiting from mistreating someone and profiting or benefiting from their work. Using names of prominent historical women figures is an exploitation of their accomplishments, not an honor.

Trademark laws also need to be considered. State-by-state laws govern the right of publicity which dictates how a person’s name and likeness can be used for commercial purposes without their consent.

I’m pretty sure Marilyn Monroe wouldn’t want her moniker slapped on a cookie-cutter house in New Mexico; she can’t even catch a break from the men trying to take advantage of being close to her in her final resting place.

Being unfamiliar with the potential legal implications of a move like this could mean severe financial penalties for your business. The right of publicity can be violated when a company uses a celebrity’s name or likeness for advertising purposes without their explicit permission.

What’s the lesson?

  • Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you should. You will definitely get what you pay for.
  • If you have the budget for it, hire professionals to do your marketing. Hire a PR team to run marketing campaigns and create checks and balances.
  • Be original. Don’t use someone else’s names, ideas or accomplishments for your profit.
  • Your perspective does not constitute all of the varied perspectives of the general public, and they are not necessarily inclusive of diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

Abrazo founders Brian McCarthy and Mackenzie Bishop describe themselves this way: “Our customer-first mentality and ability to laugh at Brian’s jokes make our world so much fun. Some may see our light and fresh atmosphere as a little unorthodox, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Sorry guys, I don’t think this is the least bit funny. Do better. This feels like a jokester culture run amok. Using women for financial gain isn’t a good look.

Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing and business on Instagram.



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