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Random thoughts

We asked people who stay at Four Seasons Hotels whether they would rather have their room cleaned or $10 off the room rate on their next trip…

And they told us! Nearly 7 out of 10 said they would rather have the $10! What does this mean for the hotel industry? What does this mean for the maids who perform the housekeeping services? Good lord!

 

Check out the study — there’s a lot of detail, and we can provide more specifics on request.


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Filed under: Hospitality and Tourism, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Furniture giant IKEA to enter European design hotel market. ~ Thursday, 16th August 2012 from 4Hoteliers

Furniture giant IKEA to enter European design hotel market. ~ Thursday, 16th August 2012 from 4Hoteliers.

No, really? Seriously? Are the rooms flat-packed and designed for self-assembly with one critical part missing from each box? Will they name the room types with moronic quasi-Scandinavian monikers and serve Swedish meatballs in the cafeteria.

Can’t wait!

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , ,

Abandon The Real World At Your Peril: Lessons from the Rosseau Marriott Trenches

Hand over your tips or else, posh Muskoka hotel warns staff – thestar.com.

Muskoka resort backs down on plan to take portion of staffers’ tips — the star.com

The latest exercise in near fatal brandicide committed by the Rosseau Muskoka (Ontario) Marriott offers interesting lessons to all of us, on many levels.

The story is quite usual:” posh hotel needs money, sees opportunity, grabs it, thinks”. The somewhat sordid details, that the hotel saw the opportunity in the tips of a certain class of employees (spa staff — not even much money there) and determined to make a grab for them, are perhaps less usual, especially given the reality that this would reduce the income of the staff. Or that it would convert a voluntary gratuity into a mandatory 20% add-on to the price (plus sales tax, which brings what is an effective price increase to 23%, if my math is right — this kind of price increase by stealth is anathema to consumers, but more on that another time).

We don’t need to go into the bizarre executional overtones (sending the employees a letter saying they are welcome to quit of they don’t like it…hello?), or the timing (a private-member’s bill is sitting in the provincial legislature — State Assembly — to forbid hotels and restaurants from pooling tips, sharing tips out with other classes of employees or taking a small admin fee for processing tips on credit cards — Premier Dalton McGuintyseeks a ban on “tipping out” to the boss.).

What is particularly interesting is the medium!

The story was based on a tip (no pun intended) received by a daily newspaper; it was published in a daily newspaper and took on a life of its own in a daily newspaper. The Star has a daily circulation something north of 600,000, so it is no surprise that the front page article was noticed.

And here’s the lesson: do not forget the power of traditional media! While dozens of Marriott denizens were arduously watching the twitter sphere so they could nip threats just like this in the bud, they overlooked the traditional media. Clearly no plan was in place to deal with the negative upshot (while, I bet, much thought had been given to the question of how to deal with the negative backlash in social media). But the damage that the front page of the daily newspaper seen by 600,000 plus people can do is quantitatively greater than the damage even millions of tweets can do.

Why? Because social media can be managed. The hotel, or the brand (should they wish to distance themselves from this, as, in this instance, they should) can direct information, explanations, loyalty points and all kinds of mitigations, directly at the people who are interested. Unfortunately, the people who are interested, the people who tweet about this stuff, are not the people who count — very few of them could or would spend $300/night in a hotel. The people who do buy $300 night hotel rooms see the newspaper headlines, even if they don’t read the stories.

People tweet from their slow thinking brain — that is, they tweet as a result of rational thinking. But people judge hotel brands in their fast thinking brains: judgement, response, brand evaluation, whatever we call it, is not rational. It is an outcome of myriad information sourced consciously and unconsciously from myriad sources. Even if the headline is not consciously registered, it may well be stored away in the depths of our brains to be used as fodder for ultimate evaluation of whether the brand is one we want to be associated with or not. This accidental informing of our opinions is not likely to happen on twitter.

To add to this, these negative headlines are absorbed in the absence of any balancing positive information. If the only unconscious information we are absorbing about the brand is this negative stuff, then it is likely that our positive emotional opinion of the brand will be eroded. Not immediately, but over time.

It’s nice to think we can manage the world online: a world in which we can control from a dash-board everything our specific “target” (as metrically determined by unending data mining and on-line  behavioral correlations) sees and learns about our brand. And then we can “interact” with them, set them straight on misinformation that accidentally seeps through the cracks in our “relationship”.

But this is not the world we live in.  Punters (customers in Englandish), are constantly subjected to messages out of our control in the real world they inhabit. and by abandoning the real world in favour of total focus on the digital world, we open ourselves up to the kind of damage this story has probably done to brand Marriott.

Filed under: Hospitality and Tourism, , , , ,

Sears Canada names Unitas as new AOR | Has the world gone barking mad

Sears Canada names Unitas as new AOR | Marketing Magazine.

Nobody, really, had ever heard of Unitas Reputation Management/Services/Communication/Agency (their online SEA doesn’t seem to include focus), except presumably the wise men at Sears. But it’s nice and it’s a start-up and their “context” is, of course, brilliant (who would have thought of trying to get enthusiasm for the clients among “all the people who influence their success – customers, employees, allies* and investors?) Of course, it’s entirely possible that searching for these search experts will lead to another Unitas Communication Reputation Management agency, altogether, but that’s probably an intentional oversight.

Try to guess which Unitas is the Unitas Sears are hooking up with. It’s hard to believe that these guys did not Google the name to see how many other companies by the name of Unitas co-opted the “Reputation Management” discipline (from its original PR application and it’s down market cousin, “Online Reputation Management”).

Actually, there can be no doubt that Unitas Communication (US) Unitas Reputation (Canada — see, I got it finally, communication versus reputation, not confusing at all) are excellent at managing reputation and creating enthusiasm (although, to be honest, again, I thoroughly doubt the Canadian version has any clue how to change the culture of an organization as culturally entrenched as Sears, but, hey, it’s worth a try).

But, whatever happened to retail marketing! What makes great retailers great? It starts with unique, relevant merchandise. Ask the Sears hardware and automotive merchandisers. If you don’t sell it, they won’t buy it, no-matter how enthusiastic you or anybody else is. Then, it’s useful to be where the customer is, location, both real and virtual. Then, it’s important to tell the potential customers that you have the stuff they want (and stuff they don’t want — remember surprise and delight) where they want to buy it. this is an old-fashioned idea, called advertising (call it whatever you want, but it’s advertising and without it you’re fxcked). Then, you need to manage the relative value proposition: is the sticker price they pay right taking into account the quality of the merchandise, the satisfaction (may I say it, enjoyment) of the experience, the after-sales promise and all of this relative to the competition.

Brand is the degree to whether this entire experience is positively imbeded as an expectation — if it is, you will be heard and believed, if not, you will be ignored or, worse, disbelieved, disdained and dismissed. Enthusiastically, probably.

Internal branding — not a new idea at all — is critical at all phases, because of the importance of the experience. But so is advertising, brand and tactical. Or, perhaps none of them — take Costco as an example, they do neither and they’re not doing too badly.

My point? It’s just plain weird for a retailer whose business is falling through the floor (or not — Sears business falls and rises like a yo-yo) to hire an agency that prides itself on the po-mo fad of “reputation” management, and to do this over the phone without benefit of a review!!

I might agree with the man from Sears that they can’t advertise their way out of the hole (or not-hole). But they can’t reputationise themselves out of it either. A real review, based on a real brief resulting from deep and honest soul-searching, among the leading experts in retail turnaround (and, if they aren’t in Canada, then wherever they are) would have been the right thing to do: right by the people who work for them who (in addition to being enthusiastic) want to be employed; right by the shareholders who have some legitimate concerns that they are expressing in radical ways (and if this is about a LBO, then they are even more in the wrong direction — think “fill the till”); right by the communities they are in (that can really do without losing more jobs and stores); right by the country (we really don’t need to see another brand bite the dust); and, of course, right by their customers (who, let’s face facts, in the end don’t give a damn because they can always get exactly the same stuff elsewhere — except maybe with less enthusiasm).

In honour of the time-honoured tradition of go and see what the people who are winning are doing, Sears might wander over to The Bay and see what they’re doing. I doubt Bonnie Brooks or Richard Baker (Lord and Taylor and HBC) will be turning over their marketing communications and consumer strategy to a “reputation agency” on the basis of a phone call. But then, perhaps the enthusiasm for success at the management level is such that they are fixated with getting it right the first time.

One other point of free advice: if this is about Target, then forget about high-minded meaningless “reputation management” crap and get back to basics with a new, exciting and revolutionary twist. Ask yourself: how many people who have been to Target start off by saying “I was in a store that was so amazing, you have to go there, it has incredibly enthusiastic people” [actually, if anything, the Target people are its weak point]. The answer is NONE, ZIP, NADA. But how many people say: “I was in Target and they had the most incredible selection of exactly what I was looking for. And the prices were really great. And then I saw this outfit, wow, I was amazed, didn’t think they had it. And have you seen their ads.”

*By the way, what’s with this “Allies” silliness in the “context”?

Filed under: Are they stupid or just mean: design idiocy in action, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Surely We’ve Figured Social Media Out by Now

I have just returned from a really serious, important Branding Roundtable. The smartest branders (or, as the English roundtablers called them, Marketeers) discussed hospitality marketing in the most serious, sometimes academic terms (it was, after all, hosted at Cornell University, by the Center for Hospitality Research). We learned many things, and we taught many things. All in all, time very well spent.

But, this is the second year in a row I have attended this, and I have attended myriad similar conferences and round tables and symposia in this and other categories, in the US< Canada and  other countries, over the past four years. maybe five. And there is one constant. One conversation that has not changed in content, tone, volume, intensity, or anything. And that is: Social Media and “we know this is changing the world, but we don’t understand it and how to do it.” Every time, every where, we hear the same mantra: we don’t understand Social Media but it is very important and we need to understand it. A subtext: we need to use it more, but not like everybody else is using it. we need to be “strategic” (unlike everybody else). And yet, when asked what being strategic means, we hear , “we don’t understand it yet….”

Okay. I get it. But I don’t.

"According to a research done by AAL, there are a billion social media experts on the internet. Do you know what do they do on a daily basis? After “interviewing” more than 20 (actually none) experts, this is what I found out."
This comes from a brilliant blog by Aaron Lee -- click on the image to link to her post.

We do understand it. Many companies are strategic. Many companies do utilize the various SM options tactically to generate sales. Many companies think of Twitter as a wonderful way of finding our what people are thinking about them; spreading news, etc.

So, let’s all make a deal: we will never say the following words in our out loud voice: “we don’t understand social media.” Let’s also make a pact to stop saying that everybody else is not using Social Media strategically. If we think this, then we’re not paying attention to what other companies are doing!

On another, but similar point, we can now stop patronizing youth. We say — and I am referring to “marketeers” — that we need to get a a handle on “young people” who have grown up completely digitally and live completely differently from anything we have experienced. And we need to listen to them about their “new world,” etc. Yes, people growing up these days used technology forma younger age than people growing up before them. But, and they will be the first to agree (I know, I personally called every young person and asked them) that this digital difference does not define them. They do not spend all their waking moments doing incomprehensible “digitalism’ on Facebook and

Twitter. They do “digitalistic” things, like texting, when they are with friends or in class. But, they also talk to friends in person, go to movies, watch TV, read books (okay, okay, they do it on ipads, except they don’t really if you look at the penetration of digital readers compared to the total number of people who read). They laugh, cry and wonder about the world around them. they have no greater comprehension of the qwerty keyboard than anybody else; and their thumbs are still roughly the same size as anybody else’s in spite of texting on tiny keyboards. They don’t really expect everything to happen instantly, even if some things, like texting somebody, can indeed happen quickly. They shop. They buy stuff that makes them happy and they buy stuff that they hate and that they think is crap and return it to the store. They listen to their friends’ advice on what to buy and then make their own decisions. They are exposed to advertising and remember clever tag lines and jingles (yes, jingles!).  They also smoke, drink and do drugs, which is about as analog as you can get!

Mostly, they are tired of being patronized by a generation of marketeers that has too much time on its collective hands!

One final plea: please don’t turn “today’s patronized youth” into a sociological/marketing insight.

There…now you know. And if you are seriously interested in who does this right, look at stores like Canadian Tire or their sister brand Sport Check.

Filed under: Are they stupid or just mean: design idiocy in action, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Is Behavioral Economics Really a Game Changer for Marketers?

Much has been written, and said, lately about the impact of behavioral economics on marketing. Some pay no attention to it, some fear it and some adapt it to their own particular cause. But, in reality, does behavioral economics really change anything?

Read more about this at the CMA Blog. Click here (or anywhere, actually)

Filed under: Behavioral Economics, , , , , , , , , ,

Human Dominoes…why not

Okay, so human dominoes is not the most watchable feat of human strength, but it is among the silliest. On the other hand, it’s for a good cause, and, most notably, it’s an initiative of a hotel company that is almost totally altruistic. One comment from the youtube version rally sums it up: (from jeffmacdonald62: “It was more than amazing. I’m so proud of my company!”

I wish I came up with initiatives that make people proud of their company — imagine the savings in “internal branding” and other exercises in convincing associates to live the brand!

HOTELSMag.com – Daily News.

Filed under: Hospitality and Tourism, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Selling Luxury 2: Superyacht Ownership in the Post Recession Era

Big boats: Offshore finance | The Economist.

This article in The Economist points out the almost sorry state of the superyacht category. only 173 sold last year, down 27 from the year before. This is unfortunate for the makers of superyachts and it is a sign of the times.

More notably, however, is the fact that Roman Abromovich has been reduced to renting out his $660 million boat (including crew of 75) to members of the lumpen proletariat for around $2 million/week.

The article also points out that some superyacht owners send their captains to Tunisia to fill up on cheap gas — the Paul-Allen-Money* equivalent of going to Buffalo to buy gas.

* If you don’t know the expression “Paul Allen Money,” I’m afraid you will have to go to the linked article to find out.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Archetypes of Adventurers

Adventure Travel – National Geographic Adventure Blog.

This is an interesting discussion of the typologies of adventurers framed in Jungian archetypes — this sounds a lot more technical than it is.  The author presents a simplified and highly readable introduction to atchetypes, without mentioning Jung even once!

Inner Directives, our Jungian Archetype segmentation system, has been used in exactly this manner on exactly this topic by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). As part of the branding exercise we undertook for CTC, we segmented potential visitors to Canada into archetypes using MBTI and applied these findings to the marketing potential for different types of activities (or, roughly, the different regions of Canada).

Archetype segmentation is not a rigid science, but rather an almost qualitative approach to understanding the unconscious drives that motivate choice. It delivers insights that get to the heart of people and motivations and, as this article demonstrates, allows for colourful, actionable descriptions of customers (in this case adventurers) and their relation to the brand (in this case “adventure”).

As an aside, it was this process that led to a clear distinction between “:tourists” and “travelers,” which has subsequently become on e of the underpinnings of travel positioning in Canada and other parts of the world.

Filed under: Behavioral Economics, Hospitality and Tourism, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Study: Only 1% of Facebook ‘Fans’ Engage With Brands

This is really long URL, but worth it — for those of us who have questioned the blind faith in the power of social media to “build relationships” with brands that (presumably, although never explicitly stated) result in increased sales, true-loyalty, brand ambassadorships and so on, this piece of research is enlightening.

However, just because only 1 out of every 200 people who “like” the brand actually create any content about it, does not mean that the whole facebook exercise is pointless. But, the point of the Facebook exposure is, ultimately the same as any other exposure: exposure!

And, as I have written here before, exposure and frequency of exposure is key to building brands. Engagement, though nice, does not actually build brands (it may deepen relationships, although some may also question the point of this as well). But the idea that thousands of people see the brand, maybe feel something about the brand, is certainly worthwhile.

So, keep up the good work on Facebook!

http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=5568699569434271756&gid=31804&type=member&item=91677100&articleURL=http%3A%2F%2Fadage%2Ecom%2Farticle%2Fdigital%2Fstudy-1-facebook-fans-engage-brands%2F232351%2F&urlhash=x6GC&goback=%2Egde_31804_member_91677100

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

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