Hospitality Brand Management, Marketing, Advertising, PR, and other fortuitous thoughts.

Airlines' Napkin Positioning

Jan 28, 2007 0 comments
Following the notion that a business’ marketing strategy is only what the customer sees, I decided to find different airlines’ positioning based on the one thing every airline customer inevitably has to see: that napkin they give you along with your in-flight beverage service.

Here’s what I’ve found so far in terms of napkins and other communications a traveler might see:


Napkin A:

  • Front: United. Thank you for flying United. We’re glad you’re here.
  • Back: Low Fare Guarantee. Find the lowest United fares at, plus no booking fees.

Napkin B:

  • Front: United. Thank you for flying United. We’re glad you’re here.
  • Back: More legroom than any other U.S. airline. United Economy Plus.

The front always seems to be a thank you message. Very nice of them; however, I don’t believe this is communicating their positioning to me at all. On the back, they try to sell you a somewhat unique benefit, either a better product (Economy plus, which you pay extra for, or their lowest fare guarantee).



  • Front: AAdvantage 25th Anniversary. Earn AAdvantage Award Travel with the Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage World master Card or the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Card. See our special limited-time offer in American Way magazine! Or visit (Citi logo / AAdvantage logo / Master Card logo)
  • Back: Blank.

Safety Video:

  • American’s safety video begins and ends with the same music they use on their “We know why you fly” TV ad campaign. If you have seen the commercial, you’ll remember it onboard.

American Airlines gave up the opportunity to communicate directly to their customers on their napkin and sold it off to Citibank. Since I’m a fan of their TV ads, I liked them using that signature music on their music videos.



  • Front & Back: Delta. SkyTeam. New and expanded service to more cities around the world.

Boarding Pass:

  • The back of the boarding pass reads: Visit a location nowhere near you today. Now flying to more than 400 destinations worldwide.

Keep Delta MY Delta

  • Last December and January I walked through the gates of the Cincinnati Airports to find a number of signs against the US Air merger. Not only where these in the hallways, but on the buttons flight attendants wore and on the screens over the ticketing counter (even after the merger talks were off).

Song’s cups and seat bag:

  • I recently flew aboard a 767 on my way to Honolulu and was greeted with many artifacts suggesting this was an old Song airplane, Delta’s failed attempt at the low cost carrier category. Even when I applaud their effort to not waste these utensils, they only reminded me of exactly that: Delta’s failed attempt at the low-cost carrier category. The plastic cups could’ve been better used at an employee lounge.

I like the fact that Delta center around one positioning (being able to fly to many destinations) throughout. Even while I understand their strategic purpose, the Keep Delta My Delta posters (and website) worry me in terms of how they tie to an overall branding strategy. What will happen if they can’t stop the merger?


On my way from NYC to Newark Airport on January 2007 I saw 2 Continental billboards. One read “Flying really is at your finger tips.” and a second reading, “Blankets, Pillows, Meals… y’know, service.” I specially liked the second one, which truly communicates a unique selling proposition.

US Airways:

In November 2006, I boarded a US Airways flight to Miami. When I opened the service table I found that it had turned from the place where I put my laptop and peanuts to a full size ad for Splenda. I guess this eye-sore seemed like a good way to make a few bucks for the airline who’s ticker (LCC) claims it to be a Low-Cost-Carrier.

Hotel Branding Resolution for 2007: DIFFERENTIATION

Jan 9, 2007 1 comments
In the past couple of days my inbox has been flooded with articles about industry resolutions: Hotel technology resolutions, ad agency resolutions, marketers’ resolutions, and hotel marketing resolutions. But brand differentiation is more important to hotel marketers than any ‘get in shape’ or ‘quit smoking’ resolution. John S. Fareed from Fareed and Zapala Marketing Partners makes a great argument for it. (click here for article)

Currently there exists hyper-competition in the hotel market. According to Dr. Chekitan S. Dev, from Cornell University, there are over 200 hotel brands in the U.S. market, and we are seeing a new brand per week.

Never has brand differentiation been more important. Never has standing out in your guests’ mind with a unique story to tell been so necessary. How will your brand tell that story?

All Hotel Marketing Looks the Same!

Jan 3, 2007 1 comments

As I said, the purpose of this blog is to showcase what’s new in hotel and hospitality marketing. So let me begin by saying that, to me, all hotel marketing strategies look the same. It seems that it has become a mouse and cat game, where one company will come up with a promotion or new strategy, only to have it copied by everyone else.

What is the effect of this? The danger is that all of these hotel brands will blur together in the consumer’s mind, and we will end up with commoditized brands within each category. Why should I stay at the Hyatt, when the Marriott has just as nice beds? Or why should I stay at the InterContinental and get double loyalty points, when I can stay at the Hilton and get points & miles? Or how will I differentiate an ad from the Ritz or One&Only or The Peninsula when they are all very similar in black and white?

Why are all hotel companies telling the same story as everyone in their competitive set?
Want to see some examples? Let us look at the past years, where we have seen the loyalty wars, the bed wars, and the experiential marketing wars.

The Loyalty Wars:

The loyalty card started out as a way for hotel brands to reward their most valuable customers, gain their loyalty, and get rid of some underutilized inventory. This ended up being an increased cost for the properties and an expensive point of parity with the competition.

Where is the true value for a loyalty-card member? In how fast she can get free nights. Hotel companies realized this, and tried to make this process faster by giving more points:

  • Between September & December 2006 Inercontinental’s Priority Club offered double-points.
  • Hilton’s HHonors program offers Double Dipping: where you can get loyalty points and miles at the airline of your choice. At times, they’ll even give you double points AND double miles!
  • What’s better than double? Triple! This winter, Starwood’s SPG program is offering triple Starpoints at various properties throughout the US.
  • Did someone say Quadruple? Best Western did, when it offered Quadruple miles back in 2003. I haven’t seen this promotion since then, but it was a bold statement.

Instead of loyalty, or differentiation, you get your target audience for this message, loyalty-point junkies, to make their hotel decision based on where she will get the most points.

The Bed Wars

It all started back in 1999, when Westin introduced the Heavenly Bed; improving their hotel rooms with high-end, comfortable beds, and centered their marketing around that. Soon enough, everyone else followed:

  • Hyatt introduced its luxurious Hyatt grand bed ®
  • Marriott has its Marriott Bed advertised in airports around the country.

The next step was to sell the guest the bed. That way, you could have the Westin experience at home. Soon enough, now, you can buy your own Hyatt and Marriott bed as well.
And it even moved to the mid-scale market where, now, even a Hampton Inn has an amazing bed!

  • Radisson partnered with the Sleep Number Bed® and introduced it to its properties.
  • Holiday Inn Express recently spent $53 million on its Simply Smart Bedding Collection®.

Instead of a point of differentiation (which it was for Westin for a couple years), a good bed became a point of parity. I do not think that there is anything wrong with making sure that the product is good; but centering your marketing around that, just because the competition did it, is a different story.

Experiential Marketing

So once we all realized that the product was good (at least the bed) across all major brands; marketers moved to showcasing the experience of traveling. And the experience of staying at a hotel with a loved one, with your family, or the relaxation it brings.

The problem? Every luxury brand began doing it, and it has crept down market.

  • Every ad and/or website began showcasing either couples or relaxation.
  • Everyone began using black and white photography to better depict emotion.
  • Ritz-Carlton’s homepage welcomes you with black & white photography; so does One&Only’s.
  • The Peninsula, came out with their own black and white photography collection.

What’s next?

Starwood has positioned itself as a lifestyle company. It will be interesting to see the effect that this will have in the long-term and how successful they will be able at protecting that positioning.

The real question is how will hotel companies be able to tell a unique story and how executable will that be? Particularly when these hotel brands’ product is actually owned and sometimes managed by a different company. How will each brand differentiate itself from the competition when all of its properties are so different and unique themselves?

hospitality brand

Hospitality Brand Management, Marketing, Advertising, PR, and other fortuitous thoughts.


This blog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employers or clients. It is solely my opinion.