Hospitality Brand Management, Marketing, Advertising, PR, and other fortuitous thoughts. News of the Week

Dec 11, 2011 0 comments

The Hotel "Social Lobby" Trend Goes Mainstream and Ceases to be a Competitive Advantage

Dec 8, 2011 1 comments

A decade ago, hotels began differentiating themselves from their competition by reinventing their lobbies as social spaces, introducing unique f&b concepts, promoting lively lounge bars, and even reducing the size of the front desk to increase guest interaction.   These properties began to define their brands by their hotels' social lobby design; however, today's USA TODAY article Hotel lobbies become multi-use spaces details how every major brand now features "social lobbies".  Any hotel defining their brand by their "social lobbies" is no longer differentiated.  The "social lobby", just like the specialty beds of last decade, has gone from being a point of differentiation to being a point of parity.

The predecessor of the modern hotel were the Inns & Public Houses of years back--a place of social gathering for locals and travelers alike.  When Atlanta's Hyatt Regency Hotel opened in 1967, it was the first atrium hotel to be built, influencing hotel design for the following decade.  The opening of this hotel signaled the climax of hotels being a place of "social gathering".  This quickly changed in the 1980's as architectural and real estate efficiency became the name of the game, turning the hotel lobby into a check-in/check-out, transactional building feature.

The pendulum swung back a little over 10 years ago, when boutique hotels changed the traditional design of their lobbies, turning them into restaurants, bars, lounges, and general places of merriment.  W Hotels then branded this concept and rolled out hotels around the world, as the revenue potential was realized its parent company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and their competitors began redesigning their lobbies across multiple brands.  Based on past research and today's article--aside from a multitude of independent hotels--the following brands have already launched "social lobby" concepts:

Marriot Hotels
W Hotels
Le Meridien
Holiday Inn
Hilton Hotels
Hilton Garden Inn
Hyatt House

Hotel designers around the world have taken note and added "social lobby" as a required building specs.

READ MORE "social lobby" coverage on >> News of the Week

Dec 3, 2011 0 comments

The Power of the Loyalty Program

Nov 29, 2011 0 comments
Image  courtesy of American Airlines
Today's chapter 11 announcement by American Airlines is a strong reminder of the power of customer loyalty and most importantly, of the contemporary significance of the frequent flyer program.

To provide a little bit of background, American's AAdvantage program is credited as being the first loyalty program in the world, having launched in 1981. Currently, it is one of the largest (if not the largest) of such programs with 67 million members.

Fast forward to today: American Airline's parent company AMR has filled for Chapter 11, and AA sent an email to all it's AAdvantage members. What is immediately clear from that email is that AA wants everyone to know that (a) their miles are safe and (b) the program will not be altered as part of these reorganization procedures.

See the  entire letter Here

Airlines enter into Bankruptcy through what seems to be a never-ending revolving door. The real news is that their frequent flyers programs are never touched, highlighting the amount of brand equity + trust deposited in them and the fiscal value inherit in them. Aside from the customer loyalty aspect of these programs, they maintain open important revenue generating opportunities with credit card companies, retailers, other airlines, hotels, etc. through point-exchange partnerships.

How much are these programs worth? In 2005, Air Canada sold 12.5% of its Aeroplan program for $250 million, which would value the whole program at $2000 million (Note that this was only for a small program with 4.5 million members). We could use these numbers to project an estimated value for the AAdvantage program of at least $29.8 billion dollars--that is a significantly low estimate, as it only takes into account subscription numbers, and not it's other revenue producing partnerships.

This leaves us at the main point. As it turns out, it can actually be less damaging to a brand to renegotiate with its lenders than to negotiate with its frequent flyers + loyalty program partners....

Brand Management is Revenue Management, move them to the same department.

Aug 26, 2011 1 comments
If every encounter a customer has with the brand either helps or hurts the brand value, then everything in a business comes back to brand management. And if the goal is to maximize revenues, then brand management is revenue management. This is why these two roles should be moved into the same department to enhance collaboration.

As the recent article, Reputation management is Revenue management, hotel industry is starting to see the power of this relationship between Branding and Revenue Mgt... just starting. But even five years ago the people in charge of brand management (at the corporate or property level rarely ever talked to the Revenue managers. They were secluded to opposite sides of the building, the brand and marketing people seen as 'those people who have their heads in the clouds while everyone else does the work' and the revenue folks on the other side were 'those people who crunch the numbers while everyone else does the work'. Unfortunately, this is still the case in many organizations today, a result of Revenue Management being moved into its own department, to keep the Sales Department accountable, and Marketing continued to be grouped with Sales (in many cases under sales).

The problem of having Brand Marketing under Sales is that the Sales Department typically services a laundry list of corporate, MICE, leisure and group accounts... Rarely do any of these accounts generate more than 5-10% of revenues. Having Sales focused on so many small clients can diverge a Branding Strategy from having a top level approach. The benefit of having Branding and Marketing grouped with Revenue Management is that you can take market feedback from Social Media, Sales' different accounts, Competitive Pricing, Historical performance, and Forecasted performance when creating an ongoing Marketing Strategy and targeted campaigns. The most important point is that these campaigns would be more closely watched and it's effectiveness measured.

We have recently seen various examples of the effectiveness of marketing campaigns being created quickly when the branding and revenue management teams work closely together. Recently shown by Starwood's W Hotels when they were the first to market with a "New York Same Sex Marriage Package" only days after the court ruling.

Let's be honest a lot of revenue managers out there are already doing a lot of Branding tasks, weather it be servicing OTA accounts, managing property descriptions online or on GDS, deciding weather or not to participate in OTA or Corporate campaigns, tracking competitive rates, market share, and vying for better placement online. The goal would be to increase the efficiency of information flow within the organization and outward to the consumer. As Josiah Mackenzie mentioned in the aforementioned article, Reputation management is Revenue management, the opportunity is to, "take these analytics and do something more creative," move the information flow closer together by grouping Branding and Revenue Mgt together, and you can use all of the different feedback sources to do something more creative, FASTER, before your competitors.

What is The Ritz Carlton Reserve Brand?

Jul 20, 2011 0 comments
Photo Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company  
With recent news of the second Ritz Carlton Reserve property set to open in December 2012 as the Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico, the question is:  What is the Ritz Carlton Reserve Brand?

The announcement of the brand came in 2007, when it was described as:

A departure for Ritz-Carlton in size and scope, The Reserve brand will feature signature, one-of-a-kind boutique resorts located in choice settings, each with a distinctive personality and sense of place... The Reserve brand will be distinguished from other award-winning Ritz-Carlton resorts by offering guests' exotic, hand-selected "hideaway" destinations; a relaxed, casually elegant atmosphere; and an even greater level of individualized service through a higher staff to guest ratio. (source)

In short, this is a brand extension of smaller hotels (around 100 rooms), distinct destinations, and higher level of service.   Today's description has not changed much, although there is a bigger emphasis on sustainability.  The brand currently has one hotel in operation, The Phulay Bay A Ritz Carlton Reserve in Krabi, Thailand.  Two other future developments have been announced:  one in Binh Dinh, Vietnam and a second in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Interesting to note is that each property will have its individual name + logo , and will simply attach "A Ritz Carlton Reserve" at the end of it.  From a customer point of view, this highlights the hotel's individuality, personality, and services.

For hotel owners/developers, does this mean that there is a lower management fee compared to a typical Ritz Carlton given the discreet Ritz branding?  Not a lot of information available on the Marriott Development site about this.

Oyster's in-photo booking engine. Gets them to the call to action fast!

Jun 28, 2011 0 comments has launched Oyster Shots, with the ability to browse hotels by their pictures and not based on where they are geographically (ie their city).   Instead, the user is invited to scroll through hotels grouped in photo categories such as:  beaches, balconies, kid friendly hotels, luxury bathrooms, cabanas, etc.  Even better, you can see the hotel's average rate (not sure how they are calculating this) and click to book right from the page.  

This is getting advertised as an in-picture booking engine, which is not.  You cannot input your dates and see rates right from the picture, but its very close to being one; however, it is a very well positioned call to action.  More importantly, it highlights the importance placed by customers and retailers on getting the call to action in as many places and as easily accessible as possible.  

If you are a hotelier and your website does not have a booking engine, which is prominent,  on every single page, its time to update your site.  If you do, how about having it right on your pictures? on your maps? on your amenities? your videos?

Continental and United Merge on Twitter... it's official now

May 20, 2011 0 comments

I never thought it would happen, but it did.  United and Continental Airlines have officially completed their merger, in twitter at least.  Merging airline systems is a complicated, long, and tactical task.  According to a recent New York Times article, Delta and Northwest had to swiftly integrate 1,200 separate systems while going through their own merger.

One would think that, at the very least, merging twitter accounts would be one easy integration to get right.  But it didn't turn out that way for Continental/United.  In the process of merging handles they have lost the over 337 thousand followers the old individual accounts had.  The new account @united only had around 6,000 followers today.  Starting from scratch on twitter would seem like the right thing to do if they were trying to set up a new brand identity, but that can't be the case when you keep the United name and the Continental livery.

The photograph after the jump shows the master merger guide Delta used at their headquarters back in 2008.  Each post-it showed a project that needed to be completed.  Nice to see that the "post-it on the wall" is still the preferred project management tool out there.

When Social Media is Mean

Apr 22, 2011 0 comments
Photo: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Sean Durham
Why must we forget all Marketing Principles and our Brand Voice when it comes to Social Media? 

My lady was stuck at an airport during a snow storm on her way home last December with minimum information.  I quickly turned to twitter to find out more; what I found was a picture of the plane she was supposed to be in, snowed in at the tarmac.  She had been at the airport for over 8 hours by that point.  I wanted information on how many planes where landing/taking off, etc. as the airport's flight status web page was not being updated.  

Turns out, sometimes too much information is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to social media, you never know who might be watching.  

Full screen caps from twitter at the bottom--her plane actually took off about 4 hours after the time mentioned below:

Telling your CEO he's not allowed to have a twitter account

Feb 25, 2011 0 comments
Photo: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Dustin Diaz
When do you tell him?  A couple months after he opens his account, the "cool" wears off as he stops logging on, and not answering messages from customers.  

A couple months ago I had an issue with a certain low-cost, SE Asian, hotel chain that will remain nameless.  I had emailed one of their customer service managers, and it was taking upwards of 10 days to get an answer.  I did the next logical thing, got on twitter and sent a public tweet asking if I could get a response.  Ta-Da, like magic, I got an email within a few hours, my question was not answered, so I emailed back, waited another 3 days, no reply, got back on twitter.  I waited another 3 days and nothing. Looking through the company's old updates, I noticed they had linked to their CEO's twitter account.  So again, I did the most logical thing and sent him a public tweet.  
It took me 3 days to get a reply from this CEO, saying that his team was on it.  Another 3 days later, still no response, so I tweeted again.  No further response from said CEO.  I was not impressed. 

If your CEO (or someone else in the company) is not going to actively monitor the account, it's time to deactivate, go, do it now.  How will you tell him?  Quickly.

Notes:  The issue was resolved subsequently to my satisfaction; however, my image of this particular hotel company and their customer service has certainly been tarnished.  

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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.