Over the years, first at my alma mater Hilton International and later
representing hotels and resorts, I frequently heard hotel GMs complain that
guests were bringing in pizza and fried chicken from the outside to their guest
rooms. This was particularly true in the off-season at resorts when the bargain
crowd moved in. Now, hotels have decided if you can’t fight them, join them.
As reported in the New York Times, the Amway Grand Plaza
hotel has created its own pizza delivery service .Convenient ‘grab-and-go’
restaurants with selections of sandwiches, salads and beverages are
becoming more commonplace. The Westin Diplomat is one of several Westins that
created their own take on the concept with restaurants called ‘Ingredients, Some Assembly Required’ in their lobbies. In some, but not all cases, these are in
addition to traditional room service offerings. For guests it’s a money/time
saving choice. For the hotels, it’s a way to capture some additional revenue
that would have otherwise gone elsewhere
With the high cost of running a food and beverage operation, hotels are looking
for more ways to capture revenue both in volume and by increasing the average
cover. In the luxury end, culinary experiences are increasingly more common which
offer the added benefit of reinforcing luxury branding. We’re also seeing
more hotels developing dedicated websites to highlight themselves as food
destinations. And, in one of the more exciting innovations, Four Seasons Hotels
has launched a food truck that is traveling to a number of its West Coast properties.
We’ve come a long way in our growing awareness of green tourism and other sustainable business practices. Next up? Expect to see more consumer education in “behind the scenes” green programs. A recent New York Times article caught my attention, “Architecture in Tune with the Climate”. Most interesting was the description of a new state-of-the-art processing center, Sims Municipal Recycling Facility, due to open in October in Brooklyn, New York. The facility processes all the plastic, metal and glass collected by the New York City Sanitation Department. But what’s novel is the building is by an architect who usually designs museums and art galleries. Her goal for the 11 acre site? To make a place that does its processing job, but that’s also architecturally significant. And more interesting still, there will be an information center where tours will be offered including a chance to see sanitation workers sort through the plastic, glass and metal. At one of our clients, we’re going to launch a behind-the-scenes tour designed for families, which explains and demonstrates our sustainability practices, serving the added benefit of reinforcing our commitment to the environment.
Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist
Effective marketing to teens involves keeping close tabs on what social media channels resonate with them. Would you believe that teens are getting tired of Facebook and YouTube? According to Business Week, the two social media channels still rate tops as social media destinations, but the fickle Millennials are starting to move on. Case in point, last year Abercrombie & Fitch and Best Buy were on teen’s top 10 of favorite e-commerce sites. This year they fell off the list. This is big news considering that this market is estimated to represent $819 billion dollars. A little over half of all teens, equal numbers for females and males, said social media affects their purchasing decisions in what is a growing trend. According to investment bank Piper Jaffray, the most popular social media sites are Reddit, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine and 4chan.
Real estate developers are joining homeowners in creating the new “must have” space in a luxury home – the Teen Suite or Teen Lounge. And, based on the trappings and amenities of these new designer spaces, “Go to your room” will no longer be a punishment for teens. To the contrary. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal described a 1,000 square foot teen suite in a Manhattan townhouse, built at a cost of $750,000 that has ping pong and billiard tables, a recording studio, kitchen, and theater for movies and videogames. Posher yet is a Michigan home with what they call a “kid zone” with two master suite size bedrooms, a movie theater, full kitchen, indoor basketball court, DJ mixing station and sleepover space with hanging bunk beds. In luxury condos, it seems it’s no longer enough to have a kids playroom. Now Miami condo Jade Signature will have a teen lounge complete with the latest motion sensor videogames, a computerized blackboard system and ping pong tables.
The travel industry, on the other hand, has been slow to successfully address the teen market, though there have been fitful attempts for over 20 years. Granted, it’s not an easy challenge as many have seen. Most hotels, when they have done something, settle for a lounge where teens can hang out, enjoying a game of ping pong and billiards, videogames and movies. Where hotels have met success (and increased revenue) is with teen spa and beauty treatments — for teens alone and mother/daughter and father/son offerings. Probably the travel industry segment that has done the best job are the major lines in the cruise industry. A good description of the programs is in www.thecruisecritic. Many divide their programs into “tweens” – 12 to 14 and “teens” 15-17. Besides a dedicated meeting space , they offer a full blown activity program ranging from parties and nightly disco to sports competitions, dance classes and even a take off on America’s Idols, “junior Star Seeker”. It helps, too, that the larger ships have a variety of sports facilities, like Royal Caribbean’s ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, mini golf, and basketball. These serve, too, for opportunities for parents to share activities with their kids, making for bonding, much sought after today. Special food options are offered as well, such as NCL’s teen passport where for $34.50 a teen can order 20 smoothies or other non alcoholic drinks.
Not only do teens have a voice In impacting travel choices, but also, today’s teens are tomorrow’s twenty something adults. So I say to colleagues in the travel industry, invite your creative minds to address this market. The opportunities are there for the taking.
I was recently a panelist on “The Changing Face of PR” at the ATME Conference (Association of Travel Marketing Executives) in Miami last month. With social media, depleted editorial staffs in the nation’s leading newspapers, declining viewership in network TV, and the “consumer terrorism” of online reviews, what does all of this mean for the PR industry today? My topic, ‘Top Three Must Do’s in PR’ in today’s world helps PR Pros tackle these issues:
1. Produce Quality, Quantity and Diverse Content
– The good news? There are abundant distribution channels that exist today to get your message out. But you must be present across the consumer’s behavioral path, because each is a potential contact point and integrating these marketing channels can provide a comprehensive approach.
The 3 P’s of traditional PR content are still valid – product, packages, and promotions. But now we need to think beyond these and create content that addresses the psychographics of your target markets, e.g. their special interests and passions. Think not only in niche terms, but micro-niche.
– A growth area for content is service articles, traditionally the staple of B2B programs. There are endless opportunities, e.g. articles on tips, how-to’s (look at ehow.com’s success), and top 10 lists via slideshows which the media love, as well as copy.
– Content that shows thought leadership and innovation to establish clients as an industry authority, a source for the media. Admittedly it’s a process, but once you achieve this, it’s the gift keeps on giving. Surveys, audits, research are all effective platforms to launch this approach.
2. Customize Your Message to Your Audience, to the Medium
What hasn’t changed in decades is being relevant to the media you’re addressing, using targeted, customized pitches and lists.
– In a PR GENIE survey of journalists in 26 countries, the #1 complaint (59.5%) with PR is irrelevant PR pitches. That’s up 2.5% just in one year.
– The #2 complaint (new this year) is mass PR pitching over social media. Messages need to be further refined for each social media channel, as people want different things from Twitter and Facebook, which are still different from Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram.
3. Build Relationships with Media; Make It Easy For Them to Experience Your Product
– Nothing can replace face-to-face meetings and press visits, which remain powerful PR tools. Such interaction helps keep you top of mind when looking for their next source.
– Following and friending media and other influencers on social media offer insight into their personality, their interests, their travels, stories they may be working on, and plant story ideas. In the same PR GENIE survey, 59% of journalists say they follow and friend PR professionals on social media. 70% have used twitter to post a question to get public reaction and used replies as a part of a story; 62% have done so on Facebook.
– Also facilitate relationships with the product itself. Brand managers are rethinking the traditional presentation of their products and finding other ways to reach out such as pop ups – shops, restaurants, hotels – which celebrate the essence of a brand for a targeted audience or timeframe. Low budget alternatives are DIY packages to create the experience at home.
The following is an expanded version of this speech, which includes industry examples for each topic.
Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist
Brands are quickly moving into the editorial space, even in some of the more prominent media. Sponsored content is a relatively new form of advertising medium that blurs conventional distinctions between what constitutes advertising and what constitutes editorial/entertainment. This takes me to an article, “Sponsors Now Pay for Online Articles, Not Just Ads” in the New York Times . Forbes has worked with two dozen brands such as FedEX for over two years on branded content, saying that it’s “not advertising, but it’s about big issues that relate to thought leadership”. The content runs alongside editorial on many sites, which can be ranked and shared on social media along with other articles. Other big names like Mashable and Huffington Post (for Johnson & Johnson and Cisco Systems among others) are doing this as well, drawing the line at a direct pitch to consumers, and it’s very effective.
I often read Eater.com, a foodie blog that covers restaurant, bar, and nightclub openings and closings, reviews, and closely watched lists of what’s hot. With greater frequency, there are more sponsored posts from them and their sister site, curbed.com, and I find myself clicking on them. There are more sponsored tweets as well, but I personally find that medium less effective than blog posts which allow for more information. As far as I and, from what I’m reading, a lot of other people think, as long as the content is useful, informative, and especially fresh, it’s worth one’s time.
In PR, content related to thought leadership as well as what we call “service” information (other then op-ed pieces) was primarily the stock in trade of B2B programs. For instance, when we worked for the Service Companies, the leader in hotel outsourcing, we regularly did articles reinforcing their position as the authority in the field, with titles ranging from “Frequently Asked Questions on Hotel Outsourcing” to “How to Choose a Hotel Outsourcing Company”. (see our case study, B2B Brand Building). Now, with all of the new media distribution channels with their need for content, and the increasing blurring of lines between editorial and advertising, this kind of content is highly effective in disseminating branding messages. The caveat? The company “plug” has to be subtle and very select.
By Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist
We’ve come a long, long way from hotel shops as just a place for guests to buy needed or forgotten toiletries and beach items. The first major change was the advent of shops with curated fashion and jewelry that made a statement about guests’ style and budget as in what would a Peninsula Hotel guest wear? A “W” hotel guest? Later came fashion exclusively designed for the hotel or resort that made a statement about pedigree and the kind of company the resort keeps (as in Christian Louboutin’s espadrilles for One and Only Palmilla). For the Clinton Hotel in South Beach we came up with the idea of a room service lingerie menu which fit in with our positioning of the hotel being sensual, seductive, with a French touch. Or for the former Regent Bal Harbour, we offered a fashion emergency button on a mobile phone where guests could dial up a dress or suit for the evening from Neiman Marcus. Now, according to the New York Times, the St.Regis Bal Harbour Resort in Miami Beach has taken this to the next level. When guests check into the hotel they find a closet stocked with clothing that personal shoppers have chosen with them in mind. The clothing is selected by a shopping team at Neiman Marcus based on an online questionnaire guests fill out specifying their favorite style icons such as the “Mad Men” character Betty Draper. The James Hotel in New York offers something similar: guests find a box of accessories by New York designers chosen by celebrity stylist Mimi Lombardo. And payment? If an item is missing, it’s considered a purchase.
On November 12th, Aloft Hotels (@AloftHotels) had 485 followers on Twitter. On November 26th, @AloftHotels boasts 2,314 followers. What might you ask caused this nearly 400% increase in just two short weeks? The Answer: the newest hashtag to hit the platform — a #RFTweet.
Nobody’s perfect. Not even brands. But in today’s world, brands aren’t expected to be perfect. Challenging times (the economy) see people craving care, empathy, sympathy and generosity. It has them longing to see the human side of brands and institutions that care. This coupled with a young, online culture of individuals who share, give, engage, create and collaborate in vast numbers…. look for an emergence of businesses that are more socially, ethically and environmentally responsible. Businesses that present transparency, personality and celebrate their flaws will win.
Kids have become a significant new revenue stream that’s growing with a vengeance. It seems that kids (as with pets) are recession proof and parents are forking out the big bucks on everything from designer clothing and six figure playhouses, to private jet travel to summer camp.