Category Archives: Marketing

3 Websites Hotel Pros Should Check Daily

Sites a hotel's director of sales and marketing should check daily
Don’t open Pandora’s box with this search term, read our list instead!

Searching the web is a great way to stay caught up with the news and trends of your industry, but sometimes  frequently it can be overwhelming. Like anyone else, hoteliers need to be able to find great online sources that cut through the clutter.  Here are three  sites hospitality professionals should be checking daily to stay informed!

Hotel Chatter.com

Hotel Chatter’s main strength is it’s quantity of content. It has a ton of stories and is updated frequently by its army of content creators. You will find no shortage of news and information on this site. Hotel Chatter is an exceptional tool for trying to determined the overall pulse of the industry. It’s a great resource for hard news, which includes a master list of hotel openings, as well as the occasional  exclusive look inside of a new property.

HC also offers plenty of editorial content like Where to Buy your Own Hotel Bed and 5 Things Everyone Should do before Checking out of a Hotel. 

Hotel Chatter is our go-to for industry news and is perfect for anyone who wants to become  an instant expert on what’s happening in the world of hospitality

Hotel Marketing.com 

Hotel Marketing.com, as its name implies, gives a much more marketing centered approach to hotel news. Unlike Hotel Chatter this site doesn’t create content but rather curates information from a variety of sources.

The nice thing about Hotel Marketing is that while it does supply news, like Trends that could Shape Hotel Distribution in 2014. It also has plenty of practical information that a hotel marketer or GM could actually apply. The Benefits of Configuring part of your Hotel as ‘Third Space’ and How Hotels can be less Dependent on OTAs in 2014 are a few examples.

Hotel Marketing is a great way to stay up-to-date with marketing specific news and information.

Google Alerts

Okay, while not a website per-se, Google Alerts is too useful to leave off a list like this.

Google Alerts allows users to set up alerts for whenever specific search terms come up in new online content. It’s a great way to monitor what people are saying about your brand or property online.

An especially nice feature of Google Alerts is its high level of customization. Users are able to adjust variables like type of content, from blog posts to news articles, as well as number of results Google gives you.

Google Alerts can be set up to automatically send notifications to an email address on daily, weekly and monthly basis,

Hotel professionals of the world, what sites do you use to stay informed?  Let us know in our comment section below! 

Is 2014 the Year of 24 Hour Hotel Stays?

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A new year, a new way hotels should be doing business.

Every industry has its own standard accepted practices of how a product is priced and sold. We all know that sticker price is not what a car really costs, and tips at a bar or restaurant aren’t really optional. Though it makes perfect sense to be able to pay for just the channels you want, cable companies only sell packages. Sometimes business practices are just done the same way for so long that they stay that way.

The hospitality industry has established very specific rules for what their product is. Hotels usually adhere strictly to the check-in after 3pm and leave before noon rule. Now, compare that with renting a car. Avis and Enterprise will rent you a car for a full 24-hour period, definitely a different concept of renting.

What if hotels adopted the rent-a-car model?  Think about the convenience of not having to worry about checking in and out at specific times.  Just arrive at the hotel whenever you want, and leave sometime in the next 24 hours. Rather than enforcing a strict, and often inconvenient, schedule hotels should be accommodating to travelers. Right?

24 hour stays could be a huge competitive advantage!

Clearly there are some disadvantages to this plan, offering more room time at the same or similar price is a major drawback. Giving guests a  longer period of time  and not knowing when they check out will result in higher operating costs and lower room turnover.

There’s a reason hotels have been so set in their 3pm to noon schedule. It’s easy and cheap.

BUT…

24 hour stays provide such a convenience factor it would have the potential to drastically improve a brands loyalty. It would also bolster a brand’s claim of putting customers first!

Also, brands can get the marketing benefit of 24 hour rooms without actually renting out their rooms for 24-hour chunks. Most people aren’t going to stay from 12pm monday till 11:59 Tuesday. They will come at a convenient time and leave at a convenient time, likely less than a full 24 hour period.

Who knows, maybe we’ve become so conditioned that guests will stick surprisingly close to the 3pm till noon schedule, even though it’s not required.

Testing the Water 

24 hour rooms aren’t a completely theoretical idea, they have been implemented before, but only in small, restricted ways. Starwood has a program based on the concept of 24-hour room options, but it requires a certain level of membership in the Starwood preferred guest program.

Other brands, like  Meritus have used the idea of 24 hour stays as a short term promotional technique.

Unfortunately these examples  miss the true potential of 24-hour stays.

Novelty, or a game-changer? 

Are 24-hour stays a novelty or a gimmick, or could they substantial change the way hotel stays are thought of?

If a brand utilized the idea of 24 hour stay as a core part of their business, and not as a limited promotion, they could really differentiate themselves in a market that sometimes border on commoditization.

The idea has been used, but never to the extent of basing a brand’s identity around it. Maybe an established brand could have a sub-set of properties: Holiday Inn 24. Sheraton 24-hour stay etc. The possibilities are endless.

Though we know it’s unlikely to catch on, we’re hoping somebody will give this idea a shot.

Sometimes it’s just interesting to think about shaking up the status quo. Just because everyone else is things a certain way doesn’t mean that that is the best way. 

What do you think, can 24 hour stays be the way of the future? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Hotel Logos Re-created by 6-Year-Olds!

This afternoon we had the pleasure of hosting two guests in our office. 6-year-old-twins Calvin and Olivia had the day off school so we gave them temporary roles in the graphic-design department and asked them for their best attempts at recreating some iconic hotel logos. Having a couple of kindergarteners draw logos that we deal with every day was a fun addition to our Friday!

It was interesting to watch the creative process of the kids.  In the world of professional design the process can often become over-thought and muddled down by restrictions, it might sound cheesy, but it’s refreshing to watch someone be creative in such a free-spirited way.

Calvin Cutting
As calvin works to trim one of his pictures you can see that his creative process is a bit messy!

Olivia created this rendition of the Sheraton logo.  The choice to cut out and paste the Sheraton S emblem was surprising, and leaving the word “Sheraton” off-center added personality!

sheratonsidebyside

 

Apparently Calvin thought the lettering for the Mandarin Oriental New York would be better placed above the fan logo.

MandarinOriental sidebyside

Here’s an attempt at the Broughton Hotels of Chicago: City Suites insignia. It’s impressive that Olivia was able to achieve that shape on her first try.

CitySuitessidebyside

Once again Calvin liked the motif of keeping the name of the hotel above the image.

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We aren’t sure if shrinking the letters “NTAL” in Intercontinental was an artistic decision or if Calvin just ran out of room on the page.

intercontinental sidebyside

Olivia decided to go with a much more minimalist aesthetic in her version of the Mission Point Resort logo.

missionpoint sidebysideThere was definitely some tracing used for these St. Regis Hallmarks but regardless of the method, the similarity to the original is impressive.

St. Regis sidebyside

It was a fun experiment to see how a couple of six-year-olds would fare in trying to copy logos!

 

Thanks for your help Calvin and Olivia! Maybe next time we’ll give you a shot at copy-writing!

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Livvy Holding St. Regis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Flat Design is Spreading Faster than a Zombie Plague.

Flat is the new 3D

The latest update to Apple’s iOS software brought the biggest graphical change to their user interface in years! Apple went Flat. The move towards flat has been a growing trend in the mobile computing world recently(Android and Windows Phone both use the concept extensively),and it has also become prevalent as a general graphic design concept as well.  Even Google has recently rolled out a flatter version of their iconic logo.

iOS6 is on the left and the new iteration, iOS7 is on the right.

photo courtesy of extremetech.com
photo courtesy of extremetech.com

If you aren’t familiar already, you can probably guess what flat design is. Flat, in a basic sense, refers to a design style that gets rid of attempts to create the illusion of depth and perspective.

These pictures of the Windows Phone home screen are a stereotypical example of flat design.

windowsph8-start-screens_2 2
photo courtesy of winbeta.org

As you can see, no beveled edges, no drop shadows, no attempts at creating the feel of depth at all.  A clean, simple interface that is … Flat!

 

Why Flat?

Skeuomorphism: what it is and why we’ve outgrown it. 

One of the major reasons that flat design has become popular is because it seems fresh compared to the tacky, and obsolete skeuomorphic designs of the past. Though you’ve probably never heard of it , you’ve interacted with skeuomorphic design at one point or another in your life.

Skeuomorphic design is the idea of designing something digitally to imitate the appearance of a real world object.  For example, Apple has been a huge proponent of this style. The iPhone alone, at least before this latest update, includes many examples. The notes app looks like  a legal pad, the games app features a green felt background, even the fact that the keyboard keys appear to have depth is an example of skeuomorphism.

photo from macrumors.com
photo from macrumors.com

Skeuomorphism was a popular design aesthetic for Apple and many other technology companies because it served as a transition from the real world to the virtual one. In the early days of computing it was nice for people to have digital analogies of the real world. The desktop, folders,  and recycle bin were easy concepts to grasp. Even though skeuomorphism was not functionally necessary, it added a layer of comfort to the experience of working with a virtual interface.

Today, when most of the world interacts with some type of computer on a regular basis, skeuomorphic design only serves to add clutter. Flat design looks clean because it is. It cuts out unnecessary clutter.

 

Back to Basics

Another reason for flat design’s popularity was that it was a “back to basics”  response to over complexity in design. As our tools became more powerful, designers felt like they had to use them. Pretty soon everyone was using drop-shadows, gradients, beveled edges, reflections and so on… Though these tools were effective, they were certainly overused.

Take Skype’s old logo for example. Notice the 3D beveled edges, use of gradient (blue goes from lighter to dark) as well as a drop shadow.

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In contrast, Skype’s new, flatter logo gets rid of all that. The result being a clean, flat logo.

logo_skype_web

 

 

 

 

Another example of a formerly overused technique is reflection. The effect of a company’s logo appearing like it was sitting on a plane of reflective glass was one of the hallmarks of “Web 2.0” and was used by every tech company. Today however, it just looks cliche.

LinkedIn-Logo-Reflection

 

 

 

 

Here is Linked-in’s new logo.It’s much easier on the eyes, and fits in well with website copy.

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Another reason for flat design’s popularity that we can’t ignore is that it looks much better on mobile displays. Simple looks better when it’s compressed into a small space! Detailed logos lose a lot of their appeal when those details are crammed into a small display and are difficult to discern.

 

Is Flat here to Stay?

Flat is not a major innovation in design that will change the way we look at graphics and user interfaces forever. It is simply a trend. Flat design was around long before  beveled edges, reflections and drop shadows. Like all design trends eventually flat too will become overused, boring, and out of style. 

Before its inevitable demised however, flat will evolve.  It’s likely that designers will settle on a middle ground, an “almost flat” design. The key to success for this style, will be for designers and companies to utilize the unique advantages that both 3D design and flat have to offer.

Apple actually did a great job in their OS redesign by hitting this compromise. Using a featured called “parallax” to make their flat icons appear to float over the background, Apple used the benefits of advanced rendering technology to compliment the beauty of minimal flat design. Not to sound too Apple biased, but Windows Phone on the other hand may have gone too far in the opposite direction, just compare their home screen and iPhone’s!

Moral of the story, like most things in design, and life for that matter it’s hard to go wrong with the motto: All things in Moderation.

 

But who cares what we think? What do you think about the future of graphic design? Leave us a comment and give us your thoughts as to why Windows Phone is prettier than iOS!

Why Honoring a 100-Year-Old Coupon is Marketing Genius

Marketing Genius

Have you ever thought about the expiration dates on coupons? Are they really necessary? It’s not like someone is going to save a coupon and use it years later right…

 

Right?

Actually, a McConnell Marketing associate’s Grandmother was recently featured on General Mills’ blog by taking advantage of a coupon that was more than a few years past its intended use!

 

The Story

In 1984 Laurine Williams found an interesting piece of her mother’s old book collection, an original 1910 Gold Medal Flour Cookbook. On the last page of the book was a coupon for another free copy of the book, presumably so you could share with a friend. Williams wrote a letter to General Mills asking if she could redeem the coupon pointing out that it had no expiration date. Unfortunately, Williams didn’t send the letter immediately and it ended up lost.

Fast forward to 2012. Williams rediscovered her old letter and decided to send it in; at this point the offer for a free copy of the cookbook was over 100 years old! General Mills honored their original offer and sent Laurine a reprinted edition of the 1910 book. The company had actually begun reprinting the book because of situations like Laurine’s.

There is one significant change to the reprinted version of the book however, the word VOID is very clearly marked over the coupons in the back!

 

Old Coupons and Brand Equity

From a marketing perspective, the way General Mills handled this scenario is interesting.

They could have easily brushed the whole situation under the rug and no one, besides William’s would have noticed. Even then it’s hard to imagine that she would have been too upset with the company for not honoring a century’s old offer.

Really this story isn’t about General Mills honoring a coupon. It’s about the company going the extra-mile for a customer.

By putting in the time and effort to make sure that situations like Williams’ were handled appropriately, General Mills showed that they cared, something that can go a long way for a brand. Establishing trust with a customer base takes a lot of work, but the payoff is worth it. Which is why General Mills did what they did.

 

Word Travels Fast 

Laurine Williams is likely to be a loyal General Mills customer as a result of what happened, but in today’s world of social media and viral information spread she’s not the only one who will have a changed opinion of the brand.

General Mills didn’t just gain one loyal customer; they likely increased trust and brand equity with everyone reading this story!

The takeaway from this for businesses shouldn’t be, “Hmmm that’s a quirky thing that company did”. It should be how can we go the extra mile for a customer, How can we gain trust through care! What is our 100-year-old coupon!?

So think about it. Has a company honored a 100-year-old coupon for you? Has your company done something unexpected for a customer?

Give us your examples in the comments below!

Hotels with Unique Extras

 

Hotels with unique extras

 

Trip Advisor recently posted a list of 10 hotels with unusual extras. It’s a little reminiscent of our “4 Hotel Amenities Done Right” post. Though some of these extras seem a little outlandish and unnecessary, it’s exciting to know that these types of creative additions exist. We picked out three from the list that we thought were extra unusual.

 

Giraffe Manor Nairobi, Kenya

Giraffe Manor is a hotel located in Nairobi. This hotel’s primary extra is the fact that giraffes roam around the property, interact with guests, and even stick their heads inside the hotel from time to time. Unsurprisngly, the guest reviews are fantastic. It sounds like a genuinely well-established hotel, that also happens to have giraffes, not the other way around.

Surprisingly, Giraffe Manor is only the #2 ranked specialty-lodging choice in Nairobi!

 

Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand’s nickname is the Land of a Thousand Smiles. Dhara Dhevi’s unique extra is that guests get to plant rice and learn to cook Thai cuisine. Though these might not sound like smile inducing activities, just being outside in that country is enough to make you smile!

A major part of traveling is experiencing  local culture and customs and making memories. Hanging out inside of a hotel room isn’t exactly a memorable experience, but getting your hands dirty (literally in the case of rice planting) with the locals is something guests will remember for the rest of their lives.

 

Cannery Pier Hotel Astoria, Oregon

Our first U.S. based hotel on our list makes guests feel like big shots. Guests can choose a classic car to be chauffeured to and from their restaurant of choice! Being chauffeured is an impressive amenity by itself, but supplying classic cars makes this addition special.

Staying in a high end hotel and enjoying the night life of Astoria is a great experience, but just add-in classic cars and chauffer service, and that makes for a night to remember.

 

Of course a unique extra by itself is never going to make or break a hotel, and plenty of guests that stay at these properties may not take advantage of them, but it’s an interesting trend that we hope continues!

Make sure to check out the rest of the 10 hotels with unusual extras list at Tripadvisor.

 

What’s your favorite hotel extra? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Great Logos in Hotels

As marketers, we definitely appreciate a great logo. Logos are one of the most frequent ways through which brands interact with their audience. A well executed logo can improve a brand’s recognition, appeal and even help it stand out from competitors.

In the hospitality industry logos need to convey the atmosphere of the property to guests. A hotel’s logo needs to communicate what the brand is all about but it also needs to be visually appealing and unique.

Accomplishing those goals aren’t easy, and there are plenty of mediocre hotel logos out there, but here is a list of hotel logos that get it right!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The abstract combination of C and S makes  for a highly unique design. The choice of font and use of varying weight in the text  evokes a contemporary feel  for City Suites in this logo.

 

Doubletree_Logo

A few years ago Double Tree updated their logo to a more detailed boutique-style design. This version conveys a sense of class that the old logo did not.

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Element is a hotel brand built around a core value of sustainability. Obviously the use of green in their logo is going to promote the idea of eco-friendly, but even more powerful than the choice of color is the simple, clean style that this logo uses. The abstract, yet very limited logo and modern font just feels good for the environment.

logo-RitzCarlton-web

The Ritz’s classic emblem sets the standard for luxury hotels. The use of a crown and lion conveys feelings of exclusiveness and royalty-level treatment that it’s guests are seeking.

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The Georgian Hotel uses simplicity to create a memorable logo. The use of shapes to form a vague outline of buildings as well as the curved lines that surround the hotel name gives this logo a lot of appeal.

marriott_logo

Though it may not be the most original logo on the list, something about the Marriot’s logo just works.

St.RegisLogo8

The St. Regis is positioned in the same luxury category that the Ritz Carlton is and they also do a great job of getting the exclusiveness point across. Their crest-style logo actually looks like it could be used as the emblem for a high-end country club.

We couldn’t cover all of the great hotel logos in this post. What’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below!