Keeping Market Research in the Passenger Seat

By Steve McKee President, McKee Wallwork Cleveland | May 06, 2010

Research can be a hotel marketer's best friend or his worst enemy. It all depends on who's driving. I'd like to offer six thoughts that will help you keep research from grabbing the wheel and sending your brand over a cliff.

There are things you can measure and things you can't. Don't mix them up.

How much do you love your wife? What's the value of poetry? What is a life worth? Ask most people these questions and you'll either get a funny look or a metaphysical discussion. Some things just can't be quantified. Yet in marketing we often act as if everything can.

To be sure, given the proper methodology you can measure a great deal of marketing-related activity, particularly past behavior. Things like purchase patterns and visit frequency are historical, concrete events that are subject only to the laws of forgetting (I may not remember how I heard of your hotel) and deceit (I may not want you to know that I saw your ad in my wife's Glamour magazine). But by and large they can be reliably tracked.

It's when we try to quantify the future that we get into trouble. Simon Clift, Chief Marketing Officer at Unilever, puts it this way: "Consumers are not able to predict how they will feel in the future. If you ask a housewife if you'd like to pay more for your car, have a very big car that's hard to park, uses an enormous amount of gas and that you can't fit in your garage, they would say no to all of those questions, and you'd predict there's no market for SUVs."

The same principle holds true in advertising concept testing. Scott Bedbury, former Worldwide Advertising Director at Nike, says: "We never pre-tested anything we did at Nike, none of the ads. Wieden (Dan Wieden, founder of Wieden & Kennedy) and I had an agreement that as long as our hearts beat, we would never pretest a word of copy. It makes you dull. It makes you predictable. It makes you safe."

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.