Make Your Guest a Member of Your Hotel's Tribe
By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | May 19, 2010
Question: What do Harley Davidson, Southwest Airlines, Lexus, and Oprah have in common?
Answer: They are all experts in generating revenues by making their customers tribal members.
In a business environment filled with countless competing hotel brands, the only way you can really win big is by making an emotional connection with your guests. In other words, you have to capture their hearts. Lists of features and benefits alone cannot differentiate your brand and drive revenues anymore.
By definition, human beings - i.e. consumers - are social creatures. We have a strong sense of community, of wanting to belong to something. Our tribal urge is strong. Remember studying Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs in school? He tells us that, once we have our basic survival needs met - food, water, shelter - we are motivated by our need to be a part of something larger than we are. We want to belong to a group or a community. So it is natural that consumers want to connect with brands that give them a sense of belonging to something special.
We all like to think that we are intellectual buyers, that we are smart consumers who analyze the pros and cons of what we buy. But the truth is that we buy with our hearts (and try to justify with our heads). We may read ads, search the Internet for information, ask friends for a recommendation, and draw from our own experiences, but when it comes to most purchases, instinct trumps intellect.
I can hear the protests now. You are crazy. Why, I read all the information about safety ratings, gas mileage, seat comfort, and ionic spark plugs before I bought my new car.