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."

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.