Use Velcro For Your Hotel's Marketing

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | May 19, 2010

Searching the Web the other day, I came across one of those funny little articles that give you a "list" for something or other. You know the kind. The 10 best.... The 5 worst...101 things to do with... In this case, it was 15 Things My Kids Taught Me. As I'm chuckling down the inventory, I came across No. 13 which claims that, in all of human history, the three most important inventions are string cheese, Velcro, and swim diapers. Now, I don't know about the string cheese or the swim diapers, but I'll have to agree with the Velcro. Just think how this odd hook and loop tape has made our lives easier. Jackets...gym messages.

Huh? Marketing messages?

Yep! Stop and think about it. What is the goal of Velcro? To hold tightly, of course. And what is the goal of your hotel's promotional messages? Why, to hold tightly to the consumer's mind, of course. Herein lays the first rule of Velcro Marketing as revealed by George de Mestral more than 50 years ago.

The story goes that, after spending the day hunting in the Jura Mountains of France, ol' George found that his wool pants were covered with little burrs off the brush. Try as he may, he couldn't get those pesky things off; they were there to stay. Not to be outsmarted by a bunch of burrs, George put them under a magnifying glass and saw that each of the burrs had hundreds of tiny hooks trapped in the loops of the woolen fabric in his pants. Now George knew a good thing when he saw it so he developed a machine that would replicate the hook and loop function using nylon. He called his invention VELCRO, from the French words velour and crochet. The rest is history.

George also noticed something else. He saw that the randomly arranged loops would stick much tighter than those arranged in neat rows would. In other words, if the loops were unpredictable, the bond was stronger. If the loops were neatly arranged in rows, they had less holding power. This is the second rule of Velcro Marketing. If you want your marketing message to stick to the consumer's mind, then it has to be unpredictable. This doesn't mean unorganized, uncreative, and unprofessional; it simply means unpredictable. Look up unpredictable in a thesaurus, you'll find that the antonyms are unsurprising, expected, conventional, banal, boring, and humdrum - none of which you want applied to your hotel's marketing because none of them will make your hotel's image or promotions memorable.

Think about it. If you see the punch line coming, the joke isn't as funny. When you've gone through the Haunted House for the tenth time, you're not as scared by the ghost popping out. And if every Wednesday is spaghetti night, how excited are you to have dinner? A friend of mine was consulting with a company that manufactures and sells dog food. After launching a massive television ad campaign, the company was disappointed in its ROMI (return on marketing investment). To better understand what was going on, the consultant compiled a video pr'ecis showing clips of his client's dog food ad along with those of the competitors'. What he found was predictable. There were dogs running through fields. Dogs running through woods. Dogs running with clouds in the background. Dogs running through fields or woods with clouds in the background. You get the picture. Each commercial followed the same pattern. They all had neatly arranged loops.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.