Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | April 08, 2018

To begin my workshops or seminars on consumer lifestyle trends, I often give the attendees a thousand dollars (in Monopoly money, of course) and ask everyone what they would do with it.  Would they go out for dinner? Spend it on a weekend getaway?  Get the iPhone X?  Donate it to charity?  Save it?  Or give it to their kids?

What is always interesting to me and to everyone else is that no two people would use the money in exactly the same way.  And there are little, if any, similarities in spending patterns based on age, gender, income, education, travel patterns or any of the other standard demographic criterion that we commonly use to segment our travel markets. 

But aren't demographics how we tend to segment our guests? The older folks want this.  The Baby Boomers, want that.  And the Millennials want – well, some folks think they want everything.  Even gender differences, rooted in the old axioms that men are hunters and women are gatherers, or that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, are blurring when it comes to what drives consumer behavior.  In other words, demographics don't seem to help us effectively understand how to engage (i.e. market to) the traveling public anymore.  They did 20 or 30 years ago, but not anymore.  Those days are over. 

So if demographics aren't the key, what is?

The answer is emotions.

This truism was recently brought front and center in an online report from Brand Keys.   The article points out what marketers instinctively have known for a long time now:  People buy with their heart and justify with their head.  Perhaps noted neurologist Donald Caine said it best:  The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions."  In other words, it is increasingly being acknowledged that people respond more to emotional marketing than to rational information when deciding what to buy or where to buy it.  Think about memorable Super bowl commercials that moved people throughout the years.  Coca Cola's Mean Joe Green.  Budweiser's Clydesdale Horses.  Or the 2018 Dorito's Blaze commercial with Morgan Freeman.

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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.