Does Your Hotel Have a Gum Ball Machine?

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | April 21, 2019

It seems that everyone has a favorite story from their childhood. A story where they knew what was coming in the narrative before the page was turned. Yet still they begged their parents to read it over and over again. For some it might have been one of the classics like Cinderella, Snow White or Jack and the Beanstalk.

Others might have gravitated towards more adventuresome tales such as Huckleberry Finn or The Jungle Book. And some may have begged to hear a lesser known story like Grimm's The Valiant Tailor or Hans Christian Anderson's The Tinderbox.

For me, it was none of these. In fact, I didn't really have a favorite story. But I sure did have a couple of un-favorite stories – ones that were literally stories-non-grata when I was little. In fact, to this day I won't read them, listen to them being read, or watch any movie adaptions. One is Hansel and Gretel. I just can't fathom abandonment. But my least favorite will always be Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (shortened over time to Alice in Wonderland). It was written in 1855 by an English author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the more famously recognized pseudonym of Lewis Carroll, and tells the tale of a young girl, Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into an unreal world filled with weird anthropomorphic creatures. I don't like falling; I don't like holes in the ground; I don't like weird anthropomorphic creatures.

I was thinking about my crazy aversion the other day when I was online searching for something. Suddenly it hit me. I do fall into holes every day, but they are not physical holes. They are Internet holes. You see, there are three big ones out there that literally suck you in and sometimes take you into weird anthropomorphic places where you never thought you would go. The first is Pinterest. Try getting of there without at least a dozen clicks. The second, of course, is Amazon, especially Amazon Prime. Once in there, you end up on more pages than you ever expected you would and probably buy more things and spend more money than you ever intended. But the biggest hole of all is YouTube. Enough said!

YouTube is simply the brand name of a website on which users can post, view, or share videos. And that goes from watching cute little eaglets slowly hatch out of their eggs to learning how to change the battery in a car to watching Tim Conway's infamous dentist skit with Harvey Korman. For me, however, it is commercials and old movie clips. And, of course, it is Ted Talks. I'm always looking for video clips to use in my seminars, workshops, and especially in my classes to help me drive home a point or concept. Today's audiences – both executives and especially students -- literally live by the old mantra that one picture is worth a thousand words. Especially a moving picture.

Don't ask me how I ever got there, but the other day when I was on one of my video clip quests, I ran across a little two-minute video clip from Global Gumball about its Wizard Spiral Gumball Machine line. In it, a company spokesman demonstrates a line of three gumball machines. Similarly, to the story of the three bears, the "papa" or biggest machine is 5" 6" tall and holds 5600 gumballs; the "mama, or medium size is a little shorter and holds 3000 gumballs. Then there is the "baby" size, aptly named the Wizard Kid, that only holds 1500 of those little balls of colored sugar-coated chewing gum.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.