Is It the Head or the Heart? The Emotional Element of Hotel Marketing
By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | April 2020
This whole article can probably be summed up in these 17 simple words: Change happens in the boiler room of our emotions…so find out how to light their fires. This little quotation probably should be embossed on the wall of every marketing or sales office of every hotel worldwide. Said another way, people buy with their hearts and justify with their heads. And it is getting more so by the minute because, as Dr. Robert Passikoff, founder of Brand Keys Inc. points out, the consumer decision-making process has become more emotional.
Therefore, so must your hotel's marketing become more emotional since that emotive connection between your hotel and your guest is what will differentiate the property from its competitors.
Dr. Passikoff's research found that, on average, 80 percent of our buying decisions are emotional while only 20 percent is rational. Hmmm. Given those findings, why is it that so many hotels tout price in their commercials? Why is it that so many hotels boost sales, specials, and discounts in their promotions? And why is it that Trivago, Hotwire, Priceline, and Booking.com permeate the airwaves? The more a brand competes on price, the more it becomes a commodity instead of a brand. And, by definition, a commodity can only differentiate on price.
It is simply a basic product or service that is interchangeable with other products of services of the same type in the same category. Think gasoline at the pump. Think potato chips at the supermarket. Think pork belly futures. How close is the hotel industry to becoming another commodity within categories? This brings us back to the Head-Heart dichotomy and the requisite need for hotels to make sure it embraces emotional marketing.
To do this, we need to consider two truths. First, people have five core emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness. Or as my dad always told me, people will buy when they are either sad, mad, glad or scared. You just need to know how and when to tap into the right one. The tricky part for hotel marketers, however, is that people rarely feel just one emotion. Usually, our emotions are a combination of several at a time. For example, take a young family with two pre-school children. Mom's company has sent her to a convention being held at your hotel. Since the programs and meetings will be finished on Friday afternoon, Dad is loading up the car with snacks, toys, video games, strapping the children into their car seats, and driving the four hours from home to meet his wife for the weekend.
I'm sure mom's emotions range from sad that she will be away from her family for a couple of days, yet glad the rest of her family is joining her for the weekend. And dad is probably a little scared about having to drive all that way alone with their children in tow but sill excited about a family weekend getaway. The big question is whether this young family will stay at your property or will mom pack up, join her hubby and the kids and move to another hotel. Who is getting that extra two-night weekend stay booking? Is their emotional connection with your property?