For years, the landscape of business has been changing quickly, almost too quickly. New technologies and methods of communication have made the practice of marketing hotels chaotic and fragmented. In my position, I receive dozens of pitches daily trying to sell me products and services that will help me navigate through this chaos. Just yesterday, I was puzzled when I received a package from a marketing agency with an Apple TV remote inside. The card next to the remote said, “Take a meeting with us and we will give you the Apple TV to accompany your remote.” Yes, on the quest to make the brands I work with a bastion of authenticity and integrity, exactly what I am looking for is a partner that specializing in the subtle art of bribery.
While all of this chaos confuses and dilutes the brand message of many companies, there are the exceptional ones who continue to flourish. How they do this may be a mystery to most organizations, but with a simple understanding of the new market paradigms, I believe any organization can deliver impactful marketing in the modern era.
To start, you must recognize and accept that the modern market is unforgiving. Your customers can and will figure out very quickly if your product or brand is not authentic or delivering on it’s promises. Shane Smith, founder of Vice Media, described this phenomenon incredibly well on a recent episode of “Charlie Rose,” “Young people today have been marketed to since they were newborns because cartoons are made to sell cereal. So, as a consequence, they have the most sophisticated bullshit detectors of all time. And the only way to circumvent that bullshit detector is to not bullshit.”
With this in mind, the first step in understanding the new model, and quite possibly the most important, is to be authentic or as Shane said, “don’t bullshit.” Practically this means, identify the “core values” of your brand, what I refer to as its “essence,” and under no circumstances put out messaging that deviates from those core values. As marketers, it is our job to manage what makes us different from our competition and if you do not have consistent and authentic messaging you will never be effective in setting your product apart.
Content is king
Once you have determined your message and confirmed that it is in line with your core values, the next step is to create content that brings this messaging to life. This is where things really begin to deviate from the past. Why? In the past it was okay to just say you were something through press releases or advertisements, but the modern market requires you show them through impactful content that is created with and delivered from a trusted source.
I have always said that public relations agencies are only as good as what you give them to work with, and it has never been more truthful. What you need to give them to work with must be impactful content, such as short- & long-form videos, beautiful photographs, interesting blog posts, eye-catching collateral, or all of the above and more. This content must be packaged for easy and quick dissemination across multiple channels, both physical such as in-room or direct mail, and digital, such as social media, emails, display ads or blog posts). This content ideally will feature individuals such as brand ambassadors/influencers and partner brands that resonate with your core demographic, avoiding at all times appearing to be overtly sales related. Follow the guide of “tell, don’t sell,” meaning tell stories, don’t sell rooms. This approach will build the most important commodity of our era, trust. Continued trust will lead to engagement, and engagement will lead to ongoing sales and loyalty.
Clout by association
Associating with “trusted sources” as influencers (celebrities, recognized personalities, and bloggers) or media partners (magazines, websites and television) and getting them to take part in the creation and dissemination of your content is the holy grail of modern marketing. Not only does this create organic low cost advertising, it amplifies your brand message with millions of highly targeted impressions. These entities have already established the “clout,” a.k.a. social capital, that you are looking to achieve, and by working with them you will get clout by association.
Both influential individuals and media outlets now maintain multiple channels including social media, emails, blogs, TV shows, and other forms of new and traditional media. In the past, we pitched media after content was created or the event had already happened. Now these entities will partner with you in the creative process and guarantee millions of impressions. By executing this strategy with influencers and targeting individuals through non-traditional media in a coordinated manner, you can arguably garner much more traction than a traditional magazines or newspaper story. With that said, the ideal approach is to have both working in conjunction with one another, as they are not mutually exclusive, and utilizing both will produce the best results.
It will not work to just release your messaging through one channel at a time. You must be both strategic and coordinated in releasing your content, creating meaningful multi-platform campaigns. This means you should be disseminating specific content through multiple channels that will actively reinforce one another and maximize impact in the world of your target demographic. While it is important to reach a large volume of people, in the modern market, it is most important that you are getting the attention of the right people. A “highly coordinated campaign” that reaches the right people for your brand is invaluable in building loyalty and driving sales, both the short and long term. The modern consumer is so bombarded with messaging that the only way to get their attention is to be strategic and message through multiple trusted channels over a concentrated period of time. Proper messaging through strategic campaigns over a sustained period of time is the most effective way to build brand value and customer loyalty, aside from simply having an excellent product.
The final piece of the modern marketing model is to have an internal platform for the your content to live on and be distributed from. My preferred method would be a blog or website that is somehow tied your commercial engine, but is not overtly sales focused. The content you create should live on your partner’s media channels, social media feeds and press outlets, but it must all be birthed from a core cultural platform owned by you. This is because the general distribution landscape, a.k.a. channels, will continue to change, but great content will always be great content. The customer must know that great things happen at your properties or around your brands, and the only way to do this is by housing your content on a wholly owned platform.
Your ability to capitalize on this content to tell your story and sell your product will continue to be the anchor of your strategy for years to come, and the only one who can not properly capitalize off this asset is you, through poor execution. Just ask the Beatles if they would like to get back their publishing rights – their content is more valuable than ever, no matter what the method of distribution.
The final step in executing the modern model is to be bilingual, meaning you must understand both the traditional and modern approach, and combine the two. The new marketing paradigm that I described will continue to gain momentum over time and eventually yield the classic forms of sales and marketing less effective, but in the current market there is no substitute for understanding and utilizing both approaches. We must recognize that while change is happening rapidly, the majority of customers, especially those more mature, will take significant time to adapt and understand the new methods of communication. Therefore, it is critical that while we plan for the business of tomorrow, we are doing our best to preserve the business of today. Always remember, nothing replaces a great product and positive reputation.
While I appreciate you taking the time to read this entire post and understand the modern marketing paradigm, I regret to inform you that the market has changed since you began reading and this entire post has now been rendered obsolete.