One good idea is worth …

Last month, one of the top hotel chains put a notice into the ad industry press asking interested parties to participate in a competition to define a new creative positioning. I attended, and the brand reps gave a staggering presentation. On a series of well-written PowerPoint slides, the hotel team outlined the state of their business and the industry in general. Terms like RevPAR, %OCC, ADR, OTA, GDS and PMS were interspaced amongst the graphs, photos and illustrations with a clear identification of the issues.

Yet as I looked around at the gathering of suits in the auditorium, I saw a combination of fascination and fear. My suspicion is that many of the individuals assembled — most of them hailing from the tunnel-vision world of advertising — had never heard of nor had to deal with issues like channel conflicts or modern hotel expectations. It would appear as though, for a variety of factors, the latest brood of “mad men” know not of the inner workings of the hospitality landscape.

And without the basic understanding of the product in question, how will these advertising execs generate successful marketing campaigns to sell to consumers? Thinking more broadly, what does it take to come up with a unique winning idea, inescapable truth or highly memorable jingle to drive customer awareness? Is product and industry knowledge really important to delivering such a concept?

My answer is no. A great idea does not live solely within the confines of extensive industry knowledge. You do not need to know the intricacies of TripAdvisor or how travel agents use a GDS. What you require is a fundamental understanding of the consumer and what attributes they desire most in their accommodation selections.

The details of the execution will ultimately require a solid comprehension of market segments, stakeholders and a myriad of other issues. But guests reading a magazine, watching TV, or surfing their favorite website don’t pay attention to that stuff. They want to know why they should stay with you. Give them a reason, and they’ll give you a try. Next, fulfill the inherent promise, and they’ll be loyal to you.

It’s easy for any hotel to spend money on Google Adwords. Invest your funds, and measure click-through and conversion rates. The quants in any organization relish this analysis; it’s the stuff that keeps revenue managers in business. On the other hand, you can invest in a big ad idea, one that defies computerized risk probabilities.

As it stands right now, one of the key ways that we, as an industry, can break the shackles of crippling third-party distribution commissions is to give consumers a reason to book directly with us. A critical stepping stone towards this reason is instilling brand awareness amongst the general populace, and even in the age of social media and digital peer-to-peer communication, this nonetheless requires catchy, terse advertising.

I’m excited that a major hotel chain is building a better loyalty mousetrap. If we can win the hearts and minds of the guest, we’ll secure their wallets as well.