Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Is the Core Principle of Social Media Marketing?

I attended the Social Media Marketing World Conference 2014 in San Diego (#SMMW14).  I heard many case studies and real success on social media marketing, which were drawn from different industrial sectors and represented a variety of social media platforms.  In the end, I made one conclusion: Listening and responding to customers is the core principle of social media marketing.  Companies now can answer the following questions by analyzing the consumer data on the Internet:

  • For what purpose or on what occasion do customers use a product/service?
  • What do they like or dislike about a product/service? And for what reasons?
  • Who is actually buying and using a particular product/service?
  • When is the best time to communicate with the target customers on social media?
  • Where is the best "place" to reach the target customers?

Is it that simple?  Just "listen" to what customers said online, and then "respond" to what they need?  Check out my reflections on #SMMW14.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Winning Customers with a Small Touch

DoubleTree by Hilton shows us how to win customers with its signature chocolate cookies.  For over 20 years, the signature chocolate cookies have become the buzzword associate with the brand and a symbol of the company's "care culture."  

This time, DoubleTree developed a series of marketing strategies around the signature cookies, including:
  • Initiating a "pay it forward" event by giving two cookies to every in-house guest or a person on the street — one for the guest, the other for passing along. People are also encouraged to answer "Who else deserves some Cookie Care?" on DoubleTree's social media channels.
  • Making Cookie Care tour stops. During this scheduled tour, the hotel will surprise customers in selected locations with Hilton Cookie Care giveaways.
  • "#CookieCare" Sweepstakes on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other major social media platforms.
  • Selling the chocolate chip cookie dough on the hotel's website in late spring so that people can bring the DoubleTree experience to their homes.

Do you know other examples where a brand does a "tiny" little thing that touches customers' hearts and thus encourages them to come back again and again?  Maybe your personal experience?  Would you mind sharing with us?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Is It Possible to Develop a “Classic” Brand and Market It to All Generations?

On March 10, I published an article entitled "Hotels, Restaurants Respond to Shifting Customer Base" on MultiBriefs.com.  It is good to see hospitality companies are developing fresh concepts and new brands to target younger generations, such as Gen Y and Gen Z, but at the same time, I am a little worried about the strategy of marketing a new product/service strictly to one generation but not the others (e.g., the AC Hotel by Marriott).  If  a hotel or a restaurant only targets Millennials, for example, does it mean the establishment would not welcome other generations?  I argue if it would be better to market a new product/service as a "classic" brand or a new life-style brand that would welcome all generations.  What do you think?  


References:
The picture was downloaded from Gather.com

Monday, March 17, 2014

Witness the Breakfast War (by Kyra Yong)

When it comes to breakfast fast-food, McDonald’s is usually the first company that comes to our minds.  From their signature Egg McMuffins, to their up and coming McCafe, the thought of having a warm golden arched, hash brown in the golden mornings of the day is an appeal that many of us can resonate with.  Currently, many companies are also considering taking a part in the breakfast market. Breakfast is slowly becoming a great part of the fast food lifeline – resulting to be a business contributing more than $50 billion dollars in revenue, as stated by USA Today.  With all this in mind, Mexican fast-food chain, Taco Bell is taking a step to participate for their fair share in the breakfast market as they will be launching a completely new breakfast menu.  By mid-March, consumers will be given the option to purchase drip coffee, Waffle Tacos or A.M. Crunchwraps.  To appeal to their target Millennial crowd, these items will be easy to hold and available a half hour later than many other chains such as McDonald’s. 
 
As the market shifts, companies also need to make changes accordingly.  Taco Bell is not the only business to make this company wide addition to their menu.  Companies such as Starbucks and Subway have also taken a big part in the game and compete directly with McDonald's.  Even though McDonald’s has always been the reigning champ in terms of being known for the "breakfast fast-food chain," the company has to step up their game in marketing to maintain a good market share and sales.   
 
As compared to McDonald’s position in the breakfast market, Taco Bell is definitely a new player. Since the early 90’s, Taco Bell has mainly been known for their Mexican inspired menu.  Now, the chain has decided to take a huge step into having a breakfast menu and hopefully, even a coffee option.  This greatly mimics McDonald’s strategy in the coffee business.  Though Taco Bell does have the strength of their brand, stepping into this new market may seem a bit far off their original company purpose.  The name Taco Bell caters towards the Hispanic flare of food, a group that doesn’t usually have American breakfast items such as syrup drizzled sausages wrapped in tortillas on their daily palate.  Therefore, Taco Bell has the disadvantage of not having a good reputation as a breakfast place, and it is playing a catching-up game. 
    
As we witness this race, it is interesting to note the many different tactics companies are using to market their new products.  McDonald’s has established a strong reputation for breakfast; however, they definitely will need to find new ways to adjust to the shifting market as more companies are starting to jump on the growth stage of the breakfast bandwagon.  Not only do companies have to develop new products/service that appeal to their target market (e.g., on-the-go consumers), they will also have to brainstorm different ideas to lure in their audience.  Let's hope Taco Bell will be able to survive by launching a new concept and/or new breakfast items.    

Do you believe Taco Bell is making a multi-billion dollar breakfast mistake?  How can the restaurant chain position itself differently from those big competitors such as McDonald’s?

About the author:
Kyra Yong is an undergraduate student attending the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona.  She has an emphasis on Food & Beverage particularly within the restaurant world of the industry. With an entrepreneurial spirit, she is driven to gain the most from her peers, professors, and internship experiences.  Since she started at the Collins College, she has been greatly involved in campus clubs, honored in the Dean’s List, and awarded scholarships from food-service companies, such as Sodexo and Nestle of the Collins Scholarships. She enjoys the opportunity of giving back to the community and hopes to utilize her accumulated skills to benefit future hospitality companies and ultimately, a company of her own.  
 
Reference:
Horovitz, Bruce. "Taco Bell Thinking outside the Breakfast Bun." USA Today. Gannett, 24 Feb.  
            2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
Choi, Candice. "Taco Bell Takes Aim at McDonald's With Breakfast." ABC News. ABC News
            Network, 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What Is the Future for Hotel Centeral Reservation Centers?

In a recent post I shared on MultiBriefs.com, I discussed the future of the traditional central reservation centers (CRCs) in hotels.  If CRCs are determined to "step down from the stage," what can hotels do to prepare for the future?  Will a mobile service center be the answer?  If so, what will a mobile service center do?

What changes do you anticipate in CRCs?  If you work in a hotel's CRCs, what changes have you seen in the past five years?


References:
The picture was downloaded from PhonePhunnies.com

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Brand Loyalty Programs: Let the Customer Work for You (Contributed by Cesar Tenorio)

One of the biggest issues that the hotel industry has been facing today is the lack of guest retention to a certain brand.  With the added competition of online travel agencies (OTA's) today, hotels are scrambling to try and get guests to stick around for more reasons than just room rates and complimentary Wi-Fi.
 
Cue in the loyalty program: a business technique that awards those returning guests through free parking, free snacks, a fancy name, and you guessed it, complimentary Wi-Fi.  However, even with the opportunity with all the perks and salty snacks that a hotel offers, marketing researchers are still scratching their heads as to what will make people not only prefer a certain brand, but also desire it.  It strongly poses the question, what do we have to do next? Or what new thing can we offer? Maybe it's time to start asking, is it time to step back and view the issue in a new lens?

To begin, we need to boil down this issue to its core: satisfying the guests' wants in a unique way.  I observed how many loyalty programs offer generally the same amenities along with the same customer service.  This leaves customers with no choice but to base loyalty programs off of price and free nights than rather the distinguishable experience that the hotel strives for.  Additionally, with the rapid advancement of technology, companies are slowly implementing online strategies to differentiate themselves.  The answer? Companies need to take some time to rethink their online presence and generate a solid, online game plan to stay ahead of the competition.

According to Access and Fast Company statistics, 66% of 18-24 year olds are more loyal to companies with a strong social media presence.  Meanwhile, the fastest growing demographic on Twitter consists of those in the 55-64 year old age bracket.  As you scroll down the tons of stories on Facebook or view the amount of Twitter 'favorites' a single tweet generates from Justin Bieber's latest arrest, the fact seems apparent that online social media is how people quickly  communicate today.  It has no longer become a hobby, but a lifestyle.  More and more people are implementing social media into their lives ranging from posting pictures of adorable puppies on Facebook to young women incorporating Pintrest ideas into their weddings.  If every brand boasts of such a unique culture, why not let guests become a part of it?  Better yet, why not let them take the wheel and drive?

It is a common rule of thumb that one satisfied guest may speak with two people about their experience, but will tell twenty people if they had a bad stay.  With the advantage of social media, those satisfied guests can now tell hundreds of people on a single media source.  The catch?  To find the motivation for guests to pull out their media device and capture moments that you want captured.

One of the more straight forward techniques is to visually impress the guest so that they will take a picture and share it with their friends.  Want to take it one step further?  Actively encourage guests to share their experiences through social media by taking photos of their drinks, views from their hotel room, and their trips that they embark while they're out of the hotel.  Is there a bartender who can serve drinks while performing tricks?  Let the guests take a Snapchat video of the bartender expertly tossing bottles around and finish the spectacle by pouring a perfect long island iced tea.  Another way to get guests incorporated is by asking what plans future guests have when they stay at a particular hotel.  Even a simple 'Tag someone you love/know' while posting a picture of a popular destination is enough to get people talking and start tagging their friends.  The idea is participation in the organization.  The more that people are incorporated into the hotel culture, the more they will feel inclined to return to a certain brand. 

One amazing thing that I have seen is how small operations are able to have a hold on so many followers.  One Instagram user that I am impressed is Beautiful Destinations.  They have over a million followers on Instagram and the only things they post are beautiful photos of various locations around the world and ask their followers to tag someone else.  They constantly update their feed two or three times a day all while receiving over 10k favorites on at least every photo.  Large name brands such as Hilton and Marriott have just over 5K followers.  The demand for a shift towards a new loyalty program is higher than ever before.

What do you think would be a huge factor in guest retention?  Do you think small business tactics such as Beautiful Destinations would work for a large name brand?  Do you think social media can play a part in guest retention?

About the Author

Cesar Tenorio is a full-time undergraduate student at the Collins College of Hospitality Management in California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he is currently pursuing a degree in Hospitality Management.  He has held several different positions on campus including Resident Advisor, Orientation Leader, Executive Director for the Up 'Til Dawn fundraising event, and more.  He also held an internship position this past summer in the selective Hilton Worldwide program.  He has also received scholarships from both The Collins College and the American Hotel & Lodging Association.  Cesar currently aspires to receive a management program upon graduation and pursue an MBA in Finance.

References:
Lodging Staff. "Your Good Name." Lodging. n.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.
Wengen, Deidre. "Building Guest Loyalty in the Digital Age." Lodging. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.
Cooper, Belle B. "10 Surprising Social Media Statistics That Will Make You Rethink Your Social Strategy | Fast Company | Business + Innovation." Fast Company. N.p., 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.
Carter, Brandon. "The Access Loyalty Blog." The Access Loyalty Blog. N.p., 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.