Thursday, October 27, 2022

Social media should have a split personality

Social media should have a split personality.

Whatever the industry, it seems like everybody is hot to use social media as a major part of their marketing communications.

That’s cool. It's an affordable channel for sure. But it’s important to recognize that social media — like any other marketing tool — works best when it’s a blend of art and science.
"Art" being "creativity."

Thing is, the medium may have changed, but creativity is just as important in a social media campaign as it ever was in a print or television campaign. Maybe, given the size and limitations on the executions, even more so.

Which is to say your posts should do more than just be there and highlight your employee of the month or your latest offer or promotion.

That’s because people pay attention to things that interest them, things that pique their interest and hold it. Sometimes, it happens to be an ad or a social media post. And if your post isn’t interesting, they’re going to blow right on by.

So it’s critical that your social media campaign is built on as much creative thinking as any Super Bowl commercial.

That means you’d better have some bona-fide creative professionals involved somewhere along the line. In other words, your social media campaign should have an idea behind it. A strategy. A string of posts won't get the job done.

We’ve said it before and we’ll no doubt say it again: creativity is the last unfair advantage we're legally allowed to take over our competitors.

Actually, we didn’t say that first. Ad legend Bill Bernbach did. But you get the idea.


Looky, looky . . .

A website is a visual medium.
Make the most of it.

Sure, people read copy, but it’s often the pictures or illustrations that capture their attention and keep them looking around.

More, actually, than the techno-gizmos web designers sometimes overdo. It’s what we in the ad biz have for years referred to as concept versus execution. A great photo that just sits there is better than an ordinary one surrounded by bells and whistles. 

This is especially true in the hospitality business. You want your site visitors to have an emotional reaction to what they see. Want images that will stand out and speak to potential guests? Turn your photographer loose. 

Of course, there are things you need to show — sleeping rooms, the pool, spa, restaurants and so on — but there’s nothing that says you have to duplicate the photography everybody else is using. Just scan a few hospitality websites. For the most part, you’ll see the same shots over and over again. It’s one thing to want a room shot. It’s another thing to settle for a room shot without life or spirit to it. 

Photographers are creative animals. For years, we’ve always paid the most attention to the “personal work” sections of their websites to see how their minds works. That’s where you’ll find out their real creative style. 

We’re not trying to hustle anybody in particular, but our favorite photographer for years has been Ira Wexler, who sees things the rest of us don’t see and sees the things we all see in a way others don’t see them. Whenever we’ve been on a shoot, he just keeps shooting during setup and downtime. And some of the best shots we get are those that he got when he sort of wandered off the reservation. 

So don’t tell your photographer that you want precisely this, precisely that and precisely the other thing precisely this way or that. Make sure they know what they need to shoot — sleeping rooms, bar, restaurant, spa, and so on. Then let them do what they do best. Maybe send an art director along if it makes you feel better.

It makes no sense to hire a creative soul and then overmanage their work. Let them do what they do best.


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Three-legged stools

Three-legged stools and silos 

Consider these three elements of success in the hotel business. Reality. Your Brand. And your marketing. Ideally, they’re in sync, with none of them out of step with the others. This is how you get your best marketing ROI. 

Here’s how it goes:

Reality is what you really are. It can be hard to objectively see yourself as others see you. But it’s important that you do.

Your Brand is what you tell the world what you are — what distinguishes you from your competition. And it needs to be based on reality, not wishful thinking.

Your marketing is how you go about telling the world what you are. The content and appearance of your messaging as well and the channels you use to reach your target.

A couple of potential problems arise. Like what if your brand and your reality don’t agree? You’d be surprised how often reality doesn’t deliver on a Brand promise.

And even if they do, what if your marketing doesn’t convey your Brand accurately? Or doesn’t target the right people? Or doesn’t stand apart from your competitors’ marketing?

There’s more, but you can see how the three are intertwined. Which is why it’s best to consider them holistically.

There’s a really good argument for bringing someone on to do that for you who is in a position to take an objective look, with no preconceived notions, axe to grind or ownership to protect.

We can do that for you.

See more about what we will do and why we’re qualified to do it at

It may not, for example, be ideal for a firm with a more narrowly defined mission — like your web design firm or your graphic design firm. 

But however you approach it, it’s critical that you take a hard, hard look at whether your reality, your professed Brand and your marketing are working together — or fighting one another in silos.



Tuesday, June 21, 2022

How to make your emails work harder

How to make your emails work harder.

(Email-A-Palooza, Part Two)

There’s a lot we can say about how to make emails more effective. Here is some of it.

On beyond emails. If someone clicks your email, don’t just dump them out onto your home page or booking engine. After all, they are saying “tell me more.” So tell ‘em more.

We like the idea of taking them to a landing page that expands on your message. It’s also a gateway to get them to poke around the site itself. You know “as long as I’m here . . ."

The subject counts. People read things that interest them. Sometimes it happens to be an email. So make your subject line interesting and intriguing. It’s like the headline of your ad. Remember, you’re competing for attention with everybody from Home Depot to HBO Max to local pizza shops and every “your rich uncle died” scammer who ever lived.

Creativity counts, too. This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. When you do send out that “third night free” email, make it creative. Differentiate yourself right here, right now. Again, people read what interests them. You watch Super Bowl commercials, right?

Have a reason to be. Although your emails – like everything else you say about yourself – should reflect your Brand and what is unique about you, please don’t send out emails that just sort of say “we’re a hotel in town.” That’s like mumbling. Give your readers a reason to go a little further, like to your website. A little urgency never hurt, either.

Do it and do it and do it some more. You don’t want to send anybody too many emails too often unless your goal is to see how many people you can get to opt out and how fast. But you do want to do it on a regular basis. Again, (we never get tired of saying this) your email is advertising, and advertising works best when you do it on a consistent basis.

Here comes the self-serving part. The best way to accomplish all this – and more – is to hire a professional creative firm to do your emails for you. A "digital marketing firm” that has a complex email delivery program is more of a tech firm than a creative firm. Their delivery systems are usually top-notch, but they’re also not usually in the creativity business.

And “creativity is the last unfair advantage we're legally allowed to take over our competitors.” 

Even in emails.



Thursday, June 16, 2022

Some thoughts on emails

 A few observations about emails

(Email-A-Palooza, Part One)

Whether those of us who loved doing those glossy magazine ads like it or not, advertising for hotels and resorts is a different animal than it used to be.

Those half- and full-page ads have become, for the most part, cubes and leaderboards, two to three inches to a side. Another change is that email is used more and more, as an affordable vehicle – especially for independent hotels and resorts who don’t have the deep pockets of the big chains.

But it’s important to recognize that if emails, like small digital ads, are a big part of your marketing program, it’s still advertising, just like those glossy magazine ads — the goals and obstacles are exactly the same. Only the channel is different. 

So it makes good sense to put as much strategic and creative thought into those emails as we all once did in media advertising. 

Unfortunately, while almost every hotel on the planet has some sort of means for signing up for an email list not every hotel takes advantage of it.

Some observations:

Because we specialize in hospitality, we sign up for a lot of those lists, and it’s surprising how few emails we get. Not even a “thanks for signing up.” This is a missed opportunity to engage.

It’s also surprising how many properties don’t require anything but an email address when even just a zip code can be an immense help in sending out segmented campaigns. The goal is not necessarily just to gather a lot of emails, but to gather a lot of useful emails. An email all by its lonesome isn’t as useful as one with a name and zip code attached.

Because emails linked to your booking engine can enhance direct bookings, they can be a huge revenue source. We know this from experience.

Point is, with reduced budgets, GMs and DOMs are looking for to spend less to communicate with potential guests. Email can be a good way to do it. 

But only if you use it. 


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Advertising is toothpaste


Advertising and marketing tools

are like toothpaste.

How often have you seen someone befuddled on the toothpaste aisle of the drugstore?
You've been there. We've all been there. Way too many choices, like so many things that are over-complicated. The array of marketing tools and providers available to a hotel or resort is no less confusing.
And these days with tight budgets, you can’t just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. You've got to go with what's going to get you the biggest bang for your buck. Fortunately, Bob Hoffman of The Ad Contrarian is here to offer clear, straightforward advice:
"Look for the agencies that make the best ads. All the rest is trivial."
It's hard to argue with that. No matter how great your property is, if nobody notices what you say about yourself, they're not going to get very excited about clicking over to your website or booking a room. And they probably won't care much about your discounted rate offer, either.
With the myriad of tools out there – nearly every one of them fronted by a really good salesperson – the main purpose of advertising gets lost in the metrics-and-analytics-and-keywords-and-so-on shuffle.
And that main purpose is to demand attention to your message, no matter what channel you're using.
We could easily go on and on about the value of creative advertising, but we'll leave you with another quote from Bob Hoffman:

"It doesn't matter how well you sing if no one hears you."


Friday, May 13, 2022

Advertising is not a light switch

Don't stop.

(Sure, the ad above is for a spa and you may not be a spa, but it does have some relevance to our topic today. Besides, it’s an ad we did and we’ve always liked it.)

Of all the things that can adversely affect your success, short-sightedness could do the most damage.

Several years ago, we had a hotel client who used to cancel all of his advertising whenever his occupancy was up. “We’re doing pretty well right now.” Then, invariably, he’d call back in a couple of weeks in a panic. “Occupancy is down! We’ve got to do something!”

Unless you’re promoting a limited-time offer, advertising isn’t an immediate cause-and-effect thing for any business. Nor is it an on-and-off thing, like a light switch. You advertise — online, via email or however you do — to build and maintain desire and awareness for your business and what you have to offer.

It’s easy to tell yourself “We’re good right now. People know about us.” But do they? Almost certainly not as much as you think.

And after going dark for a while, catching back up to where you were can be a real bear. An expensive with some sort of presence. 

So . . .