These days, most hotel chains are trying to be too many things to too many people. "Business travelers? Absolutely. Families? That's our secondary target. We try to cater to trendy millennial travelers too, by the way." And while that tiered strategy may produce an experience that is good-enough for everyone, most hotel chains are struggling to drive differentiation and loyalty with the right guests. And very few concepts could be considered craveable.
Yes, we said it: craveable. Stay with us. We at Sterling-Rice Group recently conducted research that illuminates the subconscious cultural forces that ignite humans' deepest desires, and it applies to the hotel business. We call it Craveology. Working with psychologists, neurologists, anthropologists, and consumers across three continents, our research has unlocked the anatomy of the experiences we crave most. Here's what we found:
- Life constantly throws us out of balance. Cravings are the mind and body's attempt to bring us back to center. Craving a run? Maybe you've been feeling cooped up and restricted as you work to meet a work deadline. Craving a pint of Talenti? Maybe you've been feeling stressed or in conflict with a loved one.
- We have identified five emotional spectra on which these imbalances occur, and we illustrate three below.
- Cravings are so much more than food. While our strongest impulses often center on food, we humans also crave interaction, sensations, and yes, experiences (here's where you come in).
Using this framework, you can begin to build profoundly craveable elements into your brand. And we're not talking sugar, salt, and fat. Here's how:
- Walk a mile in your target's shoes. And once you've reached the gate, go ahead and fly another 1500 miles in her shoes while you're at it. The key to creating a craveable hotel experience starts with deep human empathy and dedication to your core guest. What are the emotional imbalances he's most likely feeling the moment he steps into your lobby? Maybe she's feeling tired, overwhelmed, and longing for home. Or perhaps he's feeling excited, restless, and ready to explore. Each guest will be craving very different experiences, and you can't cater to everyone.
- Map those imbalances and determine which to prioritize. With your core guest's imbalances in mind, what are the two or three your brand can best address, given your equities, real estate strategy, service structure, and operational capabilities?
- Execute against those imbalances in believable, immersive, and iconic ways. In other words, don't half-ass it. You've picked your core guest and identified the core imbalances you want to transform into craveability. Now's not the time to skim on investment. Do what it takes to make your experience genuine and differentiated in the sea of generic offerings. When done well, this is where the magic happens.
A few craveable examples:
- Kimpton Hotels:
Kimpton hotel group offers each guest "Guppy Love," a live goldfish to keep in their suite. Kimpton understands that traveling can often be lonely, an imbalance in social isolation. They've countered this imbalance by providing a little drop of companionship, connection, and love in every room. And if you are craving some unfettered freedom in your life, become a loyalty member and "Raid the Bar" while Kimpton picks up the tab.
- Westin: The growing number of guests who crave their daily exercise routine is surprising. Many guests don't feel like themselves without this sacred routine, feeling out of control when staying at a hotel. Westin has tapped into this tension and has started offering Peloton bikes at many of their U.S. locations. Westin guests can now regain some control in their hectic travel days while biking up a virtual mountain, competing in a real-life class against other bike junkies.
- Embassy Suites: breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially to Embassy Suites who offers a free cooked-to-order breakfast to all guests. Embassy Suites knows that guests don't always have control over their travel options, especially when it comes to meals, creating an imbalance in chaos. "Cooked-to-Order" puts guests back in the driver seat of their hotel stay, allowing them to customize a meal just for them, giving them control over their breakfast options. The "Free" provides peace of mind, by taking something they typically have to plan for, off their plate, so they can better enjoy their day, feeling organized and in control.
Convinced yet? Whether you approach craveology through design thinking, innovative new products and programs, or deep consumer empathy, you can begin making critical improvements to make your brand more craveable. With a concerted and focused effort, you too can begin to build rational and sensory craveability into your brand, driving differentiation and loyalty for your most valuable guests.
This article was initially published here
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Valerie Silverman Kerr
VSK Public Relations, LLC