Marketing is getting the details right

Marketing is getting the details right.  And its always the simple things that companies mess up.  Lt me give you an example.

As you may know, I travel quite a bit. I’m a big believer in maximizing my travel by being a loyal brand consumer…which gains me status, points and makes my travel life easier and more convenient. I try to only fly United and whenever I can, I stay in a Marriott hotel.

That affords me sort of an insider’s view of both of these businesses but still interacting with them as one of their frequent consumers.

We’ve talked before about the value of seeing your business through your consumer’s eyes and I had an ah ha moment while staying in Nashville this past week.

Because I stay in a lot of hotels, I notice card keys. I’m fascinating at how different hotels use those card keys as marketing tools. Some sell it as advertising space to the local pizza joint while others use it as a brand platform, putting a beautiful visual on the card. I equate the quality of the hotel to the beauty of the card. When I stay at a Comfort Inn or Fairfield Inn — I get pizza coupons. When I stay at a Westin — their cards are a work of art they’re so beautiful.

platinumcardWhenever I check into a Marriott, I get a card that looks like this. The word elite indicates that I am a member of their Marriott Rewards program and have achieved their highest status level — platinum. As you can see, the card is pretty bland but it clearly is the platinum color…to signify my member rank.

Seems sort of dull, doesn’t it? It hardly says high end hotel to me. But this hotel is Gaylord‘s Grand Opry — a very high end hotel. By accident, they made me a “regular” key card too.

fancycardLook at how beautiful it is. (I was in their Magnolia wing) But Marriott assumes that the bland but “prestigious” card is what their most frequent customers would prefer.

I have often thought — “I wonder why Marriott has such ugly key cards compared to other higher end hotel chains” Turns out — they don’t. They just give the ugly cards to their best customers.

Here’s my ah ha moment — how often do we assume that we know what our best customers want? I’m sure Marriott thinks they’re stroking my ego by giving me the special platinum key card. But I assumed everyone got the ugly cards and I didn’t even notice that it was geared towards their elite members.

In my daughter’s college town, there are no Marriott properties so I just stay at either a Comfort Inn or something like that. Even their keys are more interesting than Marriott’s and every time I check in I think, “why can’t Marriott do better keys than these guys?”

Now I know. They do. They just don’t give them to their most frequent customers.

Is this a big deal? Absolutely not. But — that’s what marketing is. It’s the details. Most businesses get the big stuff right so how you differentiate yourself is in how well you handle the details. In my opinion, Marriott missed the boat on this one. Later this week I’ll show you a hotel that didn’t miss a single opportunity to build and highlight their brand.

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8 comments on “Marketing is getting the details right

  1. Hi Drew … this is so true. And it’s my fervent belief that what you put in someone’s hands is one of the most important elements of a complete marketing program. All of the whiz bang stuff means nothing if what the consumer/customer/prospect/staff member holds is out of sync and doesn’t represent the brand. When our clients pass out new (way cool) business cards to their staff after a rebrand, it’s one of the most important communication tools. Now they own it, and can hand a card out and talk proudly of where they work. Good stuff!

    1. There is something very sticky about cool business cards, isn’t there?


  2. Joe McFadden says:

    Right message, right medium, right time, right audience–it’s a lot of details you’ve got to get right! You never know which little detail is going to push a customer over the edge (for better or for worse) so it’s best to keep an eye on everything and always be evaluating what works.

  3. Elaine Fogel says:

    Yes, yes, and yes, Drew! The details make such a difference.

  4. It’s kind of funny because I’m a Marriott Rewards member too (and have been for years) and I actually like the “elite” keycards. It may just be because I am the type of person that doesn’t like a lot of clutter. The sleek uncluttered appearance appeals to me, quite frankly.

    That Gaylord Opryland card is just too much for me. It’s not going to make me enjoy my stay any more than it would have otherwise. I have stayed at the Gaylord Orlando resort and it is the resort itself that wowed me. I don’t even remember what the keycard looked like, but I still remember the evening I sat on the steps late at night in the outdoor theater area and sipped coffee with my daughter.

    Just offering a different perspective!

    1. A different perspective and a great point. No one customer is all customers. It’s why a company shouldn’t let one customer’s complaint change their course and why ongoing customer research is so important. While one voice shouldn’t dictate a direction — the chorus of voices should.


  5. Dave Wedge says:

    Its very strange that Marriott would assume that you dont care, is it that because you stay so often anyway they think they dont need to worry about it?

  6. I can’t remember who said it but “there’s no such thing as a neutral brand impression.” Every time you come in contact with a brand you either like it a little bit more or a little bit less. It’s always the little things that make a big difference. More companies need to look into this stuff!

    Great story.


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