Selling people on less

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July 10, 2013 by Tamara Piety

Loews Hotel chain has an interesting new ad campaign. As reported in Stuart Elliott’s advertising  column in the New York Times, it is launching a campaign to try to position itself as the hotel that gives you more “room” from overly solicitous staff. Yes, that’s right. Apparently Loews believes that it has discovered a market niche of hotel guests who would like less service.

“In the focus groups, participants described how at many high-end hotels the staff members ‘are always on top of you; they can’t leave you alone,’ he adds. ‘Most people in that 35-to-55 area don’t want that.’”

In contrast, Mr. Spitzer says, ‘Loews has hit on a style of service: everything is there, they’re there for you, but they don’t have to hold your hand the entire time.’ He characterizes it as ‘be nice and be real, but not all over you.’”

Right. I am not in their demographic but I have to say that I haven’t noticed much hand-holding, even at the high end hotels I’ve stayed at recently. Far more frequent is the problem of getting the room cleaned, getting someone to remove that room service tray that has been out in the hall for 2 days, opening up another line for check-in or check-out, getting someone to answer the concierge desk phone.

And although the article says the word “room” is used “in the sense of a place to rest” as well as this hands-off attitude from staff,  apparently the campaign isn’t actually, literally asserting that Loews hotels will offer bigger rooms. Just “a” room, which is kinda sort a what a hotel is in the business of doing right? Not exactly ground-breaking. I’m reminded of Meryl Streep’s line from The Devil Wear Prada” – “Not wonderful yet.”

Basically the challenge appears to be that there is nothing at all distinctive about Loews hotels, they aren’t really changing anything, but they would like you to feel like they are and the pitch they’ve come up with amounts to “we won’t be in your face.”  Moreover, the article reports that the company’s market research reflects that people behave a little differently when they travel than they do at home thus the ad campaign intends to “subtly” speak to this reality by assuring guests that  “[T]he ads convey that “whenever you’re with us, whoever you are, we’ll give you your space to do your thing; we won’t be in your face.”

Really?! That is it – people do stuff on vacation or when they travel that they don’t do at home and they would like to feel that people aren’t spying on them?! Wow! I didn’t know that the hotel staff was paying that much attention.  And I guess most people would like to think the same. This campaign rather creepily asserts the opposite and then assures you that the staff won’t be “in your face” which sounds to me more like they won’t be around when you need them. I think either they’ve misread their data about what customers want or they would like to just cut staff but tell customers that they are doing so for the customers’ benefit.

You got to love it – advertisers trying to pitch hotels with reduced staffing (which is what this sounds like), all couched in the usual vague squishy language that is virtually meaningless.“The print ads are appearing in national magazines that include Bloomberg Pursuits, Condé Nast Traveler, Departures, Travel & Leisure and Wired; two-page advertorials are running in Departures and Wired with headlines like ‘Beyond the boardroom: master the art of blending ROI and R&R’ and ‘How do you find the room you need?'”

People combine business with pleasure. Ground-breaking.

The article reports that ad spending for the brand totaled $6.3 million last year. They should just send some of that money to me.

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