Hotel Product to Hotel Experience – Creating a Story

  ·  1st March 2018

What a wishy-washy title. Something a hotel digital marketing agency would say.. Well, yes, but in the next few lines I’ll explain why viewing your hotel through the lens of ‘experience’ as opposed to ‘product’  is more important than ever. Thinking beyond your hotel as a product to an entire story will enhance your marketing significantly. These hotel applications are drawn from a fascinating talk by James Wallman, world renowned futurist and author of Stuffocation.

The way we identify ourselves with our friends has changed significantly over the last 20 years, brought about by a potent combination of generally becoming more affluent and a fundamental change in how we communicate with our friends and colleagues.

Material Possessions

Let’s break it down and start with the concept of defining our own identity. Even not so long ago, the guy in the pub with the fancy watch or standout material possession was the subject of the chatter – significantly more than it is now. Why? Because we all now generally have quite a high standard of material possessions. We all have smartphones (once a luxury) and even if we have cheap clothes, they generally don’t look cheap, such has been the success of the likes of Primark and H&M in delivering fashionable items for peanuts. If and when we do have a new material possession, however (subconsciously or consciously) flaunt this to identify ourselves with our friends and social circles. Now that the visible differentiation between luxury and just ‘what everybody has’ has decreased, we are now in need of something more that is exclusive and conversation-worthy. Enter unique experience.

Humans will always need a way to identify themselves among their peers, so what is filling this vacuum? James argues that it is stories and experiences now set us apart more than material things. While you can’t wear it on your wrist or flash it about, your exciting stories become a highly unique social possession that only you have access to. They give you more of an identity among friends. The more hard-to-find such an experience is,  the more others are likely to admire and listen closely, just like a Ferrari.

Quick use case:

Your round-the-world unicycle charity expedition building schools and saving animals is going to invite a lot more questions than your half hour bowling session last Thursday. The former is harder to achieve and far more exclusive than the other. It is, therefore, going to command much more social value.

Social Media

The next component of this new explanation of social identity is Social Media. The Facebook newsfeed, Instagram stories and Twitter’s timeline are all far better suited to sharing experiences and stories as opposed to showing off material possessions. If we do share images of our possessions, they are usually framed from a “lifestyle” point of view as well, which by extension, is quite experiential.

Evidence of this phenomenon in action is the boom in ‘escape room’ businesses across the UK in the last few years. They are experiences where friends come together to figure out clues and get out of a locked room! It is nothing tangible but it is excellent at creating stories among friends. These bonding experiences are exactly the social currency that we now trade with when conversing with our friends.

So what does this mean for hotels?

It means that people’s interest in a ‘hotel as a product’ is waning; they are craving something to talk about! Paying guests are the perfect weapon for sharing your hotel experience with their friends. You, as a hotelier, just need to give them the ammunition in the form of a story worth telling. Collectively as an industry, we need to move away from the ‘room as product’ mentality where hotels are simply delivering a bed, however luxurious or basic it is. This concept is star-rating-agnostic. I implore you to start thinking of the storyline throughout the guest stay, right from the booking.

What do we learn about stories in school? Stories have a beginning middle and end. Ask yourself if this is reflected in your offering? The Story actually starts from when the guest hits your hotel website in fact! Whether or not it is a family coming for a city trip or a conference delegate; there are ways to do this. Picture the guest walks in with their family, how does the story start? Perhaps ask the kids if they’re on a London adventure? What are they here to explore? What is their plan for the week? You can then map your service to their story.

If someone arrives for a conference there is the preparation and smartening-up stage, the late return and the early start in the morning. To kick things off, why not give them a little pre-conference “go get ‘em”, ask if they have their business cards and give some mints for super fresh breath! For the late return, what about an alkasalzer and a bottle of water on the bedside table? Perhaps even a reminder to set their alarm and drink some water! When they leave in the morning, you can even ask for their business card in case they ever come across someone that offers their services.

I know it’s all a bit clunky and unimaginative but it maps the story of the experience to the story of their stay. With the leisure market, it gets a whole lot more imaginative as you start creating the story rather than enhancing the story but I’ll leave that to you guys 😉