Hollywood has a term for the scenes when two characters meet and you know right away, to quote Casablanca, that it’s “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” That kind of scene is known in the industry as a “Meet Cute.” It’s When Harry Met Sally, and a love-filled romance blooms instantly — usually thanks to a cute, awkward or otherwise adorable situation.
Just like the flawed-but-cherished characters in a romantic comedy, consumers love meaningful brands with open, honest, fun and generous personalities. Understanding the emotional mechanics of the meet cute is one trick that travel brands can use to make an impression with travelers. Here’s how.
A brand by any other name
Before discussing anything involving brand, let’s establish a foundation for what the word “brand” actually means. There are a lot of definitions and ideas floating around out there about brands. Jeremiah Gardner, author of The Lean Brand, says it so succinctly: “A brand is a relationship between an organization and an audience.” And I’m not talking about having conversations with consumers on Twitter or fishing for likes on Facebook. Those are merely one-off interactions, which may or may not be part of a greater whole. A relationship is much larger and much more meaningful to both parties.
However, before you start any relationship, you have to meet someone first. And then, just like a director in Hollywood, you have to get them to like you.
Write the first chapter
Danny Meyer, in his book Setting the Table, shares his philosophy on customer service as always writing the last chapter with a guest. This means that the brand must do whatever it can to make a situation better by writing the last chapter — no matter what it takes, leave that guest with the best experience to take home and share with others.
“The only important thing to remember is that—in a movie—the boy and the girl must meet in some cute way. They cannot meet […] like normal people at, perhaps, a cocktail party or some other social function. No. It is terribly important that they meet cute.” -George Axelrod, 1955
So what about writing the first chapter? By thinking on the first touchpoint a consumer has with your brand, you succeed at humanizing the overall experience. By building in these “first chapters,” hotels can make memorable experiences that bring guests back. The Human Brand has been identified by Trendwatching as one of the six mega-trends with the largest impact on the hospitality industry. More specifically, this mega-trend identifies key components often overlooked in the discussion of loyalty. For segments across the hospitality industry, the billion dollar question remains: How do I keep travelers coming back?
Stand for something
Getting consumers to like you is hard, and it’s pretty much impossible to get everyone to like you. The key is to show people who you are and what you stand for. People will buy into what you’re selling if your goals and aspirations are in line with their own.
63% of global consumers claim to only buy products and services that appeal to their beliefs, values or ideals.
You are no longer just a brand, a hotel, or an organization. You are the culmination of everything you say and do as well as everything you don’t. I don’t know about you, but all this talk about relationships is starting to sound rather…human. I think we just came full circle on that human brands thing.
Once you start opening up and telling people who you really are, this is when the magic happens. This is when you develop those long lasting relationships. This is when those one-time guests develop into guests that are loyal to your brand.
Identify what you are passionate about, and let that be your guide in taking that first step in developing a system that rewards guests on shared values. Do you have a special place in your heart for law enforcement? Then give policewomen and men a special rate when they stay at your hotel. In relationships, it’s the little things that matter. This is what takes things to the next level. Instead of just liking you, they will “like like” you. And we all know what “like like” means — they think they’re in love with you but they aren’t ready to say it just yet.
It takes two to meet cute
As consumers, we tend to have no problem giving criticism and writing negative reviews, but are unaccustomed to being held accountable for our actions as well. The good news is, seeing how this is a relationship and all, it’s not just about your brand’s behavior. A two–way rating system makes for a more enjoyable experience for everyone. It also doesn’t seem to be affecting consumer loyalty. Just the opposite, in fact.
For example, Art Series Hotel Group developed a program where guests are rated by the hotel staff. Based on their rating, guests can earn special discounts and rewards. This is what we call “perkonomics:” a loyalty economy based on perks personalized to each traveler. Offering little extras outside of traditional loyalty programs will strengthen relationships, attract attention and escape commoditization.
However, to be able to reward your guests appropriately, you have to know them. Studies have found travellers are willing to give up personal information for a more customized experience. For instance, do they live in an area that was recently affected by a catastrophic event? Offer a discounted rate in real-time to show loyal guests that you truly care.
By taking a cue from Hollywood, human brands can direct the traveler experience and craft a memorable guest story, a story that powers a lifetime of loyalty. Regardless of how you do it, just remember that it takes two to meet cute!