Industry Update
Opinion Article 8 October 2015

Who wants to kill word of mouth?

By Georges Panayotis, President & Founder of MKG Group & Hospitality ON

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The apparent magic of new technologies can make us quickly forget that the winners of yesteryear haven't lost all their effectiveness. A study has recently shown that word of mouth remains the most powerful influencer prior to purchases. We are re-discovering that recommendations from a reliable friend or acquaintance is more pertinent for the client than advertising or marketing which are suspected of making products look better than they are.


In the end, as far as hospitality is concerned, the lived experience is the crux of the question. It is important not to get the wrong idea, any number of anonymous "Likes" cannot replace a referral for a good address from a friend, cousin or colleague and the real experience they had there.

As is often the case, it is important to get back to basics and not expect that posted commentaries –especially when they have been sorted, filtered and toned down, no matter how many they are –will have much of an effect on the future client's choice. The mass of information is not automatically associated with pertinence. While community sites are consulted as references, they are not the only source of validation for the preference for one brand over another or one property versus another.

This awareness should accelerate the return of the pendulum to avoid investing everything in digital marketing that will reach many with an overly dehumanized message trop e many attempts at personalization. Increasingly often, the customer feels a bit targeted in an intimate way from revealing consumer habits and preferences by consulting Internet sites. The cookie is malicious and gourmand in terms of information but it does not really inspire confidence.

While the shared experience between close acquaintances and friends is fundamental to giving a brand consistency, it is important to ensure that personnel are correctly trained to succeed in the daily challenge of zero defects and a dose of soul that makes the difference. It is also necessary to ensure that the product is on a par with the customer's expectations and even surprise him with innovation and originality. Investing in technology is, of course, indispensable, but far, from being sufficient. No matter how efficient tools are, do not produce a brand's DNA. At best they reeinforce it and help spread it.

Through the hotel's Cardex system, and its recently developed more technological versions, the hotel director knew his regular clients precisely and could determine their level of satisfaction. This quality control in real time, combined with loyalty tools, made it possible to constantly adjust service and make a difference for clients. Operational marketing thus gains all its meaning and value. It is unfortunate that more global digital marketing, based on Big Data, is preferred over this even if it seems more modern.

Because of its human aspect and particular experience sought, the hotel industry is not a universal object that can be marketed worldwide to vast numbers, short of being one of the mass of properties identified by a price and location on Google Maps. Purely global marketing is too impersonal. While it is useful to regularly reaffirm a brand's values, it must be remembered that they are reinterpreted locally by those operating locally. It serves no purpose to try to mask over the reality of the product with digital tools because, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Your actions speak so loudly I can not hear what you are saying." "Glocal" marketing is the right answer to be sure that word of mouth will work within close-knit, but more efficient, circles of close friends, who are more real than "fans" or virtual "friends" on the Net.


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Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is the President & Founder of MKG Group & Hospitality ON. Born into a family of hoteliers, Georges Panayotis left Greece at the age of 18 to study Political Science and earn a management degree at the University of Paris, Dauphine. In 1986 he created his own company and started developing specialised marketing tools for the hotel industry.

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