Industry Update
Opinion Article 8 May 2017

Experiences: The Taste for Intangibles

How to use ‘the taste for intangibles’ to make your hotel marketing irresistible

By Jeremiah Magone, Marketing Director at Hospitality Copywriting

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There's been a big shift in consumer desires over the last 10 years…


This isn't something new, however. It's something that the copywriting industry has been aware of for decades. But now it's reached a real crescendo.

I call this: "The taste for intangibles."

Here's how these intangible desires can help fuel your success in the hospitality industry.

Quick quiz

Which 2 pictures, out of the 4 below, do you think do the best job of selling?

Here's a hint: Which 2 pictures would get shared on social media… and which ones wouldn't?

The answer is pretty obvious, right? Products are always less appealing than experiences.

So why do most hotels still insist on filling their advertising with pictures of empty rooms?

Keep reading to see why they're missing out…

Why are 'intangibles' more important than ever before…

In copywriting, we acknowledge that people aren't really in the market for 'things'. They don't really "need" to buy a new car, for example. Their old one will usually get them where they want to go just fine.

This ad, by Porsche, even makes a point of this fact! "Dreaming about it" is more important than having it, they declare!

Emotions are, clearly, more important than four wheels, two doors and a steering wheel.

But, for some reason, we're all a little embarrassed to admit why we really buy things

Nobody says, "I bought this because it's soooo. Freakin'. Cool. And it makes me feel super cool, too…"

That would be 'showing your cards', just a little too much, don't you think?

Yes, even though consumers tell themselves that they're looking for features, what they're really in the market for are the deeper benefits a product or service holds; that boost in self-confidence they get when they think about their friends watching them pull up in that new sports car… the feeling of success and status...

This is what I call, "the taste for intangibles," and smart marketers use this to their advantage all the time.

Here are a couple of examples to spark your creativity…

When you think of Red Bull, I'm sure you're not thinking of the drink. You're thinking of the sports they've associated themselves with. You're thinking of the extreme stunts you've seen their team riders pull; the insane courage they exude. You're impressed – and on some level, you're envious.

Nike is another perfect example of this.

Remember, Nike never said, "Hey, we're in the shoe business. We only care about shoes." Their shirts said, "I wanna be like Mike," because their real business is the association business.

Think about this with me for a minute.

These companies launched their business with the power they got from famous people, not from the quality of their products.

The respect that people have, nowadays, when they see these brand names is because of the feelings they had when they were enjoying their media. That's when they bonded with the brand!

As hotel marketers, we should all take note of how Nike and Red Bull have used media in their businesses. We should admit that they're not sports or a sports drink companies, anymore. They're media companies. Their true product is their marketing. And unless we remember that fact every time we sit down to create our own marketing materials, we'll never benefit from the 'aura of stardom' the way they have!

Here's why this concept is more critical than at any time in human history

Consumers these days have a constant need for entertainment.

I know I do.

When I sit down, if I don't have anything to do for a minute or two... out comes the phone and I start looking around at what's going on...etc. I'm sure you know the feeling.

So, if we want our properties to stand out above the competition, we should acknowledge that pervasive need for entertainment and ask ourselves, "What entertains each one of us the most? What are we always looking to for?"

We need to get really up close and personal with this question…

Because when we do, if we're really being honest with ourselves, we'll admit: The most entertaining thing for each one of us is the feeling of validation, for our own thoughts, feelings and actions.

We all want to be liked. We all want to be "popular".

That's what we all hunger for, deep down.

Why else, for example, would someone decide to share a picture of the donuts they ate, earlier in the morning… and check back every few minutes to see how many 'likes' they got – if it wasn't to validate themselves in some way..?

It's all about validation

I'm not saying that seeking validation is bad, or wrong in any way. We're all invested in our own stories, and rightfully so.

But now that social media has given each person a way to put their individual story out there, and get a quick validation in return – I feel like our 'taste for intangibles' has changed in a big way. And, as this desire continues to evolve, we need to realize that our marketing can either play to that fact – or risk being lost in a sea of self-interested posts. And people aren't interested in a company's self-interest, they're interested in their own self-interest…


That's why I'm saying we need to start seeing the lodging industry as a media industry.

To really speak to consumers' desires for intangibles, we need to create advertising content that's focused on 'share-ability', instead of just talking 'about' the hotel and it's amenities all the time.

Here's the formula we need to use to do that:

The magic marketing formula is:

[Exposure + Positioning + Offer = Intangibles]

By using this, we can get away from the old-fashioned formula of:

[Price + Location + Amenities = Demand]

When you get this formula right, people will share your content… and then…

It's one thing for Red Bull to put out a great video that people enjoy watching… but it's another thing, entirely, for one of those viewers to share it with their friends...

"Guys! You've gotta watch this!"

When people share content it sends an amazingly influential message, because whoever is sharing the message is now standing by the brand, and together with everyone else, they're creating a cultural experience.

That's when your audience starts becoming a part of your 'tribe'. That's when you're getting your guests to do the marketing for you. That's when advertising starts to become magic.


What one group will share, another group will completely ignore…

To excite the 'taste for intangibles', you need to focus on getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time and with the right medium.

That means our marketing needs to get better and better at targeting.

Luckily, Facebook is getting more sophisticated every day, so it's a lot easier to hit 'The marketer's holy grail' than it used to be.

To make sure you're doing this in your own marketing, I recently contacted an old friend of mine, Robert Nomura, and asked him to do a webinar on what he knows about marketing on the Facebook channel… and I've even recorded this presentation so you can enjoy it at your own convenience.

Sign up here:

During this 30-minute webinar, you're going to learn about how to use targeting to reach your best guests on Facebook.

Specifically, Robert shows you:

  • Why very few of your Facebook followers see your posts or take action
  • Why building your followers and likes isn't a bad idea, but this can be a better one, in most cases
  • The steps you need to take to improve conversions and stop wasting ad budget on the wrong people who will never buy from you in the first place


Get on target – and get on message

So, even though Facebook gives us a lot of targeting, and that gives us the amazing power to join the conversation our prospects are always having, that doesn't mean that you're going to make a positive impression…

That's why I have to shout, "It's all about intangibles, people!" Because if you don't remember that fact, you might end up making a fool of yourself just like Pepsi did, recently.

Remember, Pepsi's blunder was that it wound up to the big Caitlyn Jenner moment where she was putting the product on a pedestal… as if claiming it would deliver on an experience it never could…

This gaff perfectly illustrates why we need to focus on the experience not the product. (And by 'experience', I don't mean situation or setting. I mean the point of the message should be the experience.)


We're in the association business… not the exploitation business. There's a big difference.

Think about it, if Pepsi would have just realized that they're in the 'association business', instead of the 'exploiting a popular movement and recognized celebrity to push a product down your throat' business, then they might have gotten some respect.

But noooooo! They had to go and make it all about the can.

People don't want soda cans, they want admiration.


Don't make Pepsi's mistake in your marketing, as well

When you show a picture of an empty bedroom, the empty front desk, or the building's edifice – you're making Pepsi's mistake. You're telling people, "Hey, I'm trying to sell you something."

That works if someone's looking for a place to stay tonight…

But it doesn't go anywhere on social media since consumers don't get anything but distain for sharing your salesy message.

So we need to stop and think. If Airbnb has taught us anything, it's that the market will respond to hotel marketing with a personal twist. People are interested in seeing pictures of fun, unique experiences.

That's what gets them dreaming. That's what makes them want to experience those sights and sounds themselves. (That's when they start thinking about take a few selfies on the beach, so they can impress their friends, as well…)


This isn't so complicated, is it? In fact, it's half the fun

By now I hope you see that, if you want to make your marketing more effective, then you should stop thinking about your hotel as a place where people come to stay for the weekend, and more as a media company with hundreds of beautiful stories to share…

Not only will this concept help you clarify your vision for the future of your hotel, and make it a lot easier to attract the people who are the best 'fit' for your story… it'll also help you have a lot more fun doing it.

And isn't that what it's all about?

Make sure to share a few pics to let us know what you get up to!

Jeremiah Magone

Jeremiah Magone is a direct response copywriter specializing in the hospitality industry. His interest in the industry stems from living all over the States, parts of Europe and his most recent 8-year stint in Japan. He is the author of the 300% More Direct Bookings in 30 Days social media marketing system and Hospitality Marketing Synergy, which shows hotels how to improve their group sales results by creating win-win partnerships.

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