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My dad was one of those people who could envision and build just about anything. Whether it was a cabinet that held my baby clothes, or a ping pong table, his mind would come up with a creative design and his hands would produce what became an exceptional, functional, and beautiful piece of furniture.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to be his helper, learning not only how to make something of value but also those little tidbits of wisdom that would resonate with me in my life and in my business career. One that has always stuck with me was his belief that, if you had these three tools in your toolbox, you could build just about anything: a screwdriver, a medium weigh claw hammer, and a tape measure (with the admonishment to always measure twice and then cut once).

It is the same for your hotel’s marketing toolbox. You need three tools to envision and build a profitable marketing strategy - a box, a prism, and an analogy.

First the box. No matter what business each of us is in, we can all take a lesson from a renowned choreographer’s playbook. When given a new show for which to choreograph the dance sequences, she literally would put a big box on the floor of the dance studio. In it she would then place all the routines she had generated for previous shows because she knew that audiences want and expect something new, something exciting, something interesting, something memorable. Is that not what your guests want when they come to your hotel?

While there is a myriad of reasons why a hotel should change (a.k.a. refresh, update, transform) its strategic marketing plan, there are twin drivers that take it from a “should” to a “must.” One reflects the frequent shifts in consumer preferences and behavior. Just think about how the term luxury has changed over time. In ancient civilizations, luxury was symbolized by earthly power and divine connection. In the 20th Century, luxury expanded to include exclusivity, prestige, and opulence. Luxury in hotels was often showcased through grand architecture, opulent interiors, exceptional service, exclusive amenities, and, perhaps, most importantly, prestigious guests. Their presence added to the allure and prestige of the hotel’s brand.

In the 21st Century, the meaning of luxury in hotels has again been transformed. Led by the younger generations, luxury has evolved from just opulence and material possessions to authentic experiences, discreet elegance, and personalized offerings, reflecting the changing consumers’ world and values. Luxury now lies in memorable occasions. Or, as Joe Pine, the co-author of The Experience Economy, pointed out, memorable experiences lie in time well spent. So, whether yours is an Airbnb, a limited-service hotel, or a high-end luxury property, understand the shifting needs, wants, and expectations of the consumer, so your marketing strategy can build the framework for unmatched, memorable guest experiences.

The other driver lies in the need for your hotel to stand out in an increasingly crowded hotel market by showcasing the essence of its distinctive offerings and experiences in an attention-getting way. In other words, your story’s marketing message must break through the clutter. While there are notable examples of successful hotel slogans - IHG’s Guest How You Guest, Graduate Hotel’s We Are All Learners, the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island’s Where History Lives In The Now - I always look outside the lodging sector for new ideas that could have impact, longevity and be ground-breaking in the lodging industry. There is American Express’s Don’t Leave Home Without It, that evokes the brand’s promise of security, no matter what you encounter. Burger King’s Have It Your Way, which creates a customer-centric slogan by including the “your” pronoun. And, of course, the Marine’s The Few, The Proud, The Marines evoking a sense of exclusiveness.

One of my favorite quotes is from Bill Bernbach, founder of DDB Advertising Agency: The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you…And they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying…And they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you…And they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting…And you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, and freshly. The Aflac Duck would agree.

So find a box, set it up in your office, put all you previous marketing plans in it and start anew.

The second must-have tool in your marketing toolbox is something we all had and loved as children - a prism. We were always astonished when we would hold our prism up to the light and see it was refracting the light, breaking it into its component colors. Similarly, a “marketing prism” allows you to dissect your strategy into its various facets, such as:

Market Segments - to recognize the unique needs, preferences, and behaviors of various consumer segments. This is especially important to appreciate the importance of DEI. Using inclusive messaging and internal initiatives, your hotel can establish itself as inclusive, DEI-forward, helping to reduce acquisition costs, improve retention, increase brand loyalty, and generate brand ambassadors. Inclusive marketing is not new. It has been in the forefront of successful campaigns for more than fifty years. Think back to 1971 when Coca-Cola brough 65 people to Italy, puts them on a hilltop with a Coke in their hands, singing I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony (1971 song by The New Seekers) This groundbreaking marketing campaign is one of the earliest examples of diverse and inclusive marketing. It positioned the brand as more than a soft drink. It was…saying [Coca-Cola] could be a little social catalyst, that [it] can bring people together [to] talk things over. (Quote attributed to co-creator of the commercial, Bill Backer). The campaign morphed into its 2014 pre-Superbowl multicultural advertising campaign that featured a culturally and racially diverse cast singing a multi-language rendition of “America the Beautiful” to represent the changing face of America.

And what about taking inspiration from Etsy’s “Gift Like You Mean It” campaign with its tagline, When it feels like the world doesn’t get you, a gift from Etsy can make you feel seen. Then there is Pampers (P&G) Stinky Booty Duty 2.0 campaign that is designed to celebrate all parents in a variety of everyday parenting moments.

Even Burger King integrated inclusive marketing by adding the Impossible Burger to its menu. This campaign focused on attracting consumers who, for whatever reason, were non-beef eaters. The brand smartly recognized that diversity is far more than age, race, and gender.

Nearly two-thirds of consumers said they acted after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse and/or inclusive. Hopefully that ad was for your hotel. And hopefully they booked a vacation, a conference, or a brunch with you because of it too.

Be sure to add a prism to your marketing toolbox.

The important third must have tool in your marketing toolbox is the “right” analytical tape. Monitoring and control are basically analyzing the spectrum of refracted colors of the prism. It is about recognizing the right tools to gauge how well each element (i.e. facet or refracted beam) is contributing to the efficacy of the marketing strategy. While the overall measure of a hotel’s marketing success is the profit generated from the success of its marketing efforts relative to the cost of those efforts (MROI) and ultimately, its REVPAR other metrics will provide better insights into how well each marketing facet is contributing to the overall strategic success.

If you want to better understand brand visibility and reach, you would measure the number of times your ad or organic message is viewed or shown. To get a better gauge of its power, you would look at the percent of users who actually took a desired action after being exposed to the message. Did they make a booking, complete a survey, sign up for a newsletter, or join your loyalty program? This measuring tape reflects how effective the marketing efforts are in driving consumers to complete desired actions.

And, of course, there are the traditional media metrics of online reviews or the percentage of recipients who open your marketing emails…ad infinitum. The measurement tool is basically analyzing each spectrum of the prism to gauge how effective it is in contributing to the success of your overall marketing plan. The question for you is which are the most timely and accurate analytics to assess your success story. To again quote my dad, Don’t use a metric tape if you want to measure inches.

To this day, when I am working with an organization on its strategic plan, I make sure there is a big box in the room to metaphorically hold the old plans, and I give each attendee a prism and a little tape measure to use. Symbolism always works to generate more creative thinking. I urge you to use this little technique in your next planning session.

It seems as if we have a natural, almost ingrained tendency to gravitate towards things that come in three. This probably stems from three often being seen as a symbol of balance and completeness. The ancient Greek philosophical school, The Pythagoreans, believed three to be the first true number. The triangle, with its three sides, represents stability and harmony. And there is an old writing theorem that implies tf things come in threes, they are more satisfying and effective to readers. So here are my three tools to put in your hotel’s marketing toolbox.

Your REVPAR will thank you.

PS: I still have, and treasure, the cabinet that my dad made to hold my baby clothes. It stands lovingly in the hallway outside my bedroom.

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from