'Cool' Can Make For Lukewarm Marketing

Can everybody be cool?

Brands seem to be in a mad rush to get ahead of the huge generational shift as far as who will be traveling over the next few decades. Millennials are seen as having an entirely different outlook on travel. They want to be able to play and work at the same time, want to stay fit and eat healthy, to get a real feel for the destination they’re visiting and, of course, to remain connected at all times. 

That’s what everybody seems to think anyway.

When a company built on quality and consistency like Marriott openly asserts it is targeting younger travelers with its Travel Brilliantly campaign, you know something is afoot. Marriott, as its executives admit, has been the industry role model when it comes to standards – not for being cool. But Marriott realizes that younger travelers, while they certainly want a clean room that offers a predictable experience, might perceive the ideal hotel stay in a different way than their parents.



And Marriott is moving in a big way to transform its image. Like their competitors, they are doing that by listening. Good idea. Nobody really knows what cool is but at least if you make significant efforts at listening and trying to figure it out, you might get a clue.

Marriott did that with its competition for a hotel innovation – won by someone who came up with a vending machine for healthy foods. And Hyatt recently held its World’s Largest Focus Group – involving thousands of participants in a series of global Twitter feeds. 

Of course, operators of boutique brands like Gansevoort and Thompson have tried to corner the market on cool – and have been quite successful at it. But when those companies become big – if not as big as Marriott but plenty big – can they remain cool? Do you have to have a single hotel in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood to actually be cool?

I recently asked a CMO at a major—and traditional brand – if they cared about being cool. He said, “We would rather be relevant.”

That’s probably a more achievable goal because it focuses on what people actually want – rather than seeking out hip partners and chasing down the latest in food or the splashiest in design.

Some brands may be able to achieve cool – if not remain cool. But it’s probably a better long-range strategy to be relevant. 

Relevance is really cool, while cool tends to go cold — quickly.

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