Commentary

Pet Peeve: Pet Programs

Pet peeve: pet programs and other examples of marketing me-tooism. It’s impossible to count how many hotels and hotel brands in the past 10-15 years have issued press releases about their pet programs. They inevitably have cutesy names — usually involving a tired pun; and they might include something “creative” like a monogrammed collar.

In the beginning, it worked beautifully. Whereas pet owners might have been leery of bringing their animals to a hotel, these early adapting hotels made them feel welcome – not only with full permission but with snacks, feeding bowls, etc. 

But now a huge percentage of hotels have pet programs. It’s become almost like having a TV in your room (although, how long might that last?). It may be that these announcements continue to get press (look at the popularity of cute animal videos on YouTube) — and that’s fine. But is anybody going to remember which hotels have pet programs when they pretty much all do? When does something stop becoming a distinguishing factor?

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In a very crowded field overwhelmed with information, distinguishing a product has become a brutal chore. It’s not easy but even if you are doing something everybody else does, there are ways to stand out. You could get perverse — maybe pretend you hate pets, but do it in a way that shows you really love them. Something like: “We hate dogs but we know you might try to sneak yours in so we have put fabulous dog beds and filet mignon snacks in every room. Just don’t let us see the nasty critters.”

Or something like that.

Or when everybody is doing the same thing do it more seriously. Do it right. The new The Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, a Kimpton property, is in a town where music — usually live — is literally on every corner and in every store. But the Van Zandt, aside from being named for a musician (Townes Van Zandt), also has a full-time music director who programs all the music in the hotel. The presidential suite has a grand piano and a vintage turntable with vinyl albums. They will customize your music selection for you.

Even the swimming pool has specially produced music that you can only hear underwater. It’s very cool. 

And at a time when everybody is aiming to get millennials to hang out in public spaces, the Intercontinental Hotel Barclay in New York, after a $180 million renovation, has brought itself back to a vintage style of luxury. The club lounge has high-backed leather chairs reminiscent of a classic men’s club. It is downright stunning to see something that looks, well, different. A lounge might not be marketing but it is reflective of the hotel’s entire message that it is bringing back a certain kind of luxury that many thought was disappearing.

It might be risky but it is refreshing.

But it would probably not be a good idea to let a dog jump onto one of those leather chairs.

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