Of the leading “Experience Brands” featured in Group XP’s study quantifying the financial value of exceptional, 360º brand experience, one major industry is a surprising “no show” on GXP’s Top 30 list: hospitality.
The irony, of course, is that few brands literally own their customers’ total experience for extended periods of time as completely as hotels and resorts do. Yet no hotel brand has made GXP’s Experience Index’s Top 30 list since its initial report in 2016.
|1||Pampers (-)||147.54||16||YouTube (NEW +15)||118.65|
|2||Facebook (+3)||139||17||Ecover (+2)||117.92|
|3||PayPal (-)||137.56||18||adidas (+8)||115.77|
|4||Disney (-2)||134.61||19||OMO (+3)||115.32|
|5||FedEx (+8)||127.8||20||Coca-Cola (NEW +17)||114.97|
|6||Google (+1)||126.36||21||Microsoft (NEW +14)||114.17|
|7||Apple (-1)||125.73||22||McDonald's (NEW +10)||114|
|8||UPS (+1)||125.57||23||Colgate (-2)||113.76|
|9||IKEA (-1)||124.35||24||eBay (NEW +9)||113.7|
|10||DHL (-6)||124.06||25||IBM (-)||113.23|
|11||Visa (-1)||121.56||26||Tesla (-6)||113.05|
|12||Samsung (+5)||120.62||27||Ferrari (+3)||112.26|
|13||Huggies (-1)||120.55||28||Gillette (NEW +8)||111.39|
|14||Amazon (+2)||120.06||29||Mercedes Benz (-1)||111.21|
|15||Nike (-4)||120.06||30||BMW (-7)||110.42|
So we followed the thread to e-context, the world's largest general semantic text classification engine. E-context was asked to comprehensively scour the digital landscape for conversations on hospitality and the major hospitality brands. The most prominent results: “Rewards,” “Rates” and “Coupons,” a sure sign of commoditization.
Perhaps Simmons Research offered the most succinct and revealing statistic of all: Domestic U.S. respondents who stayed in a hotel this past year indexed at a virtually flat 102 when it came to choosing brand vs. price. That’s the statistical equivalent of “meh.”
What’s up with that?
In today’s “age of experience,” the holy grail for brands worldwide is to identify and mine the emotional/rational connection that links customers to their products, services and shareholders — and to do it effectively across an ever-expanding array of experiential touchpoints.
Why have the great global hotel brands failed to master this objective?
A logical place to begin is to identify what it means to make an emotional connection with clients and customers so they will consistently choose, use, rave and return to one's brand.
The most foundational way to understand emotional connection and to align with consumers as “whole humans,” is to recognize what determines their emotional predisposition.
In a recent Columbia University study to be published in the Journal of Marketing Research, researchers have identified “character strengths” as a universal hybrid tag that can be used to align consumers to content and ads.
Character strengths are the most comprehensively researched taxonomy of values from positive psychology, and “character-fit” has been shown to be predictive of purchasing behavior.
Aligning Hotel Experience & Guests’ Character Strengths:
Character strengths include personality dispositions like bravery, fairness, prudence, love, appreciation of beauty and excellence and curiosity. Most of us engage the world around us through five such character strengths that make up our personalities. For example, a guest strong in prudence would appreciate nothing more than a minimalist deal, while the guest strong in appreciation of beauty and excellence will pay twice as much for the right ambiance.
What both guests have in common is their proclivity to rave and return almost four times more than the average guest, according to at least one study. There are digital mappings of where to find others like them.
A suggestion for hospitality brands of all sizes might be to find the right character fit between property, room, amenities and guests as part of the brand experience in itself, to create one that's personally meaningful and worth seeking out again and again.
GXP would further advise tighter brand portfolio management to ensure clear, relevant differentiation, based on well-defined franchise character standards.
There are lessons to be learned here for all of us. The opportunities to build better emotional connectivity between brand and customer through exceptional experience have never been more prolific or intriguing.
It’s time for the hotel industry to schedule its own wake-up call.