In the age of social media and viral sharing, hotels have taken experiential marketing to whole new levels of sophistication and creativity. Hospitality brands are beginning to create innovative guest experiences that create buzz, attract media attention and enhance brand awareness by capturing the imagination of guests like never before.
How far are hospitality chains prepared to go to entertain and captivate their guests?
From the subtle and subconscious to the bold and extravagant, here are just a few examples that showcase where experiential marketing is heading.
Tantalizing the senses
One of the most fascinating areas in experiential marketing right now is the development of multi-sensory experiences.
With three Michelin stars to its name, The Fat Duck Restaurant in Bray excels at this approach, cleverly playing around with sounds, textures and aromas to give dishes a sense of theatre and childlike fun.
One of the standout dishes, “Sound of the Sea”, involves diners listening to the sound of the ocean on an iPod as they tuck into a dish complete with frothing foam and a tapioca “beach.”
The hotel industry is also beginning to incorporate multi-sensory experiences in their own ways, including the introduction of “scent marketing.”
Guests staying at The Montcalm in London can choose which smell they want in their rooms on demand. Guests can summon a “scent steward” to bring any number of unique aromas for the room, such as Pink Grapefruit, Saw Grass and Romantic Touch (rose and sandalwood).
Meanwhile, St. Regis Hotels & Resort has developed a bespoke scent that infuses each of their 35 hotels.
This “brand” aroma doesn’t just help to create a unique customer experience. Different smells can also alter our perception and even change our spatial perception, which in turn can positively alter a guest’s feeling towards a hotel.
But there are plenty of other ways experiential marketing can be used beyond tantalizing the senses.
Unique and shareable moments
Terranea Resort in Southern California has acquired a fleet of Lexus cars that guests can take out on a test drive. But to enhance the trip, each car’s GPS comes pre-loaded with themed itineraries recommended by the hotel concierge team.
Guests can choose between 3 itineraries, including “The Adventure Escape”, which highlights various points of interest en route, from whale watching at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center to hiking and wildlife spotting around Portuguese Bend.
Meanwhile, Renaissance Hotels is working with AEG to secure emerging artists to perform intimate gigs at their properties. Events are promoted via a dedicated website alongside social media channels.
Events like these obviously lend themselves to social sharing. If a customer has a truly unique experience, they’re more likely to share it with others—a close-up photograph of a well-known artist becomes instantly Instagram-worthy.
The Renaissance brand has come to appreciate the value of these experiences to their high percentage of business travelers, something the brand’s vice president of global marketing, Dan Vinh, explained in an interview with Skift.
Vinh explains how unique experiences help business travelers mark themselves out as more interesting, successful people by having memorable experiences to share.
Of course, as the bar continues to be raised and experiential marketing becomes more mainstream, hotels will need to get evermore creative in the way they try to surprise and surpass customer expectation.
A hotel “stay” is quickly becoming a hotel “experience.”
The future of experiential marketing for hotels
So, how might the customer experience be enhanced in the coming years?
The latest innovation by Marriott offers a potential insight, with the creation of their virtual reality pods. Using Oculus Rift headsets, people are transported to various destinations and hotels within the Marriott chain. Guests can even use VR on their smartphones and at Marriott properties to make reservations, check out dining options, and discover new design features around the hotel.
Cheesy as it may seem, the Oculus Rift partnership earned Marriott great press coverage and extensive social media mentions.
Virtual reality and augmented reality could well represent the future of experiential marketing. But whatever the future holds, the most effective experiential marketing must continue to excite, entertain and feel wholly original to guests.
Because in the end, unique experiences will always be talked about, which in the age of social sharing, can lead to mass brand exposure.
As customers continue to seek out unique and shareable travel experiences, what innovations in experiential marketing do you anticipate from hotels in the coming decades?
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