Marie and I checked into a Florida Hampton Inn for about 4 days and I remarked to her how unremarkably remarkable this hotel is. In fact it was the same hotel I stayed in Detroit, Dubuque and Des Moines. They’re all the same…give or take a few wrinkles here or there.
But over the last 10 years, something has been happening in the hotel rooms. When Holiday Inns used to advertise that “the best surprise was no surprise”, they were right for the time. Back then all the weary traveler wanted was comfort, convenience, ease of service, reliability and quality.
But that was then and this is now.
As David Brooks commented in the New York Times recently, “It’s easy to forget how much more boring the marketplace was just a two decades ago – more boring cuisine, more boring restaurants and more boring hotels.”
Recently, there has been a creative brand explosion within the hotel industry. It’s called boutique hotels. And while a $339 night hotel in Soho NY can be sold out and $139 Hilton Garden Inn goes begging for rooms, I ask myself why that is?
Simply because people will pay extra not to be bored.
People are no longer buying things. Do you really think the IPad, the big screen TV, the bazillion Internet gadgets and devices are being bought are being bought NOT because they are just “things”, but because they represent “experiences.”
So the basic rule of consumer happiness is: Buy Experiences, Don’t Buy Things.
If you are still selling things, you have a problem with the new consumer and more importantly if the hotel industry, which used to be a commodity can differentiate by turning itself into an emotional experience, why can’t the bowling industry?
Clues of this starting are beginning to be seen. From the “all open play experience” to the “private lanes” to “the boutique centers” to the FEC with bowling as an anchor, we are seeing this trend s-l-o-w-l-y starting to take shape. and it needs to start moving faster. We need to get an emotional arousal from our customers because the Internet has taught them to expect more and thus they are culturally more competent than ever and more informed to make better choices that won’t result in boredom.
But far too many proprietors are holding on to the past. And while it is expensive to change; it is far more expensive to remain the same and be viewed as just plain old BORING!