Picture this scene: Monday morning, January 11.
I slowly wake up and blink my eyes open a bit.Â It’s early but my alarm hasn’t gone off yet, as I adjust to my surroundings. My very, very interesting surroundings. I realize where I am. I’m in a hotel in San Francisco, and I’m awake early because I’m still on New York time. I pull on my running shoes, shorts, t-shirt, and a pullover, excited for a morning run along the Embarcadero.
When I hit the lobby, I stop at the front desk. There’s a cheerful, eager-to-help person behind the counter at the Hotel Triton. I nod as I walk by, pause, turn back and say,
‘Excuse me, I’m sorry. I was tired from my cross-country flight last night when I got in very late, but I could have sworn that you told me that you had upgraded my room, and that I could have all the Haagen-Dazs ice cream I could eat during my stay.’
‘Yes, sir, that’s true’ was the reply.
‘So I wasn’t dreaming? I can eat every pint of ice cream in that mini refrigerator and you won’t charge me anything extra?’ I say, to the person working in an industry that routinely charges $36 for scrambled eggs room service or $13 for a bottle of water and a SnickersÂ from the mini bar.
‘That’s correct, sir. Enjoy your run.’
Enjoy my run I did. In fact, I did a few more miles than I planned. After all, I would need to burn some extra calories over the next few days.
Today’s Show:Â Sweet Suite Marketing – Hotel Triton gave me free unlimited Haagen-Dazs in my hotel room. I did NOT have a problem with this.
Download the podcast from iTunes, or play it below:
Here’s a summary of today’s topic:
It wasn’t a dream, but it as a great marketing angle to discuss.
I was out at the Wired office on business, and it’s great to sit near the reporters and copyeditors for a few days. You forget how talented they are and most people take for granted all the work it takes to make a story come together.
I’m not a hotel snob, preferring to stay at The W most trips since it’s modern (not a fan of old “classics” filled with marble), and frankly, it’s the closest walk to the Wired office. However, this trip it was sold out, so corporate travel gave me two choices, and I picked the Hotel Triton after 30 seconds of research, a boutiquey hotel not too far away.
As I walked in around 12:30am Sunday night (with my body on 3:30am east coast time), they told me I was upgraded to “Sweet Suite.” I had no idea what that was.
As it turns out, they actually have about half a dozen themed rooms:
- Jerry Garcia Suite (Photos, signed items)
- Photography Suite (Photos from famous artists)
- King Triton Suite (King of Atlantis theme)
- Organic room (Lots of sustainable products and bamboo)
- Kathy Griffin Suite (My Life on the D List … “Griffin and Mike Nielsen, known to viewers as her ‘Gay Visionary,’ traveled to San Francisco to design an inspired suite at the Hotel Triton.”)
Then, there was my room, the Haagen-Dazs suite, made up of the following:
- Door in the hallway branded as the Sweet Suite
- Vanilla and caramel colors
- Red color from the carton in the headboard
- Red leather ottoman with logo’d leather pillow
- Books about ice cream and candles named after flavors
- Special pillows with sayings on them
- Waffle-textured bed-throw
- Specially-made plush HÃ¤agen-Dazs bath robe.
And in the corner was a small fridge with a glass door, with light pouring through it like Raiders of the Lost Ark, containing 6 pints of ice cream and 3 ice cream bars. Lest the light keep you awake, there was a special curtain to pull in front of it at night that said ‘Sweet Dreams.’
So lets get to the marketing angle.
First, did you know that Haagen-Dasz was a made up word? According to the Haagen-Dazs wikipedia entry,
The name does not derive from any of the North Germanic languages; it is simply two made-up words meant to look Scandinavian to American eyes (in fact, the digraphs “Ã¤a” and “zs” are not a part of any native words in any of the Scandinavian languages). This is known in the marketing industry as foreign branding.
Daughter Doris Hurley told PBS documentary An Ice Cream Show (1999) that her father Reuben Mattus sat at the kitchen table for hours saying nonsensical words until he came up with a combination he liked. The reason he chose this method, was so that the name would be completely unique and original.
They were also in the news recently when they announced that because of increasing costs, they were going to downsize their containers from 16oz to 14oz, and from 32oz to 28oz.
This sparked some outrage, as people can be very territorial about their ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s countered with a campaign saying they were NOT going to reduce their sizes, and I found a thread on chowhound.com with 110 comments on the sizing change.
So it’s clear they know a little bit about marketing and have had to deal with PR, both good and bad.
Personally, I think it’s a great idea, because it gets people talking (isn’t that what marketing is?).
While you have the OPTION to eat 6 pints, when the reality sets in, you’re not going to go through all of them.
In fact, I bet they probably average just 1-2 per stay. At $5 a pint or so ($6+ in Manhattan), and maybe $10,000 to make a few custom pillows and such, that’s a massive return on investment based on the word of mouth.
So you might be thinking… you’re pretty excited… are you getting paid to talk about them? No. In fact, new rules require me to state if I were. I’m just a guy that likes unique marketing. And ice cream.
But it did make me a bit suspicious, and here’s what I asked myself (trying to not get a big head in the process).
Was it possible that they did some detective work on me?
It would require some effort, but the path is pretty straight. It would have gone something like this:
- They see on my corporate card that I work for Conde Nast
- They are aware that the prominent Conde Nast property in SF is Wired
- Wired has a very popular magazine and website, and their writers and bloggers often talk about pop culture
- They google my name and see that I am, indeed a blogger/podcaster
- And not only that, I’ve done a massive podcast interview with the guys at the Roger Smith Hotel
Not knowing if I’d get an answer, I called front desk, and in fact the manager on duty was glad to talk and said it probably went like this:
- Conde’s travel company called their sales/booking group to book me
- They noticed it was my first stay (perhaps first time anyone at Conde had stayed there?)
- It was a slow night, and the suite was open
- They automatically upgraded me because I was a business, and thus more likely to lead to future stays there vs. an individual
So my question is, does anyone have a problem with this type of marketing?
Jump on the comments or shoot me an email at MarketingGuy [at] wired.com.
Sure, you can claim rampant product placement and the overtaking of advertising seeping into every niche of our society. But here’s the thing.
1) It doesn’t effect you. 95% of the rooms DON’T get free ice cream, they’re completely normal. Let me give you an alternate example. It’s not like there’s 100 people in a movie theatre and Tom Hanks is plastered in FedEx like in Castaway, or you’re watching Simon Cowell drink from his giant red Coca-Cola cup while the American Idol stars do a cheesy song in the latest Ford. If you don’t want to stay there, and just want a – sorry, I can’t help it – plain, vanilla room, you can have that.
2) A portion of each “Sweet Suite” guest’s tab will be donated to the HÃ¤agen-Dazs ice cream charity of choice, Delancey Street Foundation.
This organization bills itself as the country’s leading residential self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom. They train people for work, teach people how to read, etc.
So to the haters, how do you feel about it now? A little cold, right? (Again, couldn’t help it).
So, here’s how it played out. After dinner on Monday, I didn’t order dessert (saving my company money) and dug into some heavenly chocolate. And the next night I met up with some old co-workers to see what kind of business ventures they were up to, and invited them up to the room for some goodies.
So here I am, podcasting about it, writing about it, and I bet my friends will tell some people about it. And you know what? That’s some sweet marketing right there.
To sum things up:
- I’m a fan of clever marketing
- You don’t always have to spend a lot of money to get it
- Target the right people with just a little bit of extra effort, it can go a long way
- Oh yeah, try the pineapple coconut