Be Like

A lot of us spend a great deal of time, energy and resources trying to be like someone else. Our goal is to replicate everything they've done that's good, and then one up it. Better is the sweet spot. The problem is that virtually all of us will fail for two reasons. First, those that we are planning to overtake aren't standing still...they're getting better too. Second, we don't have the advantage of being first and owning the edge...they do.

The idea of being like the iPhone, Four Seasons or Haagen Dazs feels like a safe path. We rationalize that even if we fall short, we'll be good enough to steal a small part of the market. It's also much easier to copy someone else's story rather than inventing our own. That may have worked five or ten years ago because there weren't nearly as many choices and there was room for runner-ups. Now, there are hundreds and thousands of companies (often small ones) who are willing to risk everything to create their own stamp, their own edge. Those companies are the ones getting the attention, chipping away and stealing share. It's not the ones trying be like someone else.

Easy vs. Hard
Follow vs. Lead
Like vs. Unlike

You decide...choose wisely.

Change and Frustration

Liked this riff on new trends from Bronwyn McConville over on Triiibes...

Change: The infrastructure of massive connection is now real. People around the world have cell phones. The first internet generation is old enough to spend money, go to work and build companies. Industries are being built every day (and old ones are fading). The revolution is in full swing, and an entire generation is eager to change everything because of it. Hint: it won't look like the last one with a few bells and whistles added.

Frustration: Baby boomers are getting old. Dreams are fading, and so is health. Boomers love to whine and we love to imagine that we'll live forever and accomplish everything. This is the decade that reality kicks in. And, to top it off, savings are thin and resource availability isn't what it used to be. A lot of people ate their emergency rations during the last decade. Look for this frustration to be acted out in public, and often.

So, my add...

Massive Connection and Frustration equals more micro branding and more clutter than ever before. In other words, more and more people will "individualize" and it will be easier and easier to self promote...hence more clutter. Consequently, less and less room for average. Better choose the remarkable path.



Why Your Company's Performance Matters

Your company wants you to perform at the top of your game. When you do, it greatly improves their chances of winning. But, why should you care? What's in it for you?

If you have 3 or so minutes to spare, here are my two cents on the matter...

Matt's Molteni Story

Part of Matt's story is the equipment he uses to do his job. For people like Matt, building a remarkable career requires better than average design, more than standard function. In fact, what works best is a story within a story...makes the end user much more appreciative of what went into their experience. Translation...they feel better, perhaps more attached and are often willing to pay more. Tools, like the much coveted Molteni, are often the difference between just another restaurant and one that people go out of their way for.

Why The Resume is Dead

I've riffed about this before. Since then, I, was included in a group of business and HR experts who were invited to weigh-in on the subject by the Albany Times Union. I encourage you to read the interesting and varying perspectives (find them about halfway down the page on the Class conflict blog) on whether resumes remain effective. I found Brandon Mendleson's (the graduate student reporter who invited me) post a nice summary of the problem...and a pointer to the solution.

Static websites can't compete with 2.0 experiences in conveying what you might feel when using a product or service. Text doesn't work well without pictures. Sound and animation (video) brings a product to life. Why would you expect words in a word document to accurately portray your personal micro brand? To oversimplify, one dimensional tools don't work well in a three dimensional world...and, we're fast approaching the fourth dimension.

Fear Filter

This is what happens to most brands...they start out with passion, creativity, big ideas and meaning. Then, companies do things to those promises and lose the edge. Too often, the customer experiences a watered down, manufactured compromise. Rarely is the action, the outcome, as good as the dream. Great leaders have a way of getting you from one side to the tact.


Little Clues


It's not always the big, obvious things that let on who you really are...that define your microbrand. Sometimes (more often than you might think), it's the little things, like...

  • having a hotmail or aol email address
  • having an email address like
  • business cards printed on your home printer
  • designs and colors used as wallpaper/background in the body of your email
  • typing an email in ALL CAPS
  • giving a powerpoint presentation with no pictures
  • scuffed shoes
  • bad breath
  • crossing your arms a lot
  • telling inappropriate jokes
  • littering
  • failing to return phone calls and email in a timely manner
  • being unkind

Focus on the little things before moving on to logo's and websites.

Blogging Is Important...

because it helps you tell a you an opportunity to express  why you do something or why you feel a certain way. Blogging gives you a chance to extend resumes, websites, interviews or sales you  a chance to add flavor and personality to an otherwise two dimensional brand.

Here's another explanation by Seth Godin and Tom Peters.

The Jeff Widman Effect


Back in March, after a long recruiting stretch, I wrote about re-engineering the resume. My attempt was to nudge people to rethink the way they present themselves, especially when looking for a new career opportunity. Seth Godin  wrote about it too...and, as usual, explained it perfectly.

Job search, like any other marketing activity, takes one of three paths:

1. You're remarkable- sure to land you the best job with the best people. Or,

2. You're average- rarely gets you noticed, almost never lands you an interview for the job you really want and makes you forgettable if you happen to get past initial screening. Or,

3. You're lucky- what you need copious amounts of if you're average.

Notwithstanding it's almost certain outcome, most people don't choose remarkable...because it's too hard. It requires too much time, too much thought, too much risk, too much energy, too much money...just too much. Contrarily, most people are willing to gamble by doing the easy, average thing, the thing that feels safe and then hope (and pray) for the best outcome.

Jeff Widman is clearly not average. I've never met him. Chances are, you haven't either. Good news, you don't need to...take a quick look at his website and handy work and you'll understand his brand almost immediately. He's a thinker, and a thought provoker. He's imaginative, humble and passionate. He knows exactly what he wants, understands what it takes to get there and works hard at it. And, best of all, he gets results. Interestingly, I learned all this without a resume, no boring intro letter, no phone interview and no reference checks. Just a quick e-mail thanking me for my post and inviting me to take a closer look. That's marketing. Great content, personally delivered in a meaningful way. I learned more about Jeff with a few clicks than I could have with a folder full of paperwork.

Jeff's last job application took fifty hours to develop...that in itself is remarkable. If you're looking for inspiration, I recommend you contact Jeff. Personally, I hope I get the chance to meet him someday.


Stephanie points to a nice article about defining the points of engagement., now we have the "what" part of the definition. but, how about the "when"?

We know a two-way communication stream with our customers is vital to long-term success. Hence all the hub bub about connections, interaction and conversation management. But, I still see a tendency to apply the term engagement to the front-end, to the attention getting part of the promotional program. And, that's not really where it belongs. Engagement happens when someone wants to participate, wants to get involved with you and your product because it strikes an emotional chord. And, that almost always happens during or after the actual customer experience...not as a precursor. Engagement is paramount to an ongoing relationship. But, it's not going to work in a thirty-second spot or a cold call. So, for all the ad execs and CMO's responsible for the interruption campaigns, please stop trying to put it the square peg in a round hole. And, please stop trying to convince us that ads are "engaging" just doesn't fly anymore.   

Experience vs. Price

Debbie pointed me to an interesting article today, Building a De-Commoditization Strategy in Hospitality. It's a bit long, but there are a number of good takeaways, namely...

  • Stop competing on price
  • Differentiate your hotel from your competition with unique offerings
  • Use a different approach with different audiences

I wholeheartedly agree. But, the article also goes on to offer some fluff like this...

"Creating unique specials and packages, event-related getaways, seasonal promotions and other marketing initiatives that provide unique value to the customer should become an important aspect of the hotelier's de-commoditization strategy"

Sounds like something I'd find in my college marketing book. I think providing unique value goes a lot deeper than creating interesting packages and seasonal getaways...

  • need to be different in order to have something unique to offer. And, I mean different in a very real way...including the cake, not just the icing. That takes heavy doses of design, story and care. A unique design gets attention, extraordinary hospitality makes people feel cared for and a compelling story makes it easy for people to spread the word. Unfortunately, most of the package offerings I see are little more than a creative pitch to hype an otherwise mediocre experience...not much different from the next one.
  • Second...get small. Even if you have a large hotel, find ways to break it down into smaller pieces. You'll do a better job of providing hospitality, it will be easier to manage, and you'll have a much better chance to serve niche audiences.
  • Third...clearly define what you want to be (up front) and make a valiant attempt to serve one audience. Hopefully, you choose what you can be the best at. And, that something is different...not slightly better with a cheaper price.
  • Fourth...surprise the guest with an unexpected experience. Give everyone more than what they hoped for. Consequently, the more you hype, the less this works. Stop hyping, and start doing. This is a big part of your story...what gets talked about. So, make it count.

The key point of their entire article is to focus on the experience vs. the price side of the value equation. And, it's an excellent point. The missing caution is to make sure you center your attention on creating something truly remarkable vs. packaging and selling it.

Oh, and contrary to their opinion, creating a unique selling proposition isn't at all easy.


There's been quite a bit written and said about branding recently. Jim Butler and Thomas Engel give us some great insight on Jim's Hotel Law blog, Tom Peters riffs about Time's Person of The Year and his Brand You message, and we batted around the Why Go Independent? subject on last week's name a few.

Here are my own key points on the subject of branding:

  1. Like marketing, branding is not something you stick on your product or service after the fact to get people to recognize it.
  2. Rather, it 's everything you do from the the moment the idea surfaces to the point you take it off the shelf...and everything in between.
  3. Branding is not just a name or a logo.
  4. Branding happens to everything and's a never ending process.
  5. The person who interacts with you defines your brand in their terms...and owns it.The most common mistake in branding is not understanding my first point.
  6. The power of a brand has very little to do with having a lot of something and advertising the heck out of it.
  7. The power of a brand has everything to do with being different and being the best at something.
  8. Most companies, including almost all of the hotel chains, have no clue what that something is.
  9. And, most don't have the passion or the patience to be the best at any one thing....they try to appeal to everyone. And, they try to do it fast.
  10. The key to successful branding is not growth...or, to focus on growing.
  11. The key to successful branding is to develop something meaningful and remarkable...and to share it with people who want it.

Overall, I think Donald Trump sums it up best (thanks again to Jim Butler for the pointer)...

“I’ve worked hard to make sure the Trump name is found only on buildings of the highest caliber and products of the finest quality. I won’t even consider giving my approval to anything unless I know it’s the top of the line because when people see or hear “Trump,” they expect the best. That’s just basic marketing and good business.”

Please share your thoughts on this important...and highly debatable subject.

Fire Your Franchisor

In his recent article, Craig gives us some things to ponder when evaluating the benefits of a franchise. He puts forth some interesting analysis culminating in a comparison of fees...the results may surprise you.

I concur with Craig that both the economies and the marketing leverage franchises once enjoyed are waning, especially with more and more one-of-a-kind properties being fed into the supply chain to meet the desires of a quickly emerging  customer base squarely focused on a customized and personalized guest experience.

Craig's view coincides nicely with last week's indieHotelier topic...Why Go Independent?

Brand You

I've been catching-up on my Tom Peters reading...really enjoyed his Thanksgiving post, A Tribute to Brand Yous. My favorite takeaway comes from a Sally Field quote...

"The only thing you have power over is to get good at what you do. That's all there is; there ain't no more."

Thanks Tom for keeping me inspired...and believing in all of us who are out there on our own striving to be the best at what we do.

Independents Gain Seats in Mobil Ratings Race

This may be less important than last week's mid-term elections...maybe not. Mobil recently released its star ratings for 2007. Like last year, I've added some analysis which is summarized in the table below. Notably,

  • Independents  have widened their margin over the chains in the combined 10 (up from 7 last year)
  • Independents now have 13 more 4 star properties than the chains (up from 9 ast year)
  • St. Regis has added three 5 star properties (moved from 4 star last year)
  • Among chains, Ritz Carlton continues to dominate the combined category with 29 properties (40%)
  • Four Seasons has the edge in the 5 star rating with 8 properties, but slipped in percentage from 47% in 2006 to 40% in 2007

(Click on the image to make it look better)


Sometimes, people actually ask me how independents can be successful? Of course they can.  But, don't take my word for one of the 82 hotels on the list.

Link to the Mobil lists