If you’re in hospitality marketing, take note: Consumers are fully aware when they’re being fed some slick brand marketing piece that doesn’t always represent reality – and they aren’t impressed. What they want in 2023 and beyond is an authentic look at what your brand values, and whether they feel a connection. Recent research shows that 82% of consumers want a brand’s values to align with their own. And they’ll vote with their wallet if they don’t feel a match.
When travelers come across your brand on social media, they want you to tell them – for real and in plain language – why your destination is right for them. They want to interact with brands that truly align with their values…not just say they do.
And for travelers who are seeking truly immersive experiences when they’re on vacation, their lodging is an integral part of that. They want their time inside the walls of their hotel to be as magical as the time spent adventuring, so they’ll choose accommodations that complement their story.
Here are seven ways to create authenticity in your hospitality marketing campaigns to let travelers know that you are who you say you are.
1. Be true.
Tell the truth. Be up front about pricing and policies. Respond in earnest to comments on social media. Be willing to admit when you messed up – and be willing to admit when you’re so proud of something you could burst. Be good stewards of your surrounding community and the planet as a whole.
This is a concept that’s simple in theory, but can be difficult to execute when times are tough. However, sharing with a voice that’s honest and humble (even when it’s a humblebrag) goes a long way toward showing travelers that you walk the walk.
2. Promote what you’re proud of.
Have you recently invested in touchless technology? Create a demo video and show it off on social media. Do you think your breakfast is to die for? Interview guests as they’re eating and get their genuine reviews. The key here is to say, “Isn’t this so cool? We love it!” in a conversational (even giddy!) way that lets your audience know that you’re just as in love with travel as they are.
You can use this technique not only with the things your property is already known for, but those little-known perks that will surprise and delight.
3. Use real people in your marketing.
For years, the trend has been to hire beautiful models to represent hotel properties, but what guests want to see now are people who look like them, having fun at your property. It creates a sense of relevance and shows potential guests that they’ll truly feel comfortable at your destination.
Take a look around your property – what do your guests actually look like? How old are they? What do they wear? We’re not suggesting you part ways with high-quality imagery or mood-inducing videos – those are still essential for giving guests a feel for what their stay will entail. What we are saying is that within your content, choose voices and faces that truly represent your guests.
One great example is this video from Skylodge Adventure Suites that shows real guests enjoying their time at this unique, experiential destination.
4. Assure your guests that it’s safe to visit, and back it up.
While travelers are once again hitting the road in droves, that doesn’t mean they do it without some hesitation. According to a recent survey, more than 70% of travelers said they expect information on things like rebooking options, cancellation policies, and cleaning protocols to be readily available before they book.
Meltdowns in airline operations, skyrocketing prices for gas (and everything else), and the knowledge that the pandemic isn’t quite a distant memory are the likely reasons for wariness. One way to be authentic is to show them that you truly understand where they’re coming from. Use your marketing campaigns to be loud about your flexible policies, and be committed to reassuring guests that if the unforeseen happens, you have them covered.
5. Show off your personality on TikTok.
With all the trends, challenges, user-generated content, and influencer opportunities, brands are realizing that TikTok is no longer just for the Gen Z teen set. Travel-industry site Skift.com reports that hotels are flocking to the vastly popular social media app and seeing great success – particularly the small luxury properties.
While it should only be one slice of your hospitality marketing pie, it’s absolutely perfect for showing off who you are as a brand and letting guests know what they can expect from their visit. One example from the Skift article that especially stood out to us is this influencer video for Ladera Resort in St. Lucia.
6. Authenticity is internal, too.
The Great Resignation showed us that after generations of “traditional” work life, employees understand that they deserve better from their employers. Investing in your internal teams will reflect outwardly in the way they deal with customers on-site and the enthusiasm they share for the property. A well-loved workforce can become your biggest cheerleaders.
You might even consider turning them into the stars of your social media campaign to serve as an authentic voice from someone on the inside.
7. Make it personal.
A simple question on an online reservation form like “Are you traveling for a special occasion?” opens the door to make a guest feel welcomed and relevant at your property. If it’s a birthday, put a card inside the room or leave a cupcake with a sweet note. If it’s an anniversary, offer the couple a voucher for a meal. If it’s a girls’ weekend away, suggest an itinerary that showcases not only your property, but the surrounding area.
This is one way to succeed at personalization without having to read guests’ minds. Simply ask them why they’re coming, then make it special when they arrive.