I have a very peculiar friend who has always touted his ability to suck the electrical charge out of various appliances and contraptions. No joke.
It started when we roomed together sophomore year of college. I was writing a paper on my laptop when the battery died, and I lost my progress. As I searched frantically for my charger, cursing all the while, he looked over apologetically and said, “Sorry about that.”
He’s not sure why it happens. Something in his life force, perhaps. The phenomenon is most pronounced, he says, around street lights, which seem to flicker or go out whenever he walks beneath them.
Now, this friend of my mine is one of the most good-hearted guys I’ve ever met, which is probably why I’ve never told him he’s completely and utterly insane.
Electrical appliances and equipment lose power by nature. When a laptop isn’t plugged in, the battery will eventually go out. Street lamps—especially older ones—flicker and shut off every now and again to avoid overheating. The sun rises in the East, objects fall at equal speeds in a vacuum and the Cleveland Browns will never win the Super Bowl. These are facts, plain and simple.
The only thing unusual about my dear old friend, aside from his delusion, is his sense of observation. For whatever reason, he pays attention to these things. Therefore, he notices them more than other people and took it upon himself to discern causation.
(Pay attention to street lamps. They really do go out with alarming frequency.)
My friend is not unlike us journalists in his pursuit of reason. Our job is to pay attention to those things other people might have missed.
Now, whether we correctly identify the source or these trends is up for debate. (Some would say yes, while others would argue we’re all a bunch of idiots.)
One of the recent trends I’ve noticed of late is a general attack on the brands. I’m not saying hotel brands haven’t had their share of critics in the past. You’ll always find disgruntled franchisees or outspoken naysayers who say the industry is becoming commoditized and brands are all the same and there’s too much overlap and so on and so forth.
What I’m talking about is a general shift in thinking that’s become more pronounced at each and every conference I’ve attended during the past eight months. It’s not enough that a brand provide a familiar name or sense of place, this school of thought says. It must also provide value.
Everyone from conference speakers to cocktail reception revelers seems to be putting this notion of “value” under increasingly intense scrutiny. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After one of the worst economic collapses in the history of our planet, everyone is paying a lot more attention to what they’re paying for, whether it be laundry detergent, jeans or the marketing power of a major global hotel brand.
The sentiment was summed up nicely by hotel industry icon, Mike Leven, who in an interview with HotelNewsNow.com’s Jeff Higley earlier this month said:
“The future of these brands that are so big, it’s going to be difficult to justify some of their cost structures for owners in particular when they’re all in the fee business. … In the next 10 years in an improving hotel cycle, brands are going to have to work a lot harder at getting a higher share of the marketplace.”
It appears InterContinental Hotels Group got the hint. On Thursday, they announced the hiring of former McDonald’s chief marketing officer Larry Light to oversee its brand portfolio.
And Wyndham Hotel Group at its global conference Tuesday announced the launch of WynReview, an in-house review management tool that comes at no extra charge to franchisees. It’s a savvy step in the right direction for the brand—one that anticipates a growing area of concern for owners: online reviews.
Managing online reputations is becoming a tremendous burden for franchisees. A number of fantastic third-party offerings have emerged to help with the task. But Wyndham’s effort, which is powered by Revinate, is the first proprietary brand system I’ve heard of.
The software is simple: Using WynReview, owners can manage reviews posted about their hotels on TripAdvisor, Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. When a review gets posted, they get an alert. The software also allows franchisees to track the reviews of their three closest competitors.
Though they haven’t had a chance to get into the nitty gritty of WynReview, which only recently launched after a trial run in mid-March, the owners I spoke with at Wyndham’s event in Las Vegas ranged from ecstatic to pleasantly surprised to downright satisfied. Though they didn’t say it outright, I got the sense these franchisees understood the value of the tool, and that’s what a brand should be all about.
Now on to the usual goodies …
Stat of the week I
$1.25: Dollar premium of KSL Capital Partners’ bid ($6.25 per share) for Great Wolf Resorts over Apollo Global Management LLC’s earlier bid of $5 per share.
Stat of the week II
0: The number of properties that have been converted into Wyndham’s newly “rebranded” Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham. The economy brand has more than 300 properties throughout North America and the Philippines. Every one of them is a new build. Struck me as interesting, especially for a company that is pretty aggressive on the conversion front.
Quote of the week
“If it is something that is good for our brand and we can acquire it right, then we would be a serious acquirer.”
—Eric Danziger discussing whether Wyndham would acquire Red Lion Hotels Corporation during a break at the company’s global brand conference.
Reading between the lines, it would appear Wyndham’s at least investigated the possibility of acquiring the midscale brand. Danziger went on to say that while Wyndham doesn’t like to be a holder of real estate, that’s not to say the company couldn’t find a partner to take on the assets as part of a joint venture.
Comment of the week
“The HJ brand is dead, No one rememebrs (sic) HJ what are you guys smoking?? The people who stayed at HJ were in their twenties they are (now) in their nineties and the kids have picked up on the new brands.They are just floating an idea a half baked one.”
—Commenter “RwalasiakCHA” responding to news of a planned refresh of Wyndham’s Howard Johnson brand.
While the brand admittedly has a long way to go before it’s basking in the glow of its former glory, I’m going to hold out judgment until we see more details. The proposed refresh is in the very early stages, and Wyndham’s been mum on the details. Besides, I wouldn’t be so quick to discount the nostalgia factor here. I’ve casually surveyed a number of 50- and 60-somethings during the past few weeks, and every single one has at least one fond memory of the brand. Something to leverage perhaps?
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
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