Thursday, March 30, 2006

Connecting with Starbucks, Chapter Two

So I got my first email from the Starbucks Customer Connections program. (earlier post)

A few comments:
  • Um, thanks for asking me to comment on the free coffee event at my local 'bucks. Next time can you remember to actually invite me to the event, as well? How "holistic" is this relationship, anyway? (Mirrors my original concern - byinviting me into the program based on "feedback alone," has Starbucks set themselves up for a less than complete view of the customer relationship?)
  • The privacy policy now links to a Starbucks policy (which, curiously, hasn't been updated since 2002) but plenty of other links, including one for helpful info about whitelisting, still take you to the email vendor. I think this is an odd choice, from a branding perspective. This is the chain that doesn't franchise; control over execution is everything to them... I'd consider extending that principle to the online environment.
  • Get with the program on this email layout and content design. Long, long, long. Not optimized for previewing, or for best practices re: how people read email.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Marriott: 1; Hilton: 0

In a rather curious evolution of last year's stated strategy "directing general managers to give business travelers priority over leisure customers," Hilton Hotels earlier this year launched a microsite based on their "travel is a journey" brand campaign.

As a frequent business traveler myself, it's an effort that leaves me more than a little confused. OK, say I'm doing one of my Boston > Atlanta > Little Rock > Boston weeks. Just what is it that navigation choices such as "pamper", "empower" and "entertain" have to do with figuring out how I can get some sleep, reliable high-speed internet access, and a couple work-outs between meetings, flights, business dinners and the million little indignities frequent business travelers find in their average week on the road?

Contrast the Hilton site with the microsite announcing Marriott's new room designs. As a business traveler, I'll admit to not focusing all that much on the journey. At the hotel, I focus on the specifics that matter: check-in, the room, the gym, check-out. These are the reasons I've always hated Marriott hotels, frankly. Beige and brass has never been my style. Well, it seems that all that is going to change. This thoughtful tour through the important details of the new rooms is just what it might take to break my pre-disposition to Starwood hotels and get me back into a Marriott. And that's far more than I can say for the Hilton effort. And isn't converting the frequent business traveler what it's all about these days?

Action plan for marketers
Don't lose sight of your core market, why they use your category, what they think while they are using it, and how they purchase. Seem obvious? Well, yeah... but...

And as an aside, if you are going to build a Flash-heavy pig of site (ahem, Hilton...) offer a low-bandwidth version. (Thanks, Marriott.) Better yet, optimize the site to load quickly at any speed. Marriott's full-bandwidth Flash site loads in about one-tenth the time of the Hilton site.