Go to the beach during your lunch hour no matter how cold it is outside: Virtual Vacations and the future of travel!

Did it just get cold where you live? After yet another day in Chicago with weather in the 60s yesterday, I (consciously) knew that our good luck was going to run out. I just didn’t think it was going to be so soon…

Today marks the emergence of my winter coat from the closet, with a severe winter storm on the horizon starting in about an hour. Sigh. All good things must come to an end.

Given the recent announcement of Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels, (to create the world’s largest hotel company) I thought speaking about their current technologically-driven marketing strategy would be particularly timely.

Take a trip to the beach (virtually!) with Marriott Hotels.  In 2014, Marriott Hotels introduced the first-ever “Teleporters” in public areas throughout New York City. Using advanced virtual reality technology, Marriott developed fully-immersive booths that “travelers” could step into for a 100-second journey to a Hawaiian resort. Wearing a virtual reality headset, the experience appealed to all “senses” with synthetic scents, fans, and a rolling platform to mimic motion. The response to the experience was so overwhelmingly positive, Marriott decided to offer in-room VR headsets by request starting in Fall 2015. While consumers can purchase their own VR headsets from any big-box electronics store, Marriott’s will be more sophisticated and offer content not found anywhere else.

hawaii.jpeg

Retrieved from Prodigy.Umbrella

Ahhhhhhh…..

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Retrieved from Marriott.com

Nope, sorry, you’re still here.

While Marriott understands that virtual reality technology will likely never replace actual vacations, (and quite frankly, it would be counterintuitive for a hotel company to try and promote an alternate means of travel that would eliminate the need for their services) they hope their emphasis on technology will appeal to younger travels and millennials. However, Marriott could sufficiently develop the technology enough that travelers would be able to “preview” a new property. Additionally, they hope to offer immersive experiences to destinations that most travelers will never be able to afford, such as Mt. Kilimanjaro.

So what do you think? Is this just an elaborate, creative guerilla marketing stunt for Marriott? Marketing that employs virtual reality technology, a part of the “augmented reality” marketing movement, is growing increasingly popular across a wide range of industries.

Do you think there’s any chance that this technology will “take off” as a viable way for travelers to preview a resort or “travel” to an exotic, out-of-reach location? Or do you simply see it as an inventive marketing stunt – and that alone? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Maybe I don’t have the time off to get to Hawaii right now, but I sure wouldn’t mind a brief escape to Hawaii during my office lunch break…

Go to the beach during your lunch hour no matter how cold it is outside: Virtual Vacations and the future of travel!

Digital Marketing: Does “our power” equal “our responsibility”?

Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This post doesn’t have anything to do with defeating the Green Goblin, but this quote always comes to my mind. When thinking about emerging forms of media, we’re constantly reminded that technology is only getting smarter. More sophisticated forms of technology enable more interactive, immersive experiences for marketers to create for prospective customers.

For example, Toshiba is developing “digital changing booths” that allow customers to virtually try on clothes through a display using 3D scanners and cameras. While this technology has been attempted by brands in the United States and Europe in years past,  none have reached Toshiba’s level of sophistication. Imagine the impact that such a fully formed, developed technology could have on fashion retail marketing. It could be revolutionary. It could improve the lives of individuals who cannot change clothing without assistance, or those too ashamed of their bodies to try on new clothes.

Now, on the other hand…

Sophisticated technology can also have some pretty scary implications for marketing, too. I’m specifically referring to a 2013 “prankvertising” stunt in Brazil to promote the release of the latest Chucky film, horror’s lovable red-haired “doll.” (Yes, that Chucky.)

Seed-Of-Chucky-seed-of-chucky-29020564-1400-931

Retrieved from Fanpop.com

Sorry for the scary image. I don’t like it any more than you do. Unless you like these movies. In that case, my sincere apologies.

In a lighted billboard at a bus stop in Brazil, an actor dressed like Chucky actually stood inside the billboard to spook unsuspecting transit riders. No one knew that a real actor was actually posing as Chucky. A normal bus stop poster/billboard it most certainly was not! Hidden cameras captured riders casually waiting for the bus. After a few seconds, Chucky’s signature laughter would be heard and the lights would flicker. While this spooked some, many still seemed relatively unfazed. However, a few seconds after that, the actor playing Chucky would suddenly “bust” through the poster, running after petrified and unsuspecting patrons with a toy knife. You can see the petrifying video here.

Personally, I don’t think such an adver-“prank” would ever “fly” here in the United States. I was shocked to discover that Universal actually approved this prank, given the potential for lawsuits. I don’t find such a prank to be funny at all, especially given current circumstances. Being chased by a “doll” wielding a knife, while perhaps “sounding” somewhat harmless, would actually be horrifying – and potentially scarring to many. Growing up in the United States, have I become too “PC” or do you agree with my thoughts?

Do you think that this is another example of a company using their marketing power for “evil” instead of “good”? Do we agree with me that we have a “responsibility” as marketers to consider the implications of our decisions? Let me know in the comments below!

Digital Marketing: Does “our power” equal “our responsibility”?

A Day In the Life: Community Manager

Confession: When I landed my first job as a community manager, I had no idea what a community manager even was. In fact, when I got my first-ever interview for a community management position I didn’t even apply for a few years ago, I almost turned down the interview. Why? Well, my logic was this. I’m not getting my marketing master’s degree to call noisy tenants and ask them to quiet down, or to investigate serious crimes like who could be parking in the wrong spot. If you didn’t understand my lame attempt at night humor, I was thinking of an apartment resident community manager.

What I thought the job was:

apartment_manager_1

What the job is:

tired_girl_at_computer

Of course, with a little research, I quickly realized that “community management” is a growing field within social media marketing, particularly popular in Spain and among tech start-ups. McDonald’s, Verizon, Hilton, and Microsoft are only a handful of power businesses with dedicated CM teams.

Before I share my day as a CM, I’m going to spend a little time describing the difference between a “social media manager” and a (social media) “community manager.”

Spoiler alert: There is no universal job description for a CM, as social media and other new technologies continue developing. Is there really a universal job description for any marketing job, anyway? However, in GENERAL, there are some distinctions between the two fields:

*Yes. I know it’s in Spanish – don’t worry. Translation to follow!

 Social-Media-Manager-vs.-Community-Manager

Retrieved Colateral Marketing

For those of you who do not read Spanish, (which, may I add, is an excellent idea for any future CM as Spanish is the second most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese) it says:

A community manager (CM) is both the voice of the brand to the community, and the voice of the community to the brand.

A social media manager (SMM) is the voice of the brand.

 

A CM creates engagement and builds relationships with the community.

A SMM creates personalized content, accompanied by a creative strategy for social media channels.

A CM manages the community with certain specific social media platforms.

A SMM works with marketing, branding, and public relations.

A CM focuses on the engagement of platforms on social media.

A SMM manages the holistic efforts of the brand’s online presence.

A CM creates and moderates conversations to boost and grow the brand’s social community.

A SMM focuses on the large scope of digital marketing and online marketing strategies.

A CM manages scheduling posts and updating social platforms.

A SMM Administers and controls the budgets for different actions of the strategy.

Of course, there is plenty of overlap between the two job descriptions, but community managers tend to focus their efforts on building a solid community of brand advocates.

Here’s an example. Let’s pretend that I’m a community manager for a collection of beach resorts all over the world. Let’s start by setting the mood a little:

beach_chair_sand_sun_2 I’m too embarrassed by the pitiful beach photos I’ve taken during my lifetime, nor could I find anything from Creative Commons that struck my fancy. Therefore, a generic stock image from Classroom Clipart will do.


Note: This description was written based on my personal experience as a CM, and research from SproutSocial.


Since we have customers all over the world, I could theoretically be working on any day, at any time. Today, I’m working a 7AM-3PM shift. I don’t get a lot of sleep, since it’s difficult to sleep after so many hours glued to the computer and I’m so wired after work. My team and I are basically powered by caffeine. I spend my morning searching Facebook and Twitter for mentions of our brand name. I see a few posts praising our new hotel property. I ensure to respond to each post, thanking our guests and asking thoughtful questions in the hopes of beginning a meaningful conversation. Once a social media manager arrives around 9AM, the two of us meet to discuss strategy. I’ve been doing a lot of social research, so we have a lot to talk about. Community managers spend a significant portion of their day looking at 1) what’s being said about their brand, 2) what’s being said about related themes or topics relevant to the brand, and 3) what’s trending on social media.

For example, looking at #travel on Twitter, I’ve found an unusually large number of people are talking about going to Hawaii than ever before. There could be a number of reasons why people are suddenly interested in Hawaii (such as a new movie out that’s set in Hawaii, or celebrities/dignitaries visiting the area). Regardless, since the overall sentiment surrounding this high volume of tweets is positive, I suggest our SMM create content promoting our Hawaiian properties. I provide further insight to the marketing team and make more suggestions for shareable reactive content.

After our meeting, I deal with a few angry Facebook posts. While this might be handled by a SMM in some companies, at ours I also provide social customer service. A few guests were upset that their hotel room wasn’t ready by check-in. Since their conversation about our property’s service was particularly negative, I brought the conversation offline by sending them a private inbox. I found out the guests were still in-house at our resort, so I ensure that a representative on-site follows up and brings them a complimentary bottle of wine.
Another critical component of my job is to try and initiate a non-intrusive conversation with (current) non-customers. For example, since we have a beach resort near Laguna Beach, I might search for #LagunaBeach on social. I could comment something like, “Great shot!” on an Instagram photo of a beach sunset. I would never write anything such as, “Great shot – but we have a better view at our resort!”

I have to be really careful so that I’m not blocked by anyone, or come across as annoying or too promotional. CMs walk a very fine line. I want to build a positive brand association or relationship with someone. Social media is “personal” and people don’t want to see advertisements. I can’t explicitly come across as a walking billboard. I also might search for questions on Twitter, such as, “Where’s the best place to view the fireworks on Laguna Beach?”

If I can, I will answer. Even though I’m not directly promoting my hotel, I’m attempting to be helpful. I’m attempting to build a positive relationship with a potential future customer.

Before I know it, my day is over! The best part of my job is that two days are never exactly the same.

Are you a community manager? What tips would you give future community managers? Is your job similar to the imaginary “island resort” job that I described?

A Day In the Life: Community Manager