As the front desk receptionist conversed with my parents in the lobby of the Luxor Hotel, I distinctly remember her exclaiming at the 5 Guys soda cup they placed at the counter. This led them down a rabbit hole of enthusiastic conversation about how delightful the hamburger restaurant was.
Later, my mother pulled my arm and told me in Chinese, “Say thank you to the kind lady.” I did so dutifully. Moments later, I delightfully discovered that the woman had upgraded our simple one-bedroom room all the way to a suite for free! That trip turned out to be one of the most memorable vacations I’ve ever had.
Looking back, I always wondered why she did it. Did she notice the exhausted expressions on my parents’ faces after a long drive? Or the 4 children behind them, running around and playing with one another despite the repeated instructions to stay still by their parents? Or did she take sympathy to the fact that despite our large family, we squeezed ourselves into a humble room because that was all that we could afford, causing my brothers to play multiple rounds of rock paper scissors to decide who would be sleeping on the floor? Whatever her motive was, I’ve always been grateful to her for creating one of the first magical moments in my experiences with the hotel industry.
Creating those special experiences
Examples like mine are nothing revolutionary. The service industry has long understood the power of changing experience through an unexpected gift.
Disney, for instance, allows its cast members at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or other parks to create what they call magical moments. According to an explanation by a previous cast member Stephen Porter, “ [m]agical moments are a spur of the moment act of kindness between cast members and the guests.” These can include instances, “as small as giving a child a Mickey sticker, or as large as upgrading your resort hotel room to a much nicer room.” Through this technique, guests in the park feel appreciative that they were recognized and feel valued as a visitor when they see cast members take the effort to turn their negative situation into a positive and memorable experience. This can lead to a domino effect, causing the guests to repeatedly return because they understand that they are appreciated and help add to the good reputation that the park has resulting in new guests who are excited to be a part of the magic.
Utilizing "free" stuff in sales and marketing
Freebie marketing is an effective strategy that benefits a company, either for a long-established firm or a budding startup. Freebie marketing can help a company gain more visibility among consumers, increase client databases through the collection of consumers' contact information, such as an email address to send them newsletters with information regarding the company, and increase sales due to the exposure and garnered the interest of new customers.
To prevent freebie marketing debt, however, it is important to make sure that the strategy is part of a larger marketing plan. Or, it will become a surefire way to bankruptcy. Businesses should utilize freebies as an addition to an existing product/service. A restaurant can offer a free appetizer with the purchase of an entrée.
Additionally, it can be beneficial to target certain people to expose a product. Influencers with a large number of followers can help a business narrow down their target audience and increase the desirability aspect of a product.
What are some other ways to strategize freebie marketing to benefit a company? How can the hospitality industry implement freebie marketing to create more positive experiences?
About the Author
Shanti Huang is currently a first-year student at the Collins College of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona with an emphasis on lodging. She is currently involved with the Hotel, Resort, and Destination Professionals Organization and will soon become the Director of Communications for the Hotel Management Council. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she is hoping to receive a management position in a hotel where she can continue to lead and help create joy within the industry.
· Porter, Stephen. “What Is a Disney Magical Moment?” Disney World - The Largest Unofficial Online Guide to Disney World, Walt Disney World, Werner Technologies, 16 Aug. 2016, www.wdwinfo.com/disneylandcalifornia/what-is-a-magical-moment/.