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The New York Times has a story this morning about how a number of hotel companies have decided to build their marketing efforts around the simple fact that "travel can be cramped, hectic or disappointing." By reminding people about that angst - and suggesting that their hotels are a great place to escape or relieve it.

"It can actually be a strategy to disarm consumers,” Derek Rucker, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, tells the Times. “When you represent some of the potential negatives of a product or service, that actually makes me feel as if I’m better informed.”

Airlines are an easy target, the story says, with hotels suggesting that they can be a great place to decompress from middle seats, crying babies and long lines. The hotels also are targeting other hotels, but especially services like Airbnb, which are tweaked for "partly clothed and poorly groomed hosts."
KC's View:
Key to the approach, the Times writes, is a light touch, and I would agree. I think there has to be a whiff of recognition, followed by a rueful nod, a faint smile, and then the offer of relief.

I also think it is important that companies offer solutions, and not try to put the responsibility back on the customer. I was critical in this space not too long ago when American Airlines ramped up a campaign designed to tell customers what they needed to do to be better fliers, suggesting that they - not the airline - were responsible for the quality of the experience. Which still strikes me as a misguided approach.

Acknowledging the shortcomings of an experience - whether it be flying or cooking - can be a positive way of talking to existing and potential customers, as long as the person doing the talking has some solutions to the problems.

We referenced a piece last week by Bob Wheatley, CEO of Emergent, in which he bemoaned a bad experience buying jeans at lucky, and one of the things he wrote was, "Jeans are not purchased; happiness is."

In so many cases - whether one is selling food or HBC products or jeans or cars or furniture or hotel rooms - that's an approach that marketers have to think about.