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by Georges Panayotis

The digital economy raises questions about everything and makes some marketing rules seem a bit old since they did not keep up with technological evolutions. “Think global, act local” is no longer the only key because the interaction between the two levels has become more complex.

Based on the principle that the new digital economy was too complicated for field-based teams to implement, some headquarters were tempted to centralize most of their strategic decisions and then bring their instructions out to the field.

In the same spirit, management of CRM programs was recentralized at headquarters in order to collect, digest and analyze the information gathered by sales channels and transform it into procedures to individually address each client. Paradoxically, the diffusion of mobile tools has renewed the importance of proximity. While clients are increasingly connected, they are less and less receptive to impersonal messages that address everyone and no one all at once. One-to-one marketing is now possible thanks to tools that make it possible to know each client, his preferences and location individually. The terrain is no longer just a place for implementing global strategies, it is a source of information about guests and an ideal place to establish and deepen personalized relations.

“Local” goes back to being an essential gateway to reinforce the brand. Recent experience shows that the brand is no longer the only fundamental element in a customer’s choice. It supports the customer’s choice, offering reassurance once the decision has been made according to other criteria such as the experience of others, personal contact with teams, the sensation of a close match between expectations and the promise.

The basics of service providing are reevaluated when the service is produced at properties by personnel who have re-appropriated their key role. Thus it is important to reinforce the decision-making power of directors as well as of team leaders who can efficiently appropriate digital economy tools. This is because a new “millennium” generation is now underway at properties, where mobile tools, geographic positioning, social networks bear no secrets. Now it is up to the headquarters to provide help on the field again, to give field-based teams the array of tools they need to be more autonomous and reactive.

Agility along with a desire to develop the hotel product with respect to local needs is the key to tomorrow. McDonald’s, the symbol of the global corporation, has fully understood this need and now offers sandwiches on baguettes in France and vegetarian restaurants in India. In Asia, the AirBnB concept competes with PandaBed which is more adapted to local customs. When concepts are overly global they can clash with local practices.

In fact, interaction affects all aspects of everyday life. Today, customers have suggestions and the means to express them. It is necessary to listen to them, and not just learn about them through major sociological studies, but through daily observation of behaviors.

The evolution of products and services has become exponential. Who would have thought just one year ago that Uber would endanger the monopoly of urban taxis? That Ouicar would sound the death knell for automobile rentals? Those who looked disdainfully upon the evolution of AirBnB and its kin will be kicking themselves tomorrow for not coming up with new offers. Global players such as AirBnB give their members the means to rival with professionals, for example by providing a photographer for free to feature their apartment. Franchisees and partners of hotel groups have every right to expect similar support through a veritable toolbox that allows them to improve their local operational marketing.

In the end, it is important to reaffirm the nobility of hospitality professions whereas recent economic models of the hotel industry had shifted towards finance and real estate. No longer needed at consumer goods companies, marketing gurus must align themselves more with operational managers on the field. These two worlds must be reconciled to avoid rupture and a feeling among operators that the widening gap no longer justifies belonging to a global network. The new slogan could be “Local! Local! Local!” 

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, 51, left Greece at the age of 18 to pursue his studies in Political Sciences and to obtain his Master in Management at the French University of Paris Dauphine. He then joined the Novotel chain, which will become the Accor Group, to manage the International Marketing Division. After developing specific marketing tools for the hotel industry, he left the group in 1986 to start his own company, MKG Conseil, now MKG Group. In twenty years, the group has become the European leader in studies and consulting for the Hospitality industry. The company employs over 70 people in four departments: marketing studies, database, quality control and trade press, with two publications HTR Magazine and Hotel Restaurant Weekly. The company helped the development of over 2,000 hotels in France and in Europe, with offices in Paris, Cyprus and London. Georges Panyotis is the founder of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards and the Hotel Makers Forum, and the author of several publications on Marketing and Operations in the hotel business, He is a regular consultant for several television channels, among which Bloomberg Television, and radio networks.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

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