Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Real marketing innovation

I almost turned the page this morning, mistaking Hyatt's newspaper ad for a pharmaceutical long copy dirge.  Fortunately I skimmed the headline and was pleasantly surprised to discover something genuinely rare in travel marketing . . . a new product.

Hyatt now offers hypo-allergenic rooms in 125 properties.  Branded Respire by Hyatt, every room undergoes a rigorous six-step process that dramatically improves air quality and removes irritants.  Improved HVAC systems and filters, special cleaning of hard and soft surfaces and encased mattresses and pillows are some of the things that make these rooms different.

Hyatt is targeting the 25% of Americans who are affected by asthma and allergies.  That's a sizable market.  My question is who of us wouldn't want one of these rooms given a choice?  Every road warrior can reel-off cringe-worthy tales of odors, mold, pests and grunge discovered in their hotel rooms.  Clean and healthy could be the new premium designation in travel.

Just a year ago I was panning Hyatt for not anticipating the backlash from draconian measures to take cost out of their housekeeping operation in Boston (they instructed housekeeping staff to train "vacation help" that turned out to be their outsourced replacements).  Ironically, by looking at housekeeping and room cleanliness as a feature as opposed to a cost Hyatt can use it to differentiate in a commodity category.

Hyatt has hit on real, meaningful product innovation.  Travel marketing is overdue for a new idea. Not since boutique hotels and later some of the larger chains decided to make hotel beds aspirational as opposed to punitive have we seen anything like this.  Traditional hotel marketing tools are getting tired.  Loyalty programs have devolved into parity and we're all numb to glossy images of models posing in infinity pools.  I think Hyatt has a winner on its hands.  Now if they could only figure out how to make an ad that is as good as the product.