There’s a large English firm with fingers in many ‘leisure’ pies called Whitbread. They’ve grown from brewing and pubs through pizza houses to coffee chains and hotels.
This week their chief exec, Andy Harrison, took to the airwaves promoting their latest ‘innovation’, “hub by Premier Inn”.
It seems they want to push small 11m2 rooms and their marketing hook looks driven by being able to ‘control’ them with an app. Skynews delightfully informs that the room is ‘less than the size of 3 table tennis tables with a desk that folds into your pocket-sprung bed’.
And it was on that website that I found the ‘pitch’ of their salesman-in-chief.
Here’s what he said in his minute of answers.
“[our idea] is aimed at the high property cost city centre locations where the customers want a great product.
And we’ve been working over the last couple of years on designing the room.
It’s highly engineered.
Every centimetre is carefully thought through, so there’s lots of ingenious features which can appeal to consumers who want low prices right at the heart of the city, but want a really good quality room.
At the moment if you want to go to the city centre at low prices, your choice is basic and often poor-quality rooms.
[the interviewer, Joel Hills, then chirps that someone else has been offering this for a while in Second-City Birmingham already and that they’re just really the Japanese-style pod concept]
This is not a pod hotel.
This is much bigger than that.
It’s a great room.
It’s got a 40” smart tv.
It’s got a lovely shower room, with a power shower.
So it’s got everything that you need and plenty of space to stay and move around.
I’ve stayed in it and I think it’s fantastic.
In terms of prices, we expect it to sell at about 25 to 30 percent below our Premier Inn prices in central London.”
Well. As far removed from a snappy sixty-second elevator pitch as you could get. Not that I advocate such Eighties’ Americanisms any more of course. But a poor selling effort regardless. These people have such exhaustive media training I’m sure, so why waste all that work with such sloppy selling skills? Where is the Sales advice?!
When I hear this kind of rambling when talking about a new product – and it is lamentably commonplace almost to the point of being ubiquitous – it is easy to fall foul of the trap that merely tightens the language.
Problems always run deeper than that.
If you look at Andy Harrison’s words in this way, there’s some solid ideas; the R&D journey, pricing expectations, his personal use of the product. Yet they miss the mark as spoken here. They’re without direction and lack punchy context. For starters, it feels that most of what he says could be cut and paste into any of his competitor offerings. Really… Who in the central London hotel trade would say they weren’t aiming “at the high property cost city centre locations where the customers want a great product”?
Nowhere does he truly tackle the essentials of ‘why’ they’re doing this, the real thought-process of a potential guest or explain pricing attraction properly.
In addition, his reaction to the ‘pod hotel’ prod is a shocker.
Anyway, taking the general theme, it strikes me that practically all short-term hotel dwellers in London hardly ever spend waking hours in their quarters. So what’s wrong painting a unique picture for that market segment?
Q: What is your new ‘hub’ hotel all about then, mister ceo?
A: Well, you know how many guests moan all over about paying for a big room that they only sleep and shower in? So we thought, why not keep all the nice modern touches, but cut the floorspace by a third, to cut their price by a third…
I’ve only addressed one ‘resolution’ here, but I reckon there are plenty of different problems that lend themselves to be framed as being solved by their offering.
And it wouldn’t take much more than an hour’s decent workshopping to sort out.
An obvious point is that you should always spend more time talking about your eventual client’s wishes than from your own perspective. And as so many before him, Mr Harrison thinks he does this, but he just plain doesn’t.
Update: the day after blogging on this, I discovered this postscript;
Whitbread has trailed the Hub concept with five prototype rooms at its Premier Inn in Kings Cross
Most b2b new products never get any such treatment. To make it less daunting, I refer to it as piloting.
Pretty much every launch I’ve been involved with can benefit from such small-scale toe-in-the-water. Regardless of whether or not done in conjunction with existing favoured clients or any other presumed such safe-ish environment.