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  • michael abramson

The Definition of Insanity…

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Benjamin Franklin

While we can’t confirm the situation that spurred Benjamin Franklin to utter this famous quote in the late 1790s – we can confirm that industries today are still trying to prove him wrong. They are still doing the same things over and over again…and they are still anxiously waiting for those same actions to produce different results. Look no further than the hospitality industry to get a glimpse of what Benji must have been referring to.

When it comes to marketing, most within the hotel industry continue to do the same things over and over and over again in a quest to produce positive results for their property. Note: any industry – probably even your industry – could be substituted for “hotel” in the above sentence!

Whatever the reasons, hotels continue to nestle right into the comfort zone of the hospitality industry’s practice of safe marketing – its “paradigm of sameness”. And then they shake their heads and scratch their chins, wondering why they are producing such negligible results from their efforts. Most comfort themselves by saying…

…the competition’s doing no better.

…the industry as a whole is down.

…we’re just a point or two below last year.

…we couldn’t risk doing something different.

We believe that the risk today is NOT doing something different.

If I may, let me illustrate the impact that shattering an industry’s paradigm can have on marketing results through a brief case study.

We were approached by a hotel wishing to promote their upcoming March Break period. At the briefing we were told that they wanted to take the same approach as they did the previous year – that being, advertising their upcoming March Break to key markets within a 4-hour drive of the property.

“We’re after a 10% increase on the 77 March Break packages that we booked last year”, they told us.

Sure, we could probably design a more effective ad for them that might bring them a better response. Or we could probably buy media a bit more effectively – and this too might bring them a better response.

But, we remembered Franklin’s wise words – and realized that doing the same old things, in the same old ways would (predictably) only produce the same old results.

A week after our briefing meeting we returned to our client’s boardroom and unveiled our recommendations. At the top of our list was: Do No Advertising – no regional newspaper ads, no local radio ads, no online ads, no transit ads – No Advertising.

Instead we designed a campaign centered on fashioning the property as a destination. We filled the March Break week with activity after activity designed to attract our target audiences.

We brought in:

  • diving instructors and offered scuba lessons in the pool,

  • a camel from the Zoo and offered a pet and learn program,

  • a strolling magician to entertain at meal times,

  • a mad scientist to conduct some weird and wacky experiments,

  • a group that gave live reptile shows, and

  • a local building center to build bird cages.

We partnered with:

  • a local mega-arcade,

  • area cinemas,

  • the hotel’s recreation staff, and

  • the hotel’s chef and culinary team.

But, we still had to get the word out. We did so by creating an intriguing direct mail package and inviting newspaper editors, writers and radio personalities from across the province to a special preview to be held at the hotel in February – one month prior to the March Break period. We offered all of the upcoming March Break activities, jam-packed into one fun-filled preview weekend.

The cost of admission – each guest had to bring one child.

And, they came in droves – from 45 different cities and towns across Ontario.

I could go on and on…but let me skip to the results to demonstrate what paradigm-shattering marketing can produce…

  • 38 articles written in local and regional newspapers,

  • 6 radio talk show interviews,

  • 17 repeat radio mentions, and

  • 1 live remote radio broadcast.

If we had to buy this media space it would have cost us over $275,000.00 – more than 4 times the budget we were assigned.

And, remember the goal of a 10% increase over last year’s 77 packages?

This campaign sold 271 packages!

So…just what do you have to do to produce marketing initiatives that work? In our opinion, you need to take a step out of your industry’s comfort zone… You need to carefully target your market – or target those who target your market… And then, you need to break through the thousands of marketing messages we humans receive each day. But don’t worry, it’s really not as daunting as it sounds. In fact, it’s fun, rewarding – and sane!


(footnote) WARNING – the pull of an industry’s paradigm can be outrageously strong! Step outside of it and it works doubly hard at trying to bring you back. Case-in-point: the hotel called us again the next year and asked us to produce…some March Break ads for their key regional markets within a few hours drive of the property…!

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