Peer Pressure Of Fear: Hey, Let's Call A Limo A Yugo?

Posted on March 25, 2009 by LCT Magazine

COMMENTARY. . .
 
One of the latest examples of this approach is happening in Sonoma County Wine Country in California. It begs the questions: Why are some hoteliers and resorts doing this? Are they afraid of cowardly politicians doing the populist grandstand shuffle? Do they really think they can preserve business with a half-hearted name change? Will Ritz-Carlton call itself Carlton's Trailer Court (wink, wink) to attract all those high-end conference clients? Why won't these businesses stand up and defend the luxury hospitality and transportation service sectors instead of just folding up into a fetal position on the floor of a Motel 6?
 
What's so troublesome about this situation is how readily so much of the still-employed American public has embraced frugality because "everybody else is doing it" — the politically correct default position of the American psyche.
The public’s faddish nonsense becomes self-perpetuating as some — not all — hospitality businesses and destinations — and their corporate clients — then fearfully put their fingers to the trendy winds as a way to possibly make or save a buck.
 
For the sake of argument, let’s say you own a resort called the “Decadence Luxury Resort & Smeared Chocolate Spa.” Your business tanks by 50% in just two months. So you change your name to “Smith’s Val-You Motor Motel” and you brand it as the “No-nonsense business destination for hard times.”
 
Will clients swoon for the “practical value” of your name? Not really. Here’s how it would go down:
 
Corporate Customer A calls and asks: “I’m interested in making a reservation, but I haven’t heard of you before. Where exactly are you located?”
 
Reservation Agent: “Um, we’re along the scenic Monterey Bay coastline.”
 
Corporate Customer A: “Wow, that’s quite a location for a motor motel. What are your rates and what do you offer?”
 
Reservation Agent: “Well, we charge only $250 a night and offer an array of fine dining, creature comforts, and practical amenities.”
 
Corporate Customer A: “$250? I see. You sound like this other place I heard about once around there. What ever happened to that decadent resort with the smeared chocolate massages?”
 
Reservation agent: “Um, that’s actually still us, sir, and we still offer those services, but we just don’t talk about it. But you can still enjoy everything you did before when you get here.”
 
Corporate Customer A: “Um, I better not. If my company catches me there, then I could get into trouble. And I wouldn’t want Barney Frank to sit on me. Can you recommend a Motel 6 or a Super 8?”
 
The name change won’t make a difference. You’ll still have to charge in the same rate range to remain profitable, and any SEC auditor would spot the “excess” and hunt down the ruse, and then leak it to the media: “Corporate Fat Cats Hide Out At Renamed “Budget” Resorts.”
 
Ergo, another hysterical scandal. Bottom line: Stick with your name and service genre.
 
Anyone who angrily and reflexively blames corporations for our economic woes and by extension the luxury services and retail sector doesn't really have a clue about economic fundamentals and shouldn't be taken seriously. And anyone who kow-tows to this perceived pressure doesn't understand truth in labeling. If you're in the luxury service sector and don't understand how luxury is synonymous with "value," "quality," "practicality," "safety," "service," and "accessibility," then maybe you need a Marketing 101 lesson. 
 
To come to think of it, in order to attract all those penny-pinching frugal masses, maybe we can refer to limousines and chauffeured transportation as. . . black-and-white people mover services: "Mr. Client, your minimum-waged motorist is waiting with the Yugo in self-serve lot C-2. Bring your own bottled water."
 
Jumping on fearful, frugal bandwagons is not the path to long-term business success. Just ask Detroit. After a retro-70s subcompact summer buying binge, the faddish little automotive bugaboos now are PILING UP ON LOTS.  As Americans have drifted back to comfortable (eek, a dirty word?) vehicles, so shall they in due time re-embrace the Ritz, the Marriott, Sonoma County Wine Country, Las Vegas, spas, resorts, luxury limousines and chauffeured transportation, smeared chocolate massages, and any business that has the guts to call themselves what they really are. It's part of our American
DNA.
 
Strutting for the truth is a much bolder business plan than hunkering down for a falsehood. — M.R.   
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