Branding Kids

Today’s ehotelier has a news item on The Ritz Carlton in Naples, Florida about the property’s Very Important Kids program calling it one of the most innovative and comprehensive children’s programs in the hotel industry.

Designed for kids between the ages of 5 and 12, the hotel essentially takes the kids off the hands (and minds) of parents staying at the hotel. The hotel, however, claims it has a deeper goal in mind – that of impressing the kids with the “legendary Ritz-Carlton service standards”. The hotel’s GM says ” We are taking the approach that children are our future loyal Ritz-Carlton guests.”

The hotel’s initiative is laudable if only because because parents can be assured that junior is in good hands and as a marketing tool it surely shores up the repeat customer stat as kids do influence where their parents go. But as a cross-generational marketing idea meant to endure for over a generation, it has little, if any, basis. Even a cursory look at the empirical evidence in a number of industries will show that, at best, the notion is a gimmick designed to garner publicity. Few children buy the cars of their parents and even less the clothes or music of the previous generation. The Ritz name may well appeal to the kids of today when they grow up but is it likely to be the Ritz of today? Hotels like other service products have been known to be eminently capable of adapting to new environments and have even become leaders in trends. Ritz-Carlton would be better served by keeping abreast of changing consumer profiles and anticipating their needs.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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