One of the first acronyms a marketing 101 student is introduced to is USP. For hotels, whether acknowledged or not, the “S” in it unambiguously stands for service. At any tier of the industry, a hostelry that ignores the service element and focuses only on the “selling” aspect does so at its own peril. But that seems to be the case with the new dry run for some of the many brands being rolled out like new entrees tried out in a fashionable eatery. The New York Times last Sunday reported on how showerheads can “make or break” a hotel brand! While this is no ordinary shower head – it apparently “slides up and down to adjust for height, or can be unhooked and held as a sprayer, all in one piece” – it is hard to comprehend how customers are going to beat the door down to hotels merely because of a new gizmo – even an outstanding one – on a regular basis.
Hotel executives who think that a unique selling point, even one that is a product of innovative thinking, ought to realize that products can be duplicated – and fast. That certainly was the case withbrands that featured a host of amenities from hair dryers, concave mirrors, heavenly beds, duvets etc. That was equally true for brands that assumed a distinctive look ranging from a sloped roof to a circular appearance and even the famous atrium. It won’t be long before the wonder-shower or some variation of it is replicated or even bettered by other brands. What has always been much harder to replicate is service standards. Hotel history is replete with examples of brands that pivoted around a USP other than service – virtually all of them were short-lived.