All posts in hotels

  • personalization – the future of luxury advertising

    Digital has always led the way in personalization of advertising.  From search, site, and social retargeting to simple geographic and interest/content based targeting we have always had ways to target specific advertising to ‘supposedly’ the correct audience.  None of the third party technology (third party cookie) is perfect, but as more data is recorded, the targeting improves.  With the automation of media buying (especially with television and online), targeting will become even more sophisticated, however one of the biggest problems we still run into is tracking across multiple devices to synchronize the message and provide accurately customized marketing.  Automated media buying will certainly help with this challenging task, but there are still a variety of issues that will need to be worked out for this process to be flawless.  I’m the first to admit that I see ads targeted and customized for me that aren’t properly targeted or personalized.  This is often the result of corrupt third party data.

    Google is working on an alternative to third party data (ad ID) that might work better than a cookie, but I am still dubious.

    Some suggestions for cross device messaging include: 

    • using a synchronized content message
    • customizing the content based on PMS or CRM software and preferences (individualization)
    • using mobile data first
    • for brand messaging, use digital to personalize the big brand message in larger, more traditional media buys

    For hospitality we are currently developing a system that will collect content from a hotel’s property management system and then aggregate that data into usable information.  Once the data is usable, we will be creating algorithms to serve customized content based on past guest history and concierge requests (1st party data) in e-mail and other digital forms.

    Custom personalization of advertising and content delivery is the future of luxury marketing.

  • new google local search carousel

    I have seen quite a bit of criticism for the new Google local search carousel that was introduced last week.

    It replaced the traditional local listings that looked like the below screenshot (if I recall correctly this was a screenshot I took when searching for “Del Mar CA restaurants”:

    The new search carousel looks like this: 


    I have a high-resolution laptop display, so my screen definitely shows more results (organic specifically) than most folks would see above the fold.  However one thing you will immediately notice is the prominence of the carousel.  I think there are some great things about it including the listing photo (however since the photo can be user generated through G+ reviews, it is possible it could be a bad photo).  Google says that the photos are randomly chosen through the algorithm.  All of our hotel clients seem to have good photos chosen, however the photos for the hotel restaurant listings aren’t very good (in fact one photo is of a person taking a picture of their face in the restaurant).  From our research this photo predicament seems to be a trend with our restaurant searches, so hopefully Google will change the way photos are chosen in the near future.  Unquestionably the new slider helps many local businesses because they now have higher chances of being placed on page one.  That being said, from an organic perspective, this definitely de-emphasizes the value of the organic listing (especially since many will be below the fold).  There was an article in the Search Engine Journal saying that the carousel is receiving 48% of the clicks, while the map (right side, and didn’t load for me in the above screenshot) is receiving 14% with organic listings receiving lower than that.  I also read articles that show people clicking further to the right rather than the first carousel listings, which is backwards of organic search click distribution.

    Here is a heat map of the click distribution (click on the article to link to the original Search Engine Journal article) :

    I would be interested to see if anyone has pre-carousel data regarding click distribution, because I would assume that local listings would receive a similar percentage of clicks, purely because of appearance   I think the frustration in the mind of many inbound marketers is that Google is clearly focusing on their own products (G+, Google Maps, Hotel Finder, and AdWords) as all of these pieces have the primary placement on the page.  This is certainly the case, but there isn’t much we can do about it: they are in business to make money.  I would also assume they will be integrating an ad unit into the carousel.

    Overall, because we work with predominately travel clients, the carousel has been helping us with competitive keywords where local search receives a large number of clicks.  I would say that  rather than complaining about the carousel as an inbound marketer, we have to find ways to improve client placement with different tactics .  We are working on increasing share of voice on pages (so we have a carousel listing and an organic placement (or multiple organic placements) on the page).  Yes, the organic listing might receive less traffic, but increasing the SOV on the page will still assist brand positioning and assist overall find-ability.

  • luxurious digital

    I receive questions on a regular basis on how crafting digital content and even digital experiences differs for luxury brands vs. non-luxury sector brands.  There are significant differences (and a few tips) that I will explain here (in fact I started AZDS on the belief that the ultra-luxury niche is one so different from the rest you can create an agency to support it).

    1. Digital content for a luxury brand has to communicate a more concise message on why it is truly luxury.  Consumers aren’t dumb (especially those that patronize luxury brands) and therefore it is easier than ever to find out if a brand is actually luxury or just posing to be luxury.  You can’t fake it anymore.
    2. Creating content that both resonates with a person, but also spurs the desire to share it.
    3. Capturing and evoking a certain feeling in a person (Apple does this magnificently).  A good hotel website should also evoke a sense of place and a sense of actually being on property.
    4. Writing correctly with brevity.
    5. An ease of use.  Luxury consumers simply will not waste time trying to figure something out.  They will move on to the next place.
    6. Writing for exclusivity.  It isn’t necessarily that you want to be entirely exclusive (to the point where people can feel uncomfortable).  You need to be exclusive, but comfortable.
    7. Adapting to people’s requests and suggestions.  With a luxury brand this is absolutely critical.  You have to change and adapt to satisfy.
    8. Don’t overly describe something.  Let people be immersed in the experience and when they arrive (whether hotel, retail, etc.) they will feel the same way, but even slightly better.
    9. You have to sell a memory.  If you don’t sell a moment or a memory than luxury consumers won’t buy in.
    10. More features aren’t necessarily better (on a website or app, etc.).  The simpler, generally speaking, the more engagement you’ll actually receive.
  • propelling an interactive experience

    At AZDS our mantra is “we propel luxury brands as digital innovators.”  I believe that this fits the AZDS brand quite well.  We are a boutique agency that differentiates ourself through our innovative and creative digital strategy along with our customer service that is unmatched in our industry.  I have worked with a number of agencies in our field, and I can confidently say that our customer service is without compare.  Updates and changes to our client’s websites or interactive campaigns are done in hours, not days or weeks.  Our deliverables are completed thoughtfully and delivered to our clients much quicker than that of our competition.  Everyone wants to provide their client’s with great service, but I think the caveat here is that they themselves don’t understand what exceptional service is.  At AZDS we have the good fortune of working with some of the world’s finest hotels and resorts who specialize in providing their guests unmatched service and delightful experiences.  This is where we learn how to treat our clients (from how they treat us when we visit their hotels).  It is like a 24 hour focus group that we have the privilege of observing.

    Over the years I have come to appreciate the complexity of providing exceptional service.  Thought I would share just a few experiences I have had where a five-star hotel (client and non-client, so I won’t drop names) has blown me away:

    • This may sound funny, but this was amazing: I was checking into a luxury hotel on a Thursday to begin a long-weekend vacation, and I had just left a weeks worth of meetings (earlier that week).  I had just purchased a new pair of board shorts at a specialty shop in Venice Beach the week before and left them in the back of the rental car at the Los Angeles Airport.  When I arrived at the hotel, I described to the concierge what I had done and he found the same pair of shorts at local store and sent the Mercedes to pick up another pair for me.  This is going out of your way to serve a guest.
    • One of the best Concierge I have met, as a frequent guest at this particular hotel, arranging a surprise 25th wedding anniversary for my parents.  Specific wine, chocolate strawberries, celebrity chefs and more.
    • A bottle of welcome champagne every time I arrive (simple, but makes you feel great).
    • Always an upgrade (this just makes you feel special)

    In order to propel a luxury brand it is critical for us to serve them at an exceptional level, which is what why we do everything in our power to make that happen.

  • validity of world’s best hotel lists

    I recently received the November copy of Conde Nast Travler, which includes the 100 best hotels and resorts in the world (among other “top of the top” lists).  It is very similar to Travel and Leisure’s August World’s Best List issue.  Both of these magazines send out invitations to their subscribers to survey places they have been over the past year (hotels, airlines, cities, islands, etc).  I believe that this is a relatively fair way to rank hotels and resorts around the world (as long as those surveyed are from a diverse geographic area).

    Candidly, I am disappointed in this year’s 100 Best List from Conde Nast.  I am well traveled, and because AZDS works with some of the best hotels in the world, I get the grand opportunity to stay in some of the best hotels around.  Without naming names of who doesn’t belong, which isn’t fair (or deserved), I can say with certainty that a number of the hotels in the top-100 are simply misplaced.  Some of them aren’t even full service!  How can a top-100 hotel or resort in the world not have a restaurant or 24 hour room service?  These are basic amenities for a quality hotel.  It would be fine to categorize these hotels separately, as inns for example, but these hotels simply cannot be categorized above what are actually some of the world’s best hotels.

    I think that this example (100 Best) might be a much larger scale issue.  I believe that luxury is certainly changing, and what people come to expect is certainly different today than it was 15, 10, or even five years ago.  I think this is part of why I have such a disagreement with some of the properties on the list, and I am afraid that over the next few years we are going to begin seeing dynamic changes.  I think that there needs to be some sort of filter in place for who actually takes the survey.  I don’t mean to require very specific qualifications, but there should be certainly filters as to who has visited at least 15 hotels that year. There should also be a requirement for  individuals who have stayed in a broad spectrum of properties in different rate groups.  For example, if you generally stay in a three star hotel, then a four star hotel would likely be incredible (and what you would consider the best hotel you’ve stayed in), while we know that a five star resort in the Maldives would be astronomically different.  We all know that hotels are all about experiences, not just the rooms.  Because of this, it is always going to be subjective, but I believe we can do better than what is currently being produced.


  • paris


    Paris is Paris. Fabulous.

    Paris is unquestionably the most beautiful city I have ever been too. The architecture is just simply stunning and the river at night is just out of art (as it is). I am not kidding when I say that I undertand Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris and the magic that this city offers. There really isn’t anything like it.

    Last night I had the good fortune of eating at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the original). I went for the full tasting menu where every course was better than the next. Chef even made for me Robuchon’s signature ravioli–which has been his staple for the past 30 years (pictured in the blog). Nothing about Robuchon is over-rated. He truly is the chef of the century. This coming from me, who has eaten Gagnaire, Keller, and Jean Georges, to name a few. A full ten courses and I was still craving the next. Foir, Gazpacho (and amazing Gazpacho–something I could drink as a replacement for water), ravioli, caviar, baby lamb chops, a decadent strawberry dessert and even a chocolate dessert in case you were not fully satisfied. Everything, and I mean everything was so absolutely fabulous that I was taking the exceptional bread to soak up every bit of every sauce and soup. Of course this being Paris, it was paired perfectly with wine that was beyond the senses. I will never forget the day that I had the opportunity to eat in the original L’Atlier de Joel Robuchon in Paris.

    The amazing thing about this city is that every single cafe seems like it is just better than the next. My favorite cooking is bistro, and I found the best bistro I have ever tried–called La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix. It was recommended by a chef concierge at the Mandarin as one of the best “local bistros.” So incredible, I am going again tonight, which certainly says something given the vast number of amazing restaurants this city has.

    I also visited the Rue Mouffetard open-air Market and indulged in freshly sliced salami and white wine. Everything is so fresh and it puts to shame everything we have in the States. Real pork, that tastes like pork. Cheese that tastes like cheese, fish that is unbelievable, and biggest difference, eggs that actually taste like eggs should. I mean it…no exaggeration. If you understand good food and care about it as you should, you’ll know what I am taking about (and I am not talking about eating at Keller’s French Laundry every night–which of course is incredible. I am talking about food you can buy at the grocery.)

    I also visited the Louvre, the Eifel, the Charvet shirt store (per my Grandfather’s recommandation), and I made it to Versailles for the day today. Absolutely nothing like it. More about everything later when I return, but for me…back to good food and wine for now. Oh, and I also went to the 11pm showing of Crazy Horse last night; the original Cabaret show in Paris, like Moulin Rouge (yet not so over-rated and expensive). It was great. I suppose what’s not to like about topless beautiful Parisian women with an incredible light show?

    What I love most about Paris is that at any time you can walk into a lovely cafe, enjoy great food, cheese, wine, and good company. This is something I wish dearly we had back home. It just doesn’t exist. Also, for those that think that the Parisians are rude–you are doing something wrong. They are the nicest people I have met so far on my trip. Every single person is happy to help me find my way, show me good food, and treat me kindly. The trick? Treat them right, try to speak some french, say merci bouquet, and relax, drink good wine, and enjoy cheese with them!