Guest Author, Nikola Cline, Founder of Brandettes
We all know that consumers love to try before they buy, which is why sampling is a vital component of any marketing plan. In the beauty industry, the most memorable experiences happen on a personal level, where customers can touch, smell and interact with the product. Most brands spend thousands, if not millions, on trial at the point of sale, whether it’s a gift with purchase or a beauty box subscription. Depending on the space you’re in, these methods are a solid part of the marketing mix, but it’s time to look beyond.
If you’re wondering what an amenity program can do for your brand, consider this: Where can you sample a beauty product to a potential customer in the same room where they will actually use it? A hotel amenity program is one of the most compelling and forward-thinking sampling opportunities today, and it should be on every marketer’s radar.
Amenities are a key part of the hotel experience. They are, by definition, the identifiable and unique extras that hotels provide guests to maximize comfort. In personal care, it’s the tiny-sized products found on the bathroom vanity, in the shower, or sometimes even bedside. According to a 2016 study conducted by Deloitte*, travelers today are seeking brands that offer outstanding service individualized to their particular needs. Hotel amenities, in particular, are a great opportunity for both sampling and brand experience. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion and bar soap are no longer plain label commodities haphazardly strewn on the bathroom counter—they are high-powered brand partnerships, carefully crafted to elevate the guest experience. And, of course, they elevate the visibility and profitability of the brands involved.
Amenity partnerships are lucrative for the beauty brand and the hotel partner alike. Over 40% of hotel guests surveyed say they have purchased a personal care product that they first tried during a hotel stay—and typically, they do so within 90 days. Even the most sophisticated sampling program would be hard-pressed to yield anything close to those results, let alone drive that kind of exposure 365 days a year.
If you’re considering an amenity program, or are just curious, here are 9 Key Points for creating a solid amenity program with standout results:
1) ASSESS – Look at your brand and assess which hospitality partners could be a good fit. Look for hotels that share your brand’s vision, mission, demographics and design aesthetic. Consider partners that offer enhancements for your already-established core audience, not a divergent consumer group. Hospitality programs are best used to complement your brand, not revamp it.
The Aveda® brand relationship with the Renaissance Hotels® is a great example of a strong synergy between brands. These brands share core values, with Aveda becoming a natural extension of the Renaissance Hotels® guest experience.
2) CALCULATE – Run the numbers and offer products in your brand that have healthy margins and wide appeal. Keep in mind, some hotel partners may have refined taste on a limited budget.
3) DIG IN – Amenity programs, like everything else, depend on successful execution. Before you reach out to hotel partners, it’s essential that you line up your operations support ahead of time. Experts will help alleviate the pains associated with trailblazing a new relationship of this scale.
4) PICK PACKAGING – Develop prototype packaging that complements your brand and products. Be mindful of cost, washroom merchandising and recyclability. Make it functional—a clear or translucent package is often preferred by hotels, so their housekeeping staff can determine if a bottle is new or needs to be replaced.
5) PRESENT – Create a short but powerful presentation that showcases the best your brand has to offer. Include the founder’s story, brand vision, demographics, top sellers, product awards, press, social media following and media.
6) PROMOTE – Be of service and consider ways you can partner with the hotel brand to drive a memorable experience. Do this through custom promotions, special events, new product exclusives and social media partnerships that don’t just give love to the launch, but add value for the long term.
7) REACH OUT – Get help from the inside and look for ways to involve team members, from a variety of disciplines, on both sides. Often hotel brands have a task force of well-respected franchise owners or hotel managers that offer incredible guest insights. Take the opportunity to get feedback from this group on how to make the partnership work seamlessly.
8) TAP INTO SOCIAL MEDIA – Promote engagement opportunities at the launch of your program and ongoing. Social media takeovers and influencer marketing programs are excellent ways to amp up the exposure and generate excitement for all brands. The direct-to-consumer engagement can also be tracked and followed-up on much better than traditional advertising.
9) WORK FOR THE LONG HAUL – Be prepared for your amenity program acquisition phase to be a marathon, not a sprint. Multi-year, exclusive amenity programs for large global brands are now the norm. The more you can understand about a potential partner, and truly work with them across multiple channels, the more likely you are to win favor.
Embracing the right amenity program for your brand can dramatically increase your product’s reach, add meaningful revenue to the bottom line and increase trial. We all know that customers are more likely to purchase a product after trying a sample. With hotel amenities, you can expand your reach and place your brand in the right place at the right time for a future sale. What could be more hospitable than that?
NIKOLA CLINE (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the award-winning founder of Brandettes, an LA-based agency that supports CPG brands with brand strategy, product innovation and strategic partnerships. Nikola secured the largest global amenity partnership active today, between Paul Mitchell and Marriott International, during her 10+ years leading marketing for John Paul Mitchell Systems.