Natural disasters, political stalemates, aging population, growing numbers of Americans not using their vacation time, tighter Homeland Security rules—the ski industry has been presented with significant challenges in the last 15 years. That means there is a growing need for resorts to identify and promote to new markets of opportunity, and to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by appealing specifically to these new markets.
Top 4 Approaches in Multicultural Marketing
Success requires innovation in how we approach the wants and needs of multicultural consumers. Resorts interested in marketing to various cultures and demographics must be aware of the buying behaviors of these potential customers. We need to research these markets to find the key differences between the communities we want to market to, and then adjust not only our marketing practices, but also our business practices. Several resorts have already done so, as later examples show.
Not everyone believes focusing on differences is the answer, however. According to Schone Malliet, CEO of the National Winter Activity Center (NWSEF), which runs the Winter 4 Kids Initiative in New Jersey, it’s about appealing to consumer similarities rather than differences. In marketing this program, Malliet says, “We do not isolate the different cultural segments, it’s just too expensive. Instead, we look for common interests that connect affinity groups.”
Working with local community organizations, such as the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and schools in the greater New York and New Jersey metro area, Malliet says Winter4Kids is an economic leveling program, and that ethnic differences are secondary to the activity. “We welcome everyone. Different groups bring their own culture with them. We work to find a way to make each child’s experience his own and ultimately provide a great first time,” he explains.
It seems to be working. Winter4Kids provides 60 to 80 hours of winter sports activities (including meals) to participants during a time of year when young people typically opt to stay indoors and maximize screen time. In its second full year of operations, the NWSEF has served 3,000 youth in multiple programs throughout the U.S.
Technology can help manage the large scope of the multicultural marketplace. Information technology resources, such as marketing databases, cultural heritage websites, and sales and marketing web forums allow resorts to improve marketing decision-making processes. Technology breaks down walls between different cultures. Using social media, for instance, allows your business to spread information about what you do from culture-to-culture, even nation-to-nation, quickly and affordably.
Others have already taken such steps. The NBA began doing large-scale Hispanic marketing in 1995 when it opened an office in Miami, Florida. It realized the bulk of its fans were bicultural and bilingual. Further research showed that many Hispanic viewers liked to watch the game in English but still read about the game in Spanish, and they referred to the NBA as “Éne-Bé-A.” So, the NBA created a Hispanic brand called Éne-Bé-A, and used all available technology to build engagement—including a Spanish language website and social media pages—and reworked how it talked to the consumer with its content.
“We’ve seen our numbers increase dramatically,” says Saskia Sorrosa, the NBA vice president of marketing who has led the NBA’s brand strategy, event promotion, and advertising efforts toward Hispanics and internationals. “Since the launch of our campaign, the growth within the Hispanic fan base has outgrown the Hispanic population in the U.S. by 34 percent. We’ve seen a huge increase among the Hispanic fan base.” Communication and connection are key.
3. Advertising Vs. Marketing
An important key to understanding multicultural marketing is to differentiate your marketing strategy from your advertising.
While the two are closely linked, marketing is a company’s holistic strategy for reaching and engaging customers. Advertising is just one segment of this, the process of encouraging and persuading your potential customers to buy your products or services, often through purchasing space in a newspaper, shooting a TV commercial, etc.
The research and data behind marketing decisions is what separates multicultural marketing from traditional methods. You have to know the marketplace and what makes it tick in order to effectively advertise to it.
One company at the forefront of multicultural marketing and advertising is Proctor and Gamble (P&G). Its approach is to appeal broadly to all consumers—but with specific considerations for cultural preferences. With its Hispanic customers, P&G does this in two subtle ways: language and scent. For example, every box of Gain sold in the U.S. features both English and Spanish on the box. Gain also offers unique scents, such as Thai Dragon Fruit, Tropical Sunrise, and Icy Fresh Fizz, that appeal to Hispanics. It’s common to hear Hispanic buyers say Gain is their favorite detergent because of its scents and the direct mail they receive from P&G with offers in Spanish. The upshot: Gain’s market share among Hispanic consumers is 80 percent higher than among the general population.
More and more, winning in snowsports means winning with multicultural consumers. And that may take more than bilingual ads. It may require programs designed specifically for the target demographic markets.
For Mountain High, Calif., multicultural marketing is the cornerstone of what the resort does. Its customer base is 52 percent non-Caucasian.
According to John McColly, chief marketing officer, it is important to segment out which groups you want to attract. The area is currently courting the Korean and Chinese communities. It has partnered with an Asian agency to translate contests and create language-specific advertising. McColly says this is critical, since there are thousands of distinct Asian languages.
So Mountain High now broadcasts weather and snow reports in Korean and Chinese, not just English. These efforts highlight the level of commitment that Mountain High devotes to tackling hurdles to skiing and riding, from the language barrier to the cultural cues.
After conducting market research and defining the opportunities, the next important step is to get management buy-in. A key challenge is to convince upper management that its support and investment will produce a future return. A multicultural program may not initially drive big revenues; rather, it’s a responsible long-term approach to an evolving business environment.
Camelback Mountain Resort, Pa., has taken that approach. Camelback realized three years ago that its future growth would come from non-traditional skiers and riders. According to Brian Czarnecki, vice president of sales and marketing, “It is important to pick a specific segment of the population and understand why they are coming and what we can do to help them.”
That can lead to some surprising developments. At sunset every day, in a hallway near the ticket windows at Camelback, you will find a group of Hasidic Jews (and sometimes Muslims) praying. According to Czarnecki, “It just happened. A few years ago, someone asked if we could provide prayer space. We offered the hallway outside my door, and ever since, we have gotten more and more guests from these communities. All word-of-mouth.”
Camelback has proven that being flexible and open to cultural differences can build a loyal following. Now that its reputation for understanding and accommodation has been established in the Hasidic and Muslim communities, the resort has consistently received a greater share of the market.
One of the greatest successes in multicultural marketing comes from a key winter resort competitor.
Orlando’s newest lifestyle resort, B Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World, has put into practice many of the concepts that drive successful multicultural marketing initiatives: the latest technology, a variety of on-site activities, environmentally friendly programs, close ties to the local community, and multi-lingual marketing. Open less than a year, this new concept resort has exceeded projected earnings every quarter.
“B Resort & Spa delivers a rare blend of chic, sophisticated fun for both adults and children,” says general manager Keith Wolling. Step inside its lobby and it becomes immediately clear this hotel prides itself on simplicity, even down to its one-letter name. Its bright white walls, floors, and ceilings make a rotating collection of colorful local art stand out. The goal is to be modern but welcoming, no matter what your culture.
The B Artistic program serves a second purpose. Multicultural consumers are socially conscious; they will support organizations that support them and their community. The original works on display are available for purchase, and all proceeds go directly to the artists.
The comfortable lobby is peppered with convenient touch screens that allow guests to check in for flights and retrieve maps to any local destination. If English is not your first language, the front desk staff speak multiple languages. That extends to marketing as well: B Resort has both a typical agency and a multicultural, multilingual one.
Research shows Hispanic and Asian travelers put a high priority on traveling with family. Therefore, among the hotel’s most unique aspects are its 20 family-friendly rooms with bunk beds, conveniently located poolside, including a private outdoor seating area with access to the pool and bar. One way ski areas could learn from this is to switch from tables with four seats to longer, more communal tables.
Mostly, though, B Resort reflects the interests and culture of a new generation and offers a richer experience. B Artistic is just one piece of that.
Studies show that the Hispanic and Asian-American target markets like to take trips to enjoy the finer things in life. So B Resort offers multiple opportunities (and profit centers) for recreation and relaxation: a zero-entry pool with interactive water features; full-service B Indulged spa and state-of-the-art B Active Fitness Center; and a Kid’s Zone.
Complimentary FreeB Wi-Fi is available throughout, along with Monscierge, a digital touchscreen concierge and destination guide (also available via mobile app) that offers recommendations for local attractions, dining outlets, and shopping. This information can be printed, but B Resort also offers emails and text messages direct from these displays.
The goal is to provide little luxuries at an affordable price to separate this resort in a competitive market. Perhaps ski areas should embrace the notion that not all consumers are interested in a full day of skiing, and promote other activities that guests can do with friends.
Another example of social responsibility: B Resort’s popular, brand-wide B Humane Program, which was designed to increase awareness of endangered species native to the region in which each B hotel is located. The Orlando facility has partnered with the Wildlife Foundation of Florida. The hotel’s mascot, Benson B Frog, a plush frog, is present in and available for “adoption” (i.e. purchase) in each guest room. A portion of the proceeds go toward wildlife protection efforts.
As an industry, we can learn from B Resort. Our future is not just skiing and snowboarding, but incorporating an area’s entire winter environment and community.
Are we speaking the same language?
According to the latest reports from RRC Associates, two-thirds of today’s skiers and snowboarders are Caucasian. So a question is—how do we broaden our demographics without alienating these long-time consumers, who might feel slighted if their favorite ski area no longer speaks exclusively to them?
One tactic is to mirror what other industries have done—create an open forum in which businesses can tackle diversity challenges. As in these industries, an “advisory council” could be established to promote ski industry diversity initiatives. It would be a forum to allow resort staff to network and exchange business ideas and solutions.
Something needs to be done, and soon. The longer we wait to fully embrace multicultural marketing, the harder it’s going to be to stay relevant and stop the tide of declining skier visits.
Things to Note for Marketing Campaigns
Resorts looking to be successful in multicultural markets will be those most knowledgeable about the travel behaviors and preferences of these market segments. The data below, which shows travel preferences of different groups, will help you better appreciate these new markets of opportunity and help you design more effective marketing campaigns.
Hispanics: Hispanics: When traveling for leisure, Hispanics enjoy the finer things in life, according to a survey conducted by TNS Travels America. Hispanics seek out destinations that offer activities, including skiing and riding. Among the activities and venues they look for are amusement/theme parks (63%), sporting events (51%), and arts/cultural activities (48%). Skiing and riding (28%) rank higher than most sports, including some more common ones, such as golf (23%) and hunting (24%).
(Source: TNS Travels America).
Asian-Americans: Similarly, a survey by the U.S. Travel Association/Y Partnership found that Asian-American consumers are significantly more interested in shopping (64%), skiing and riding (45%), hunting (30%), and golf (28%) than in most other activities when traveling for leisure. Again, snowsports generate more interest than most sports. Perhaps that’s because Asian-Americans like trips packed with excitement and activity, with little down time (51%), and like Hispanics, enjoy the finer (more expensive) things in life while traveling (55%). Asian-Americans are likely to agree that they would travel more if they had the time; “ease of travel” and no-hassle booking would be appropriate messages, along with a welcome escape from work.
(Source: U.S. Travel Association/Y partnership).
African-Americans: Snowsports rank lower with African-American consumers in the U.S. Travel Association/Y survey, but still rank well. African-Americans have an above-average focus on being active and experiencing the finer things in life. These travelers are interested in shopping (73%), all-inclusive resorts (72%), theme/amusement parks (64%), spas (53%), and arts/cultural activities (51%). Snowsports (24%) also draw interest.
(Source: U.S. Travel Association/Y partnership).
Kids influence family decisions in all three groups.
LGBT: Compared to other markets, LGBT travelers are more likely to say they have traveled extensively in the U.S., follow the latest trends, and perceive leisure travel as being important to their well-being.
(Source: U.S. Travel Association/Y partnership).