Top Hotel and Resort Stories from the Purple Goldfish Project


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Little Extras with Staying Power

The Purple Goldfish Project was an effort to crowd source 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe. Brands that give little unexpected extras (g.l.u.e) in order to drive differentiation, improve retention and promote word of mouth. This post is the sixth in a 12 part series looking at the top 200 examples from the Project by industry. Here is a bunch of examples to sleep on:

Hotels / Resorts

doubletree cookieDoubleTree Hotels (a tri-fecta submitted by Matthew Hirsch, Kelly Leslie and Tom Haidinger) They give warm chocolate chip cookies to all guests when they check in:

carnival cruise towel animalsCarnival Cruises (#64 from Micky Baehr) “On Carnival cruises, each night after returning to your cabin, a towel is on your bed, cleverly folded into various animal shapes … elephants, rabbit, giraffes, in addition to a good chocolate mint on your pillow. As if you need more food on a cruise!”

courtyard by marriottCourtyard by Marriott (#57 submitted by PR Workbench’s Jack Monson)
“A few years ago, I was traveling to the Twin Cities often and stayed several times at the same Courtyard By Marriott in the suburb of Eden Prarie since it was close to two clients’ HQs. By the third trip in a few weeks’ time, I had a nice surprise waiting for me. I walked in after a cold and delayed trip from Chicago to see a big sign in the lobby saying “Welcome Jack Monson”. The manager informed me that I was their guest of the week and gave me a card for free breakfast in the morning. Not a huge thing, but guess where I continued to stay everytime I had to travel to Minneapolis over the next year…”

Hotel BurnhamHotel Burnham (#141 submitted by Mark True – Brand Warrior and Copywriter @ McLellan Marketing Group ) ”On the two occasions I stayed there, The Hotel Burnham in downtown Chicago left me a bottle of wine and then a bottle of root beer with a personal note from the manager. The root beer was the second gift, after I thanked them for the wine and told them that I’m not a wine drinker after the first visit!” [Nice personal touch by the Hotel Burnham . . . kudos for getting it right the second time around as a great lagniappe isn’t a ‘one size fits all proposition’]

guppy love kimpton hotelsKimpton Hotels (#109 submitted by M.B.) “Kimpton hotels do all kinds of lagniappe-ish things – Free Starbucks coffee and tea in the morning; Cookies and / or fruit always available in lobby, Free wine reception with pretty good and often interesting wines each evening (@ Hotel Monaco in SF, they often have Tarot card reader or other added entertainment) and there’s always free wireless internet access that works well. (Should be a standard but is not at most hotels…) Buildings, themes, decoration, art and lobby architecture always different. Rooms have many unique styles, but you know that the beds, amenities, service will be at a similar standard in all. They are proactively kid and pet friendly. Their signature special lagniappe is the goldfish you can bring to your room to keep you company. I think they still do it at several of their hotels. Here’s the URL for the Kimpton Guppy Love program:
Here is a link to a post on ‘guppy love’ from Kimpton. I love the baggage promotion they are doing.

Beaver Creek Ski Resort (#129 submitted by Drew Grieco) “Every day at 3pm, Beaver Creek’s cookie time chefs serve hot, chocolate chip cookies at the base of the Centennial Chairlift (Chair #6). The perfect ending to a perfect day.” [Love the fact that you have to be ‘in the know’ and show up at an exact time]

hotel murano purple goldfishHotel Murano (#181 from Mark Brooks) “A friend of mine, Brian Forth, recently made a reservation at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Wash. After making the reservation, Brian tweeted about how he was looking forward to having a staycation with his wife in honor of his birthday. When the couple entered the hotel, they were greeted by name and given an automatic upgrade at no charge. When they entered the room, they found a welcome package including gourmet cupcakes. Naturally, Brian tweeted some more about all the nice surprises. Upon check-in, he inquired about whether the hotel shuttle would ferry he and his wife to a local steakhouse for dinner. Later, he posted the same question on Twitter. About 3 minutes afterward, the phone rang in his room and the concierge informed him that the shuttle would be available whenever it was needed. So Brian tweeted again. And the culmination of those tweets, from a respected local business owner [Brian], had arguably more marketing power than any local advertisement the hotel could have purchased with the money they spent making Brian and his wife happy. Think about it: the cupcakes cost $5, the rest of it was just awareness and hustle.”

Hotel Vitale (#194 Submitted by Michael Tambone) “I often travel to San Fancisco on business and stay at the Hotel Vitale. Because I stay there often, they place a hand written note in my room welcoming me back accompanied by a small box of boutique choclates. And when the valet attendants bring my car around, they place “Hotel Vitale” bottles of water in the cup holders automatically. Nice touches!”

las ventanas purple goldfishLas Ventanas al Paraiso (#236 submitted by Joe Sorge – owner of the legendary AJ Bombers) The lagniappe story that I’d like to add is one of the super luxury resort Las Ventanas al Paraiso of the Rosewood group of properties. While the world has come to expect unparalleled facilities and service from this company and this resort in particular, nothing could have prepared my wife and I for the lagniappes we would experience here. On our very first full day at the resort, while we were enjoying all that Los Cabos has to offer, the guests services group at the resort was busy preparing a personalized mending kit to match our wardrobe! Done in a slightly larger than matchbook sized kit emblazoned with the Las Ventanas logo. We’re quite proud of ours. At the end of each evening as part of the resorts “turn down” service for each suite, they left a small token of each day at the resort. This is a small sand pottery sculpture of some shape or form, one night a starfish, another a seahorse and yet another a sea turtle. We have quite a collection.

CuisinArt Resort & Spa (#284 from Rob Gallo) “You might just find a bottle of great rum in your room…and a bowl of their home grown cherry tomatoes.”

Hotel Monaco (#290 submitted by Rob Gallo) “The staff is friendly and helpful, even going so far as to hand us umbrellas as we headed out the door on a rainy day. Rooms are clean, and boast a hip decor. I especially loved the plush animal-print bath robes, available to each guest. Turn down service was a bonus. We arrived back to the hotel each evening to find ice in our ice bucket, the bed turned down with chocolates on our pillows, relaxing jazz music playing in our room, and the lights dimly lit. WOW! In addition, the wine hour each evening made our stay over the top.”

fjeldheimFjeldheim (#268 submitted by Nic Nelson) “There are a lot of vacation homes in the Lake Tahoe area. Some of them are as big as we are, some are as luxurious as we are, but none match us in both categories. This is actually a problem. How many groups of 20+ people are looking for a fully-appointed luxury chalet? (most settle for big cheap “tourist sheds”) How many high-end families actually want 9000sf and 9 bedrooms? (most high-dollar customers come in groups of less than 7, even when an extended family or two families are traveling together) We try to close the deal, and we win repeat customers, largely because of the “lagniappe” we offer: little things like free handmade custom-glazed Fjeldheim coffee mugs, or a gift basket of wine, chocolates, cheese and crackers to the person who made the groups reservation, and sometimes big things like event shuttle service (allowing guests to park at the free casino parking at the bottom of the mountain, and shuttling them up to Fjeldheim) or even setting up a Christmas tree for them so that it was ready and lit when they walked in the door.”

Marriott (#410. Taken from a blogpost by Eric Stoessel) “Marriott has partnered with COVERPLAY for a new Tots Travel Too program, which aims to make it easier for families traveling with young children. The news release says the program will provide guests, upon request, with a travel crib and laundered COVERPLAY removable slipcover, as well as a free bath gift (animal squirt toy) and parents can also contact the front desk for complimentary items they may have forgotten, like outlet covers, baby shampoo, oil, etc. The program is for five of Marriott’s brands: Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, SpringHill Suites, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites.”

Hotel Mela LogoHotel Mela (#470 submitted by Lisa Church)
“As a CXO (Chief Experience Officer), keeping an eye out for “purple goldfish” is an obsession and a passion! One of my favorites is the Hotel Mela in NYC. They offer a “Desires” Club for guests that allows you to select your favorite snacks and soft drinks, which you find awaiting you in your stylish room when you arrive. Each day of your stay, your favorites are left in your room along with a personalized note. The Hotel periodically asks you to update your “favorites” (via email) to ensure they are still meeting your Desires. Now that’s unexpected service!”

Raspberry SconesShelter Harbor Inn (#481 submitted by Tim Heath)
“My teenage daughter and I were rolling south along Route 1 in costal Rhode Island on a recent Sunday morning and we stopped at the Shelter Harbor Inn in Westerly for a sumptuous country breakfast. It all worked and soon after we placed our orders we were both pleasantly surprised with complimentary warm raspberry scones. Hats off to the Shelter Harbor Inn for the added value to an enjoyable moment.”

McCurly’s Tours (#522. Submitted by Lindsay Willott of “McCurlys (a car rental company in Grand Cayman) picks you up at the airport and takes you to your vacation villa or resort where your rental car is waiting for you, with the option of a free stop at the local supermarket to stock up on essentials on the way. The customer really wins here – they don’t have to drive after a long flight (and potentially a few beers!) and they get to buy the essentials before getting to their villa, meaning they don’t have to go back out on unfamiliar roads one day 1 if they don’t want to. And finally, the car is at the villa, not at the airport, so no long form-filling, waiting in line or trying to find the rental car in the lot.”

Marriott (#547 from Kelly Ketelboeter of The Experience Factor) “At the Renaissance Marriott downtown Chicago, they offer the option for easy check-in where you let them know the approximate time of your arrival and the method. A staff member will then meet you in the lobby with your keys and anything else you need. No need to stop by the front desk and wait in line!! Get right to your room and start enjoying the view of the Chicago skyline.”

caledoniaCaledonia Golf & Fish Club (#575 submitted by Jeff Day) “Caledonia in Myrtle Beach, SC offers a cup of chowder at the turn, which is cooked and served right in front of you on the tenth tee – it’s a unique experience.

Ritz-Carlton (#564 submitted from a posterous post by Barry Peters)
“The delicate balance between customer and workforce focus is many times achieved by suitably empowering employees.
The classic example of this done well (luckily experienced personally) is the only 2-time MBNQA winner, Ritz Carlton, in the service sector. Many case studies and books have been written strewn with success stories of how empowerment increases employee satisfaction (i.e., workforce focus) while obviously maintaining customer focus.
For those not familiar with the Ritz, each employee is taught a 3-step service process:

1. A warm and sincere greeting.
2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s need.
3. Fond farewell.

It is this second step that is key. Employees are able to spend up to $2,000 to fulfill each guests need. Employees are incredibly satisfied with their work as they can personally make a difference. There has been much written about empowerment and influence as a primary success driver and how they aren’t mutually exclusive depending on the customer life cycle.
I had the opportunity to witness it first hand at an RC property recently in the Caribbean. When I checked in, the “casual” conversation queried what I’d be doing at the reception desk. I replied, “scuba diving.”
I later returned to my room after grocery shopping to find a small wicker basket including some small dive items and a beautiful book on the best dive sites in the area.
Feeling the experience an empowered employee can deliver as a recipient only validates some of the academic discussion. Workforce focus truly contributed to customer focus!”

westin st. francisWestin St. Francis #672 “As a favor to guests, one hotel washes every coin it receives, just like it’s done since 1938. The practice at the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco is said to have started when hotelier Dan London observed that some coins sullied a woman’s white gloves. At the time, coins were used for everything from tips to payphones to taxicabs. Back then washing the coins were a full-time job. Now it’s only 10 hours a week, but the practice continues, passed down from one generation to the next.

hard rock check in and rock outHard Rock Hotel #737 Submitted via e-mail by Rick Liebling of Coyne PR
Gratification. That’s what the luxury brand experience should embody. And what’s more gratifying than getting a unique amenity like a world class Gibson guitar delivered to your room at no charge? The first power chord you nail after that six hour meeting, that’s what. So forget in-room movies. Just Check In and Rock Out. Only at Hard Rock Hotels.
Guests may choose from Gibson’s SG Standard and Les Paul Studio, as we’ve got plenty (see the guitar descriptions below). Plus, with the Pocket Pod Amps and high-def ‘Beats by Dr. Dre’ headphones we’ll also provide, you can rock out at hard as you want with zero noise complaints. As there’s no charge or time limit to the program, we encourage you to sample the guitars and keep them for as long as you’re staying in the Hotel.

four seasons lana'iFour Seasons #730 A bow and arrow aren’t just tools for William Tell. At Four Seasons Resort Lana’i in Hawaii, you are invited to try your hand at archery or clay shooting for a chance to win the prestigious crystal pineapple.

kimpton hotel slippersKimpton #704 Submitted via e-mail by Eileen Scully: “Kimpton Hotels sent me a pair of their signature slippers over the holiday.”

disney languageDisney’s Old West Resort #833 comes from Unlike at the more upscale Disney resorts, the service at Old Key West is a bit more sparse — room service is limited to pizza delivery and there are no business services. You do, however, get extra, personal touches. At the front desk, for example, kids get twisted balloon toys when they check-in — something I didn’t see at other Disney properties. And at the on-site restaurant, Olivia’s Cafe, I witnessed staff members gives little prizes to kids who put up artwork on the restaurant’s doors. Many of the families I spoke with during my stay explained that the friendly and reliable staff was a big reason they regularly returned.

four seasons palo altoFour Seasons #818 in the Project was recommended via Josepf Haslam @josepf via a tweet: It comes from a post by Thomas Marzano @thomasmarzano:

It wasn’t until my last trip to Palo Alto, where I stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, that I had a firsthand experience with customer engagement through social media.

A smooth landing

Before arriving at the Four Seasons I posted a tweet where I mentioned @FSPaloAlto and expressed how much I was looking forward to relaxing at their spa after the long journey. To my big surprise @FSPaloAlto replied to my tweet fairly quickly asking me if they should make reservations! WAUW! I was impressed!

Once in my room I found the following handwritten note welcoming me.

You can imagine that this put a huge smile on my face! It made me realize how a personal handwritten message can suddenly give a big hotel chain such as the Four Seasons a human and personal feel. Most importantly I felt welcome!

Enhancing my customer experience

Although I had a basic room, I was very happy with the high quality of it. A very big bedroom with a very comfortable bed, huge TV and an awesome bathroom with a huge bathtub!

So after a lovely night sleep I woke up and tweeted the below tweet to my followers.

Again @FSPaloAlto was quite quick in their response and as you can see, next to wishing me a good morning, they also took the opportunity to “up sell” me a dinner in the hotel restaurant (which is a very good restaurant by the way). This is very clever, I totally welcomed this tweet and did not mind the up sell at all. Actually I found it quite thoughtful!

But nothing prepared me for what I found in my room when I returned during the afternoon. Another handwritten note, but this time wrapped with a little present. Based on the morning tweet I posted about the great bathroom, they gave me a bottle of bath salt to fully enjoy the bathtub experience! This really blew me away. The thoughtfulness is incredible, and I was just delighted! (and had myself a perfect bathtub chilling!!)

Service becomes great and personal with social media

Now you can imagine I was getting quite spoiled, and at the same time I thought this was the best physical experience social media ever gave me, next to meeting great tweeps in real life.

To my astonishment when checking out the sweet lady tweeting for @FSPaloAlto came to personally wish me a safe trip home, this completed the experience. People talk to people, not to brands.

What can I say; I think this is an awesome example of how social media can be leveraged by the hospitality industry. Four Seasons clearly understands how important personal experiences are and have jumped on the social media bandwagon to increase their level of service. A good investment, as they not only give people like me a great experience, they have turned me into a brand advocate.

universal express passUniversal Studios – #750. Universal tries harder taken from a post by Lou Imbriano @louimbriano

They are two very different parks, but with Disney being the 800 pound Mouse in Orlando, it is easy to understand why Universal seems to be trying harder. They are providing customer service that Disney isn’t, and perhaps cannot, due to sheer volume. The most glaring difference is in lodging on property in Universal Studios as compared to staying on property in Disney World.
The most pleasant customer service play is that when you stay at one of Universal’s three in-park hotels, you automatically receive Universal Express and it is unlimited at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (which can also be purchased in the park for a hefty fee of $70.99 per person, per day). Universal Express is similar to Disney’s Fast Pass, where you are able to go into a quicker line to get to the ride or attraction. In Disney, Fast Pass is free, and everyone has an opportunity to access quicker lines based on appointment times set for riding or viewing. Disney’s Fast Past is a nice mechanism that allows you to enjoy more rides during the day, and if you know how to properly plan your timing to run around and work the system, you will have a much more pleasant experience than by always waiting in the regular lines.
Universal Express pass beats out Disney’s Fast Pass hands-down. If you are a guest at one of the Universal park’s hotels (Hard Rock, Portofino or Royal Pacific), the only thing you have to do is show your room key at the ride entrance, and you are “express” all the way to the front of the line. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel and received this perk. In an unscientific calculation, we estimated that flashing our room key saved us anywhere from 50% – 75% off our wait. When the posted wait time on specific rides stated 60 minutes, we were typically in line for 15 minutes max with the Express pass. During our stay, we probably saved a full day of not waiting in lines. This courtesy to its hotel guests is an over the top amenity that is worth not only a mention, but a rave review. If we were to purchase Universal Express for a family of four, it would have cost over $280 a day, or almost half the cost of a two-room “Kids Suite”. That’s incredible value, no matter how you calculate it.

Great Wolf Lodge WaterparkGreat Wolf Lodge #877 is taken from a blogpost at Steve Cody’s RepMan:
This guest blog was authored by former Peppercommer, Isaac Farbowitz, who now makes a living selling medical supplies.

All too often, brands fail to live up to their names and promises as loyal RepMan readers know. However, this past weekend I had an amazing experience where a brand lived up to every bit of its name and I wanted to share it as an example of a company “getting it right.”

When it became clear on Thursday of last week that Irene was going to poke her ugly head into the Tri-State area over the weekend, my wife and I decided to pack up our six kids and head west to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. We weren’t taking any chances with falling trees, flooded streets and heavy rain, not to mention six kids with no TV, computer or Wii!

The weather wasn’t that bad in the Poconos through Sunday around noon and we assumed we escaped the worst of it. But around noon, the winds really kicked up and within minutes the power was out in the hotel. And with no power comes a closed water park, no arcades and not much to do in a hotel for kids- at least not in any hotel not named Great Wolf Lodge!

Within minutes of the power going out, there were announcements that there was a power outage and that the hotel was working with the power company to restore it and get an estimated time it would be back. They then announced that there were backup generators for the lobby and hallways and that there would be a movie for kids showing in the lobby ASAP.

While the movie was playing, they handed out bottled water, chips, cookies and many snacks to all the kids and literally had every staff member handing out beer, wine and soda to all the adults. Once the movie was over, they put on Wii dancing and had hundreds of people dancing with staff members in the lobby. (The picture in this blog is a photo I took of the dancing- four of the kids are mine). The site of adults and kids dancing in a lobby during a hurricane was surreal but no one was complaining about the lack of power or the weather.

After dancing, the hotel announced that power should be restored in the next two hours and they had a whole dinner buffet set up (free of charge) for all guests including hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, salads and drinks for all to enjoy. Once dinner ended, another movie was put on for kids and shortly thereafter the power was restored.

Great Wolf Lodge clearly had a plan in place to deal with a potential power outage and they executed it to perfection! Not one guest was complaining and many were seen thanking the hotel staff for doing their best to make it the best day possible given the conditions. Every staff member had a smile on their face as they fielded questions and they did everything they could to make it a GREAT day for guests in spite of the hand they were dealt.

And the kicker to show just how well Great Wolf Lodge handled the storm- when we were checking out we were talking to a staff member who asked our kids “what was the best part of the trip” and the kids response: “movies and dancing in the lobby when there was no power.” Great Wolf lived up to its name in a great way!

lancaster hotel honeyLancaster Hotel #936 Hear a buzzing noise? That would be from the 10 beehives on the roof of London’s Lancaster Hotel, which create the honey given as a free VIP guest amenity.

cadogan hotel wildeCadogan Hotel #940 allows you to ‘Get in Touch with Your Wilde Side’
Guests in Room 118 of London’s Cadogan Hotel, the site of Oscar Wilde’s arrest for gross indecency, will find a complimentary replica of the writer’s smoking jacket available to wear — epigrams not included.

benjamin hotel sleep guaranteeBenjamin Hotel #929 capitalizes on a growing complimentary trend.
The “Sleep Concierge” at New York’s Benjamin Hotel will equip you with one of 12 different types of pillow ranging from buckwheat to magnetic to anti-snore, plus white noise machine.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Kimpton’s COO Niki Leondakis talks about social media and the empowered customer:

Your experience is now your marketing. How do you stand out in the sea of sameness? How do you win repeat customers and influence word of mouth? Is your CX sticky? Are you Giving Little Unexpected Extras?

What’s Your GLUE? What’s Your Purple Goldfish?

Buy the book here for $9.95 using this special discount code: GL546Y5S

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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