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Of all the mascots I would expect a high-end luxury hotel to have, the lowly mallard duck is certainly not one of them. And yet, that was what greeted me when I stepped into the Peabody Orlando Hotel.
There is an actual story behind the ducks (which is printed on the napkins) but the reality is the story is less interesting than how the hotel has built a brand around ducks.
First, you have the “March of the Ducks” — at 11 am the ducks “march” (or more accurately waddle) on a red carpet to spend the day in a luxurious fountain. This fountain is located in the middle of the hotel and is actually quite a nice place to get a little work done or enjoy a coffee and cupcake (while watching the ducks splash around). At 5 pm they then “march” (waddle) back to their Duck Palace to enjoy a duck dinner and a “quiet evening” together.
Now the fact they make this an event — with marching music, a red carpet and an actual Duck Master (which is trademarked — yes if you were thinking about hiring a Duck Master for your own Duck March you would be out of luck) is one thing. But the ducks are also front and center to their branding.
There are ducks on the carpet, duck soaps in the rooms, drinks named after ducks, ducks embroidered on the staff’s clothes — the list goes on and on. It’s all quite tastefully done and the ducks are elegantly and subtly woven throughout the hotel’s brand and image.
Now the real question is, of course, is it worth it? Only the Peabody knows for sure but from the outside it certainly appears like it is.
First off, remember where the Peabody Orlando is — it’s in Orlando competing against Disney World (who knows a thing or 2 about branding themselves) Universal Studios and other theme-oriented attractions. Without the ducks, the Peabody would be a very nice, high-end hotel that would be like every other very nice, high-end hotel. With the ducks, now you have your own attraction. Now you have something to talk about. Now you have something your kids might want to see almost as much as Mickey Mouse.
(Now there is another Peabody, complete with ducks, in Atlanta as well. The Atlanta Peabody certainly wouldn’t be in competition with Mickey and company, but I suspect there’s enough other competition with high-end hotels and history that the ducks earn their keep there as well.)
One of the main ways you can successfully market yourself to an affluent clientele is to provide an experience. People like experiences. It gives them something to talk about (or write ezine articles about). And if you wrap an experience inside your brand, you just transformed yourself from a “good” business to something extraordinary. And extraordinary is what gets people to notice, to “take a chance on” if nothing else to witness that experience for themselves.
So, for you, what can you do to create an experience for your clients? And is this something that can be woven into your branding strategy? (And if you can make it unexpected or off-the-wall even better.) Or maybe it was an accident you overlooked at the time — with the ducks Mr. Peabody came back from hunting and was enjoying some Jack Daniels with a friend, when they decided it would be a nifty idea to put the duck decoys in the fountain. Well everyone loved the decoys floating around so now we have actual ducks in the fountain. (See what I mean about how lame that story is? But no matter, the point is they saw an opportunity and seized it — do you have any of those “happy accidents” in your own business you can capitalize on?)
Remember the point of a good brand is to make yourself memorable to your ideal clients. And a great way to make yourself very memorable is to wrap your brand around an experience.