Traveling Internationally Feeds the Marketing Brain

April 12, 2012

I am just wrapping up a 10-day trip to Barcelona and Valencia, Spain. Travel for me is about people watching, business operations observing, and generally reminding myself how different things are in other places.  There are things to learn in both directions.

What I learned about Spanish people:

  • The people here move slowly. There are siestas and a glacial walking pace.  And do not plan to move fast in lines (staffing for busy tourist areas that have no operational efficiencies planned in).  They could absolutely use some guidance for HEB on this one.
  • Yet, they talk quickly. The sheer number of words that come out when they are engaged in a dialog is unbelievable. And the passion astounds, the hand gestures are large and enthusiastic, almost violent.
  • And they eat ridiculously fast. For a nation of people that move so slowly elsewhere, the restaurants in Spain get food to the table unbelievably quickly. Tapas must translate to "fast". (It actually derives from the Spanish verb tapar, "to cover".) Grab—n-go is rampant, eating while they walk to work, it all adds to a furious pace that I was not expecting in Europe.

And then I look at the marketing world  

  • All hotels should offer free Wi-Fi. In Spain, they implement this very wisely. You pay for Internet in your room. On the main floors where they have large lobby bars; it is free. It creates a great environment of social activity; and probably increases their food and beverage revenues.
  • Lagniappe. They clearly believe in "that little something extra" to create loyal customers. I had hotels give me free upgrades, restaurants bringing amuse-bouches, storeowners giving little perks. It was a lovely feeling when those surprises entered my day.  How could the brands I work with incorporate this into their worlds?
  • Bar Service.  They bring the bottle to your table and pour. This may be a novelty factor but it felt good to watch the liquor pour — sort of a decadent ritual. When I asked a bartender about it, he explained that it was so you knew you were getting what you ordered.
  • Closing mid-day astounds me. Cultural norms, work-life balance and all that aside, their actual work days are longer with this long break built in. If you live in the suburbs, this is just extra time in the city.  It seems it would be a tremendous drain on talent and resources. I will be looking for studies on this topic.
  • Weight Loss programs need to get over here.  The European system of eating is either in decline or they are walking less; the younger people I saw were starting to carry extra pounds. I contrasted that with my first trip to Europe in 1991 when Europeans were obviously thinner than their US counterparts.

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