Essay: Marketing Places and Spaces

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Marketing Places and Spaces:

Market segmentation in the hospitality industry

Although not specifically marketing a product, the tourism and hospitality industry still engages in the same type of strategic marketing, positioning, and analysis as a more conventional product or service. A place such as a museum or even a general area of the country can be marketed just like a bottle of dish soap or personal training sessions (McCabe 2009). This phenomenon can be seen in the strategies deployed by the Napa Valley region in California and the Victoria & Albert Museum in the United Kingdom. Although quite distinct in their positioning, both embody the principle of market segmentation. Napa Valley targets a relatively narrow demographic of affluent adult travelers while the V&A targets a broad audience but segments its marketing approach in a manner specific to those diverse audiences spanning from art-obsessed foreign tourists to wide-eyed schoolchildren.

What is segmentation?

Marketers can use two basic approaches to marketing a product: a general, 'total' marketing approach when "all consumers have similar needs for a specific kind of product…[and] demand is so diffused it is not worthwhile to differentiate" or market segmentation, in which the target market is divided into specific 'segments' when "individuals, groups or organizations with one or more characteristics that cause them to have relatively similar product needs" are the focus ("Chapter 9 class notes," University of Delaware).

In general, segmentation takes place in terms of demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral variables. Demographic variables include "age, sex, fertility rates, migration patterns, and mortality rates, ethnicity, income, education, occupation, family life cycle, family size, religion and social class" ("Chapter 9 class notes," University of Delaware). An excellent example of this from a tourism perspective is Disneyland, which generally targets families but also targets adults with its promotion of its fine dining and 'Pleasure Island' all-adults attraction. Geographic marketing includes "climate, terrain, natural resources, population density, subcultural values, different population growths in different areas," such as urban vs. rural dwellers ("Chapter 9 class notes," University of Delaware). From a tourism perspective, even the different methods of transportation used by target markets (such as favoring a car vs. public transportation, depending on whether the tourists are coming from suburban or urban locations) may frame the way different attractions are promoted. (Suburban car owners may prefer more strongly to rent or drive a car vs. urban dwellers).

Psychographic variables include "personality characteristics, motives and lifestyles," which can include everyone from self-identified 'hipsters' to family-focused individuals to vegans searching for restaurants in a tourist location that caters to their needs to hikers and campers who want a space to park their RVs ("Chapter 9 class notes," University of Delaware). For a diverse city such as New York City, this type of segmentation is essential, given that New York can offer everything from standard postcard attractions to edgy, alternative theater. Other variables include behavioral variables which specifically refer to characteristics such as "regular users-potential users-non users" or tourists likely to be 'repeat' customers vs. those who are likely to only visit once ("Chapter 9 class notes," University of Delaware).

Examples of narrow segmentation: Napa Valley

The principles of segmentation can be seen illustrated in the tourist-focused website for the attraction of Napa Valley. Napa Valley promotes itself as 'wine country,' thus specifically stressing the adult segment of its market. It focuses on affluent persons who have a liberal attitude towards alcohol consumption (but who do not drink excessively) and identify themselves as foodies in search of a high-end alimentary lifestyle. There is an entire section specifically devoted to wineries on the website. The language used to describe the wineries is elevated -- and somewhat cliched, such as "discover the charm of St. Clement with its elegantly structured wines, breathtaking view of the Napa Valley, and its colorful history" or "experience the beautiful Franciscan Estate Winery in St. Helena in Napa Valley ("Wineries," Napa Valley).

As well as the wine, various historical components of the wineries are promoted on the website. The tourist can segment his or her search on the website according to location, the need to make an appointment, the availability of food and drink pairings and other specific variables that might affect the tourist's desire to experience the wineries. Thus as well as targeting middle-aged, affluent customers by demographics, geographic segmentation is in evidence (a person taking a day trip would likely not want to make an appointment, if taking a spontaneous car ride, versus a tourist planning his or her journey and the website allows the user to segment wineries according to the need to make appointments as well as the types of attractions offered). However, the expectation of affluence of the target consumer is universally consistent throughout the promotion of the website: there is no reference to price or a 'budget' way to experience Napa.

The section of the website entitled "things to do' likewise reflects this emphasis on affluent couples without children within a largely white, middle-aged demographic. Attractions include culinary and wine-tasting courses, bike-riding and balloon sightseeing events and spa and wellness activities. The athletic pursuits that are promoted tend to cater to older adults, such as hiking, tennis and golfing, versus 'extreme' sports. There are no photographs of non-white persons enjoying themselves on the website or young people.

Recommendations

Overall, to attract a specific segment of adult -- likely white, married, affluent, educated and interested in wine and food, and moderately active and adventurous -- the marketing communication of the website does its job reasonably well. There is a paucity of eye-catching visuals, but this might disturb rather than attract its target market consumer. However, if Napa wished to attract younger, single people, non-Caucasians, or less financially well-off persons, a major overhaul of the website would be necessary, given the staid, rather dull pastoral images showcased on the site. The relatively mundane 'other' attractions would be unlikely to communicate to young people or 'alternative' types (or even simply to ethnicities other than Caucasians) this is a place 'for them.'

Even for the target audience, the visuals of the website could be improved. It is often said that we eat and drink with our eyes first. This is true of non-food tourist attractions as well. Yet Napa's website showcases no particularly visually interesting photographs -- even its panorama of a balloon ride is generic, and its photographs of food and wine look like stock photos. Given the abundance of food 'porn' on the web that even a non-technically savvy middle-aged consumer might read on a daily basis, a more appealing visual texture to the website would likely be helpful. The website is easy to navigate, but the region could capitalize upon its online presence in a more effective way.

Broader market segmentation: The Victoria and Albert Museum

Unlike Napa Valley, the historic British museum the Victoria & Albert has a much broader target demographic: it has its eye upon young and old alike, since people often have very different reasons for visiting museums. This is said explicitly on the V&A website homepage: "we try to think about our visitors in lots of different ways, from lots of different perspectives." ("Visitor research, V&A). Visitors may encompass children coming from schools in the nearby London area or tourists from far away. There is a specific section which offers directions via bicycle, bus, and a variety of other methods that might be deployed by residents and tourists alike ("Getting here," V&A). There are instructions for group visits, families, corporate visits, and educational visits. Many of these instructions are quite practical, such as hotels to stay at near the museum and how to book such events.

For schools, information is noted such as "the museum requires at least one teacher for every 15 students. A qualified teacher must accompany groups for workshops and events" and information about reduced school admissions fees ("Booking an educational visit to the V&A," V&A). The museum notes for families in general that they can "hunt for treasures, from sparkly jewels to samurai swords, journey back to Medieval, Tudor and Victorian times, get up close to West End costumes and famous fashion -- and much, much more!" even while it offers more serious information about its collections spanning from art and architecture to archeological artifacts for those genuinely interested in the art or who might have academic reasons for visiting ("About family art fun," V&A).

Recommendations

One of the strengths of the V&A marketing position is its relative homogeneity and consistency: it could be defined as an 'integrated' approach because of its factual and measured tone (Kitchen & De Pelsmacker). Unlike the Napa Valley website, it avoids inflated language. Even the advice to children and families tends to be relatively similar to the more technical descriptions of its various attractions. The website is functional as well as promotional: even someone who was not visiting the museum could look at and gaze at the artistic reproductions on the site. There are also photographs of 'real people' enjoying the works… [END OF PREVIEW]

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