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Marketing Advertising in the Hotel Industry

Until recently research on advertising appeals focused on either physical products or a comparison in relation to the way in which advertising appeals differed between products and services (predominantly professional services). With the continuing growth in the MICE and 5 star resort hotel market, the purpose of this paper is to look at the effectiveness of rational and emotional advertising appeals with respect to the MICE and 5 star resort hotel sector and provide a foundation for further study in this area.


“Advertising appeals” are essentially the methods which advertisers employ to sell products and services. Some of the more common forms of advertising appeals include money (saving, making and/or retaining), well being, sex, health, fun, pleasure, love, fear, admiration, convenience, vanity, egotism and environmentalism.

Different forms of advertising appeals are more effective for selling different types of products or services. Likewise, cultural factors play a large role in how well a particular advertising campaign is received by consumers.

Within the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (“MICE”) and 5 star resort hotel industry, advertising appeals are generally classified according to whether they are rational or emotional appeals.

The difference between how effective each of these is can only be ascertained when the customer’s preferences are taken into account. However, it should be remembered that the use of advertising appeals is not a precise science and that the difference between a campaign which is highly effective and one that is not can often be the matter of a few words or the use of the wrong colour.

The most important factor with respect to the effectiveness of advertising appeals are the existing customer attitudes toward the product or service and the need or want that the customer is seeking to have the product or service fulfil. It is not therefore surprising that an advertising appeal which is effective in engaging business customers may not fare as well when appealing to leisure customers.

The purpose of this paper is therefore to examine, both by secondary and primary research methods, the which type of advertising appeal (ie rational or emotional) is most effective when selling MICE and 5 star resort hotels to leisure and business clients.

However, it should be noted that due to time and cost restraints the scope of this paper is limited in two important respects. There is no intention to examine customers who have never used a MICE and 5 star resort hotel before and the cultural aspects of advertising appeals is only briefly touched upon.

2. Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of this paper are to determine the extent to which rational and emotional appeals apply to MICE and 5 star resort hotels.

While the usefulness of various types of advertising appeals within the service sector generally has been researched quite extensively, this paper seeks to determine whether or not that general research can be applied equally to MICE and 5 star resort hotels. The peculiarity that is thrown up by MICE and 5 star resort hotels is that they have to appeal equally to both business and leisure consumers. Whereas most service businesses can focus on one sector of the market alone, MICE and 5 star resort hotels need to be able to attract both types of customers which can make creating an advertising campaign particularly treacherous as different appeals apply to each group.

Furthermore, each type of customer group can be broken down into various further categories, for instance personal, family, tour groups, returning or first time clients, conference, by income, by age, etc. In light of the innumerable combinations and types of MICE and 5 star resort hotels, it is important to limit the extent of the research. As such, the focus of this paper is limited to MICE and 5 star resort hotels. These types of establishments only seek to attract the right type of clientele and as such are able to focus their marketing on certain sectors of the population and thereby limit the types of advertising appeals they need to rely upon.

3. Providing a rational for the work

This work has both a theoretical and practical basis. From a practical point of view, the MICE and 5 star resort hotel sector is particularly competitive and the clientele is extremely discerning. There are always newer, more fashionable 5 star resort hotels or conference centres opening up and therefore it is extremely important that MICE and resort hotels understand how to market effectively to those sectors which are most likely to use their services.

From a theoretical standpoint, research into the rational versus emotional dichotomy as it applies to the service industry is only now being touched upon. Even where it is being touched upon, the research often starts with the way in which emotional and rational appeals affect the marketing of physical products and then compares this to the way in which service advertising appeals are used. By focusing on a specific industry sector, MICE and 5 star resort hotels, this research is able to provide important feedback to the general theoretical position as to how well that research holds up in specific circumstances.

By examining the most effective advertising appeals for the MICE and 5 star resort hotel sector, this paper aims to provide a solid foundation for both future academic research in this area and also to provide MICE and 5 star resort hotels with practical information which can be used to better tailor their advertising campaigns and most importantly, to avoid making mistakes the damage from which, particularly in a fast paced industry, can take years to undo.

4. Literature Review and Theoretical Framework

In order to determine when it is most appropriate for MICE and 5 star resort hotels to use rational and emotional appeals it is first necessary to create a theoretical framework based on a critical review and synthesis of the relevant work in this area. With such a theoretical framework in place, it will then be possible to come to a conclusion as to the merits of both rational and emotional appeals as they apply to MICE and 5 star resort hotels.

It is first important to clearly define the terms being referred to. An advertising appeal is defined by Wells, Burnett and Moriarty as, “something that makes the product particularly attractive or interesting to the consumer.” There are many types of advertising appeals that can be relied upon (sex, price, fear, etc), but as Albers-Miller note, most authors agree that overall all advertising appeals can be classified as either being rational appeals and emotional appeals. A rational appeal is, “a form of argument and motivation used in the promotion of products and services. Rational factors, including facts and figures, advantages and benefits, are used in an appeal to consumers’ intellects, rather than their emotions” , while an emotional appeal is where, “the basis of an advertising message having strong emotional character.”

Some examples of rational appeals are; for products, the top speed of a car, the processing power of a computer and the memory size of an MP3 player; and for services, the leg room on a flight and the savings made when travelling on off peak public transport. Examples of emotional appeals include; for productions, the sex appeal of a new sports car and the popularity that comes from drinking certain alcoholic beverages; and for services, the possibilities which open up to a consumer once they obtain a certain credit card and the sex appeal of the latest, must-see Hollywood blockbuster which everyone is talking about.

One of the main themes that comes through in the literature in this area is that there has been a lack of empirical research undertaken which focuses predominantly on the role of advertising appeals with respect to service industries. This is somewhat surprising when one considers that most Western economies are now service-based economies. As Mattila notes, this growth in the level of interest in services marketing has not corresponded in a similar level of interest in how service quality is communicated rather, most current research has focused on a comparison between service and goods advertising and even when focusing on services, has concentrated on professional as opposed to retail services.

While the research may not have kept pace with the fundamental shift in the underlying economic foundations of Western economies, it is now quickly catching up with interest in this area increasing.

While the level of general research in the area of advertising appeals and how they relate to service industries increases and the understanding of the differences between goods and services marketing increases, an opportunity exists for researchers to use this developing research base as a theoretical foundation from which to focus on more specific market segments. As such, the focus of this paper, while falling within the broad scope of the current research with respect to advertising appeals in service industries aims to focus in on a much more specific sub-set of this research area; that of the effectiveness of rational and emotional appeals in advertising MICE and 5 star resort hotels.

At the same time as focusing in on a specific area of the advertising appeals in service industries research, it is important that this specific area be considered within the context of the marketing strategies of MICE and 5 star resort hotels as a whole. An organisation which wants to make the most effective use of advertising must have a clear understanding of the market segments that they are targeting and an overall marketing mix which allows them to focus their resources on communicating with that segment of the market. Advertising is only one part of the marketing mix and where the other parts are not working effectively, advertising will not provide the highest return on investment possible.

Finally, it is important to take into account the environment (and in particular the external environment) in which MICE and 5 star hotels operate in when considering which advertising appeals are most likely to be effective. For instance, in times of rapid growth and high disposable income or when tax breaks are provided for entertaining, MICE and 5 star hotels would be wise to avoid focusing on appealing to the cost savings that can be made by staying with them. Rather, at these times, rational appeals are unlikely to be as necessary as emotional appeals as the necessity for a customer to substantiate a decision rationally is not as great.

Before being able to consider the market segmentation that MICE and 5 star resort hotels target, it is important to define the market in which they operate. The market in which they operate can be defined broadly as, for instance, all hotels and resorts, all holidays, all business communication methods, etc; or specifically as all 5 star hotels, all hotels in a particular location, etc.

Because of the diverse nature of MICE and 5 star resort hotels, it is almost impossible to come to a determination as to a market in which specific hotel operates as this will be influenced by cultural, geographic and other features. However, it is a little simpler to determine the market segments that MICE and 5 star resort hotels are interested in targeting. The market segments that all MICE and 5 star resort hotels are interested in targeting are business customers and wealthy individuals.

As noted above, advertising is a sub-set of an organisation’s overall marketing mix. As such, before proceeding, it is important that the distinction between marketing and advertising is clearly set out. Marketing has been defined by the (British) Chartered Institute of Marketing as, “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” Advertising is defined by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising as, “advertising presents the most persuasive possible selling message to the right prospects for the product or service at the lowest possible cost.”

The marketing mix refers to the “price/value proposition” and is, as expanded on by Kotler, often referred to as the four P’s; Product, Place, Price and Promotion. The Product refers to the good or service that the supplier wishes to sell and which the consumer wishes to buy; Place refers to the convenience of buying the goods or services; Price refers to the cost to the consumer of the goods or services; and Promotion refers to the ways in which the supplier and customer communicate with each other. Advertising comes within the ambit of the promotion function.

When applying the marketing mix to MICE and resort hotels, one observes that in general the Product is appealing (this may not apply to such an extent in countries in which the idea of staying in hotels is a relatively new concept for a majority of the population); with respect to the Place, while requiring travel to reach and therefore not being entirely convenient to most people, most MICE and resort hotels are located close to either business districts or leisure areas (eg beaches) meaning that while the location may not be entirely convenient, the location is generally desirable; MICE and 5 star resort hotels are generally price prohibitive with a strong emphasis on catering for company functions and higher level clientele; finally, with respect to Promotion, MICE and resort hotels rely on strong business focused advertising and word of mouth.

With respect to Porter’s generic strategies matrix, MICE and resort hotels clearly aim for the niche market which is distinguished by high differentiation and high relative costs. That said, while MICE and resort hotels aim to represent themselves as being highly differentiated, exclusive and expensive, they are in fact extremely similar and operate on a low cost principle. As such, it is important for MICE and resort hotels to maintain this façade and to ensure that customers’ experiences of cognitive dissonance are kept at a minimum.

This façade that all “cathedrals of consumption” must maintain, this separation from the mundane events of everyday life, is particularly evident in MICE and 5 star resort hotels. These establishments must be able to offer an entire “package” not only satisfying a guests physical needs, but also satisfying their wish to be deceived, to believe that for the length of their stay they are deserving of the 5 star treatment that they are receiving even through the next day they their office-bound mundane life.

Williamson summarises this “package” element which applies to all purchases best when he writes:

“Advertisements are selling us something else beside consumer goods; in providing us with a structure in which we and those goods are interchangeable, they are selling us ourselves… Ideology is the meaning made necessary by the condition of society while helping to perpetuate those conditions. We feel a need to belong, to have a social place; it can be hard to find. Instead we may be given an imaginary one.”

A supplementary point which arises from Williamson’s statement is that of the language of consumption. Many potential consumers are put off purchasing new goods or services because they do not have experience in having used them previously. For instance, someone who normally eats dinner on the couch in front of the television will be extremely reticent to eat dinner in a 5 star restaurant in which a knowledge of dining etiquette is expected. While this reluctance to try new things increases with age, it can be bridged in several ways.

Advertising is a particularly effective means of overcoming potential consumers’ fears of try something new. By using analogies which relate the new product with something that the customer has already used and feels comfortable with advertisers are able to provide new consumers with the consumption queues necessary to use the new good or service and feel more comfortable doing so.

In general, such techniques are not often used by MICE and 5 star resort hotels in places in which their use is understood by consumers. In societies in which the role of these hotels is understood by consumers, the aim of their advertising, is to create demand within the specific market segment that they are targeting. As such, it is almost the opposite of teaching new consumers how to use the services.

These establishments are more likely to assume that those they are targeting understand how to use their services and are more likely to try to limit the understanding of their services by the general population. This is usually done through language and by offering services which are extremely specialised (eg tens of different types of facials, massages, etc) which are intended to intimidate the average consumer.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person’s expectations are not met meaning that their level of satisfaction is low. With respect to guests’ perceptions of hotels, Saleh and Ryan write that, “…it is imperative that guests’ expectations be realistic and possible for the firm to deliver, otherwise an obvious gap in service quality is created.”

One advantage that MICE and 5 star resort hotels have over other hotels and resorts is that a large portion of their clientele are not required to pay for their own accommodation. In situations in which the accommodation costs are being met by a third party, it is unlikely that any potential feelings of cognitive dissonance will be as strong as those of someone who has booked and paid for a hotel or resort themselves. Furthermore, any such feelings by a guest who is staying at someone else’s expense are more likely to be directed at the payer, who should have chosen a better quality hotel or resort, rather than directed at the actual hotel or resort.

In addition, for guests of MICE and 5 star resort hotels, the actual hotel is normally a background factor (ie to a conference, the beach, an event, etc). These guests have other matters to occupy them. This contrasts with individuals who stay at a resort hotel that they have paid for themselves and where actually being at a resort hotel is the focus of their trip.

As noted above, Mattila focuses on what she believes to be a gap in the studies examining services advertising. She believes that most of these studies focus on tangibilizing the offering or “making the service more concrete” and as a result of this a gap exists with respect to knowledge about the role emotional advertising appeals play in services advertising.

What is important to keep in mind when advertising either products or services is that the advertising appeal has to match the product or service type. Albers-Miller et al note that previous research on this point has found that, “a more emotional (value-expressive) appeal should be used for a value-expressive product and a more rational (utilitarian) appeal should be used for a utilitarian product.”

The way in which advertisers determine the best combination of rational and emotional appeal is assisted by the level of involvement model developed by Vaughn and adapted by Foote, Cone and Belding. That model focuses on products but provides a useful tool for understanding the differences between rational (thinking) and emotional (feeling) appeals.

The four options are, high involvement/thinking which relates to high importance purchases such as cars and houses and the message should be based on “long copy, informational demonstration, comparative”; low involvement/thinking which relates to routinely purchased products such as food and items for the house and the message should be based on “coupons and samples”; high involvement/feeling which relate to a customer’s self esteem such as make up, jewellery and clothes and the message should be based on “emotional and visual” triggers; and low involvement/feeling which relates to products which satisfy personal cravings such as alcohol, snack foods and cigarettes and the message should be “creativity and lifestyle” based.

How well these levels of involvement transfer to the service sector is still open to debate. If one was to take the same levels of involvement and attempted to determine which group MICE and 5 star resort hotels fall into, one might have difficulty as they do not fit cleanly into any of the categories.

In general, a large proportion of business-to-business type advertising relies on rational appeals due to the fact that buyers tend to be knowledgeable about the products or services that they are buying and are seeking supportable justification for their purchasing decisions. As Stafford and Albers-Miller note, “…rational informative advertising appeals may help reduce some of the uncertainty often associated with the purchase of services.” That said, in today’s marketplace, it is unlikely that rational advertising appeals would be made without consideration of the emotional aspects. As such, essentially what is being said when one refers to a rational appeal is not that the emotional aspects of the appeal are not present, but that they are used more subtly and as a backdrop to the advertising campaign. As Albers-Miller et al argue:

“…there is no reason not to include an emotional appeal and service information and benefits. Indeed many advertising practitioners would argue that this juxtaposition is one of the aims of good advertising – informing the consumer and stimulating a response through appeals to emotional, right-brain influences. However, there still needs to be some guidance given as to where we lay the emphasis in this area or emotions and rationality. And this is especially true in diverse cultures.”

The importance of emotional appeals is especially important today when product differentiation is becoming more and more difficult. With respect to the MICE and 5 star resort hotel market sector, while some of these hotels are able to differentiate themselves on the basis of location, facilities and other competitive advantages, the general level of such differentiation is not great. Most people using the facilities of a MICE and 5 star resort hotels expect that certain levels of service and facilities are available. As the, “USP (unique selling proposition) is fast disappearing, then what becomes correspondingly more important is the ESP – the emotional selling point.”

With respect to the advertising that MICE and 5 star resort hotels engage in, it is important for them to ensure that they are using the most effective advertising appeals necessary to persuade the targeted market segment. Louise Ha argues that the study of advertising appeals with respect to the services market has been hampered by a failure to differentiate between service firms.

She believes that the type of service firm should be taken into account when determining the appropriate advertising appeals to use and relies on Zeithaml’s classification of services into three categories which are; “high on search attributes (performance of the service can be known before consumption); high on experience attributes (attributes that can only be discerned after purchase or during consumption) such as haircut and restaurants. These services are non-professional services that can be substituted by self-service of the consumer; and high on credence attributes (attributes that consumers may still find them impossible to evaluate after consuming the service) such as medical services and repair services. These are professional services that require special training or license.” MICE and 5 star resort hotels can be classified as being high on experience attributes.

It should also be noted that MICE and 5 star resort hotels operate in a global marketplace. Albers-Miller et al have studied the differences between rational and emotional appeals across cultures (and in particular, Brazil, Taiwan, Mexico and the USA). They conclude that, “culture appears to play a significant role in the use of emotional and rational advertisements for services, and anthropological measures of culture provide some insight into the differences in emotional appeals.” They also note that across cultures business customers, the main target segment for MICE and 5 star resort hotels, “tend to make decisions based on more rational criteria… [and that] across cultures, cognition changes little, while emotions change considerably.”

While the cultural aspects of rational and emotional advertising appeals with respect to MICE and 5 star resort hotels is beyond the scope of this paper, it does provide an interesting area of research for future studies.

While the differentiation between rational and emotional appeals seems like a simple and logical distinction to make, the distinction is largely artificial as an advertising campaign which solely relies on rational or emotional appeals is unlikely, if not impossible. As such, the difference between the two in an advertising campaign is the level of emphasis that is given to one over the other. Both will be used, the decision is rather how best to combine the two for maximum effect.

5. Methodology

When considering the type of methodology to employ the choice is between primary or secondary research methods. Primary research methods refer to those that generally require replies from and interaction with service users such as questionnaires, focus-groups and interviews (ie fieldwork). On the other hand, secondary research methods rely on reviewing books, articles, statistical data, etc (ie deskwork).

While primary research is generally viewed as being superior to secondary research, this is not always the case. Primary research is almost always hampered by cost considerations, the sample size used, the manner in which the sample population has been decided upon, researcher bias, etc. In light of cost considerations, it is almost always more cost effective to ask yourself whether or not someone else has already done this research and if so to begin at that point and then use primary research to fill in any gaps or specific areas which have not been addressed in the depth required.

Secondary research also has its own problems which include such factors as the fact that it is reliant on someone else’s primary research with all the inherent problems that presents as set out above, the researcher is limited to the questions raised in the secondary materials, etc. As such, it is important that in secondary research, the sources of the information to be used are reliable (ie government sources, peer reviewed journals, text books written by qualified authors, etc).

In light of the above considerations, it is important that any market research conducted uses a balance of primary and secondary research methods. In the case of this paper, it was found that there was an array of literature (secondary sources) on advertising and the service sector. However, there was less to be found when one looked at the area of MICE and resort hotels specifically. As such, while secondary research could take us to a point, from that point it was necessary to use primary research methods.

The most common primary research methods are interviews, questionnaires, surveys, focus groups and secret visits. As the objective of this paper is to determine the most effective methods of advertising appeals with respect to MICE and resort hotels, some of the primary methods referred to above will not be appropriate. MICA and resort hotels cover a large cross-section of the market and large distances. As such, secret visits to the hotels would not only be cost prohibitive, but would be unlikely to provide the necessary data required. On the other hand, as most of the users of these services are UK-based, a focus group may be more appropriate for personal holiday makers.

In light of the practical issues of setting up a focus group of business users, questionnaires may be more appropriate for that sector of the market. A decision was finally made to make use of a questionnaire and a focus group. Both would target people who had already used MICE and 5 star resort hotels on the basis that this was the segment of the market that these hotels were targeting. It was decided that an attempt to include customers who had never stayed in a MICE and 5 star resort hotel would be too much for a paper of this length however, it would remain a potential area for future research.

With respect to the design of the questionnaire, it was decided that while quantitative responses are the easiest to compile and analyse, they do not give the depth of information that can be gleaned from qualitative answers. Furthermore, in order to be statistically valid, a quantitative questionnaire would need to involve a large, randomly selected sample base. Due to cost and time limitations, this was not considered feasible and as such, it was thought most appropriate to concentrate on a smaller, specifically selected sample of the market segment being targeted and an analysis of their qualitative responses with a clear statement as to the understood limitations of proceeding in this way.

6. Findings, analyses and evaluation

The purpose of this dissertation is to determine the extent to which rational and emotional appeals apply to MICE and 5 star resort hotels. A review of secondary sources and current research on the topic showed that this is an area which has suffered from a lack of research interest to date. While Mattila’s work provides a strong overview of advertising appeals as they relate solely to the service sector (as opposed to dealing with them solely in comparison with products), her work is quite broad and as such, while it is used as a starting point for this paper, it was necessary to supplement the secondary research and theoretical framework with primary research which consisted of a questionnaire and focus group. Further primary research was deemed not feasible due to cost and time constraints.

In total, 150 questionnaires were posted or handed out. Due to the small sample size, the participants were targeted (eg businesses which book MICE and 5 star resort hotels for conferences, people leaving MICE and 5 star resort hotels, etc). Of the 150 questionnaires posted or handed out, thirty were returned. This was considered to be a reasonable level of returns in light of the type of person being asked to complete them (ie busy individuals who work long hours). A summary of the questionnaire replies are set out in Appendix 2. Due to the qualitative nature of the replies, statistical analysis of the responses is not feasible. However, they do provide an interesting insight into the way in which advertising appeals are able to influence guests of MICE and 5 star resort hotels.

Along with the questionnaire, a focus group was used to try to determine in a more direct fashion people’s attitudes to MICE and 5 star resort hotels and more particularly, what effect advertising appeals had on their purchasing behaviour. As with the questionnaire, the group chosen was not chosen randomly, but rather was selected from people who had already used MICE and 5 star resort hotels in the past. Participants were shown various advertisements (not only limited to MICE and 5 star resort hotels) and asked to discuss various propositions put to them. Once again, the results were qualitative and as such not appropriate for statistical analysis.

While the response to the questionnaire was not particularly high, those individuals that did respond provided some particularly interesting replies. Predictably perhaps, most responses were from middle aged, well educated men. This group is the market segment that most MICE and 5 star resort hotels seek to target with their advertising. However, the strong response by women suggests that those MICE and 5 star resort hotels that are spending most of their advertising budgets targeting men may be missing out on a large segment of the market which may still

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