Imagine for a moment if you were the marketing director in charge of a considerably seedy backpacker hotel in Amsterdam. The property you are responsible for promoting is so spartan that they have pictures of chairs on the walls as an ironic replacement to having an actual chair in the rooms. There is no guarantee of toilet paper in the bathrooms. If you were like most travel marketers, you might decide to find a great photographer with a very wide angle lens and considerable creative talents. Then you'd find the best possible way to photograph the property and focus your marketing on some other angle, such as cost or location.
For Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam, the right strategy was exactly the opposite: embrace their awfulness and talk about it honestly. For 15 years, the hotel has been promoting itself as the "worst hotel in the world." As anyone who has ever worked on promoting a destination or travel property knows, sometimes expectations can set you up for failure. Some frequent fliers expect to be upgraded to a seat they didn't pay for, and then get angry when they are not. Patrons of luxury hotels expect perfection, and often feel justified to complain about any little thing, no matter how small. The solution, reasoned Hans Brinker's agency KesselsKramer, was to lower expectations to a point where people could no longer be disappointed. Thus the concept of the "worst hotel in the world" was born.
The hotel uses innovative posters and direct marketing to promote their "experience" to their target audience of young backpackers. After all, what twenty-something wouldn't want to return home to boast to their friends and family that they stayed in the worst hotel in the world while in Amsterdam? The campaign has turned the property's biggest negative attribute into the only reason for people to stay. And it has worked, with a 42% increase in occupancy. Their success has even led to a newly launched book. What's the lesson in this for travel marketers? Sometimes being honest and giving people something to talk about is the only thing that really matters.
NOTE: This post was originally shared on the new Ogilvy PR Travel & Economic Development blog called Being There, Doing That … which I am a member and contributing writer of. Check it out for lots more great travel marketing tips and thoughts.
7 thoughts on “The Worst Hotel In The World”
Brave. Innovative. Genius. Only the Dutch. Hup Holland!
And I thought you were setting up for a punch line in a joke… My surprise when I realized you were serious.
I think their marketing strategy is working because of the demographics they are marketing to. It was innovative tactic and seems to have paid off for them. For real, what 30-something adult is going to go to Amsterdam (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) and want to stay in a hotel known to be the worst in the world. A room where there is no chair or not a stitch of TP in the bathroom, nobody I know!
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Reminds me of the Buckley’s cough syrup commercial promoting it’s awful taste.
A night club where I live is often acclaimed as the worst in the UK. There’s even competition with another city, which used to boast the worst but the club was shut down. The night club is possibly the most popular in town, on any night of the week, and it’s particularly seedy (in a hygiene sort of way)!
Granted, it’s mostly students who go, but they’re exactly the people who are likely to stay at this hotel as well. I’m not surprised at all that this works. Being the best at being the worst is a great claim after all.
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