Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Marketing Golden Rule
Atlantis Events (the gay travel charter company of which I am an "alumnus" - having traveled now on four of their vacations) maintains a Web site plastered with pictures of buff male bodies, youthful and athletically energized, all hanging out with other handsome buff young gentlemen by pools, on beaches, and striding through picturesque locales. I'm going to forget for the moment that I've bought the Atlantis product, and click through the site for the first or even the fifth time.

In doing so, I'm bound to conclude Atlantis isn't the vacation for me. That is, since I'm not one of those buff gorgeous athletic perfect specimens. But the funny thing is, Atlantis still wants to be your travel agent, even if your 65, 120 or 280 lbs, working too hard at your job to maintain your body at the gym, and bald with glasses.

How do I know this? Well, Atlantis tells me so, right on their FAQ page:

"Do I have to have a great body to fit in on Atlantis?
Very funny. Seriously, while we have some great bodies in our brochure and website (remember it IS marketing after all), Atlantis is really all about being yourself and feeling great about who you are. Whatever shape you’re in, you’re going to feel right at home on Atlantis. We promise."

Focus on those words in the parenthesis - "remember it IS marketing after all." Now read this from Seth Godin, who has incredible insight on marketing today:

"My hopeful side says that marketers should start taking responsibility for what we do, and start marketing to people the way we'd like to be marketed to. The cynical side of me realizes that this isn't bloody likely."

While Seth's quote comes from a post on the recent Aqua Teen Hunger Force advertising debacle, his words resonate throughout his blog. And they've made me question why Atlantis feels it has to constantly parade the A-Gay pictures in order to make sales. To me, it's disingenuous to market your product this way - ESPECIALLY when you then have to retract the message your images carry. You end up sending two conflicting messages. In essence you're simultaneously promoting and negating your brand.

I'd like to ask Rich Campbell, CEO of Atlantis Events, what are Atlantis Events precisely? Playgrounds for the genetically gifted? Or experiences for us all? I'm confused.

There's a very easy way to resolve this dilemma. Post pictures of actual Atlantis guests, in a wider range of ages and body types. Show us we're going to "feel at home." Then you don't have to tell us.

Do you really think bookings will suffer?

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