Remind Them Of Their Memories

The sliding door of the elevator closed and, after pressing the button for my floor, I looked up and saw a black and white Hampton Inns “advertisement.” I put quotes around advertisement because if you stay at Hampton Inns, you know that these messages in their elevators are quirky, interesting, fun, and not your typical sales jobs.

The messages – or “advertisements” – are almost always black and white.  They contain a picture that captures scenes of the familiar, of everyday life.   Maybe its a child smiling broadly while driving a toy car.  Or maybe its a child laughing and swinging on a old tire hanging from a tree limb.  And then next to the picture, there is a short message – a play on words.  For the tire swing picture, it might be “reusable fun.”  And for the child driving the toy car, it might be “pedal pusher.”

Each “advertisement” encourages you to pause and reflect and almost always stirs a smile.  But, they don’t immediately make you think of Hampton Inns specifically.  Instead, they remind you of memories and just make you feel good.  Hampton Inns have figured out that their ads don’t need to sell their customers on each of their room amenities, or their late check-out time, or their 24 fitness center.  No, pointing out their service differences is not compelling. But what is compelling is making people feel good.

So, tonight, when the elevator door slid closed, the “advertisement” was of a little girl in a dress with a yo-yo.  The yo-yo was all the way to the ground with the string tight.  The message read, “walking the dog.”  My father introduced me to “walking the dog” with a yo-yo.  When he was younger he was pretty good with a yo-yo, and “walking the dog” was a favorite trick.  So, of course, I paused and was reminded of being with my Dad as he attempted to teach me how to “walk the dog.” And I smiled.

In today’s world of data-driven outcomes measurements and concepts like “return on investment,” development professionals can easily lose their focus.  They can begin to think that their job is to spout lots of data about student success, or placement, or client satisfaction, or some other measurement that seems to have won the day.  And sure, at the appropriate time it is wise to educate our donors with data and facts.

But facts, by themselves, aren’t compelling.  Almost always our first order of business – our real work – is to help donors connect with things that make them smile.  Memories.  Values.  Interests.  Whatever those memories, values, and interests might be.  And in order to do that well, we have to know our donors as people.  What are the special memories that most members of the class of 1967 will recall with fondness?  What are the values they hold dear?  What interests do they have as it pertains to philanthropy?

Out of all the hotels I could stay at, I almost always choose Hampton Inns.  They just feel comfortable to me.  Maybe now I figured out why.   I think I’ll teach my children how to “walk the dog” when I get home.

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