The conference is being held at the beautiful J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, which features incredible desert vistas in any direction you care to look. Something NAELA does very well is selecting superb venues for its events. The last four I have attended have been in Hilton Head, N.C.; at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs at the foot of Pike’s Peak; at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill in San Francisco; and here in Tucson. Every one of these venues was fabulous.
I find this interesting, from a marketing perspective, on a number of levels. First, it confirms what I know about "sensation transference." This phenomenon is best illustrated by the example of soft-drink 7-Up. Some time ago, their marketing people redesigned the 7-Up can. Nothing major, just a little facelift. In so doing they used a little more yellow in the graphics. Not long after the new cans hit the shelves, people started complaining about the "lemony taste" despite the fact that nothing in the drink formula had changed. It was the same old 7-Up.
By holding your event in a superb venue, you can benefit from this sensation transference. Your attendees’ warm and delighted feelings about the venue will "transfer" to your event.
I talked with Pam Carlson of NAELA, who is responsible for planning the organization’s events. I told her that in some other organizations, they hold events in more modest locations, because the members had told the directors that they didn’t want to pay more than a $100 a night for a hotel. "Oh yes," she said, "our members told us the same thing." Well, I asked her, what happened when you started going to fancy resorts? "Attendance went way up," she said.
There is another marketing lesson here, in addition to the one about sensation transference, and it has to do with the limits of market research. By any objective measure, NAELA’s market research into what its members wanted was very misleading. People told the researchers what they thought they wanted, but when presented something better, they jumped at it. And I can pretty much promise you, after spending four days in this stunning setting, every single attendee is going home with good feelings about this event.