Brand Promises, Loews Hotel and Feral Cats

bztat loewsI believe in brand promises.

Here at The Starr Conspiracy, we believe in truth.

We also believe in cats, which is why it was so shocking to hear the story of Loews Hotel in Portofino Bay who broke their brand promise -- to consumers and to the community -- and started waging a war on a feral cat community that they once cultivated and appreciated.

Here's the story.

Loews Hotel had a very small and manageable feral cat community on its property. The cats were spayed, neutered and up-to-date on all of their vaccinations. The management of Loews joined in a vibrant and healthy public-private partnership with the community and built homes for these cats. The relationship was marketed to guests and visitors to Orlando as a highlight of the hotel experience.

Pretty fantastic, right? It's not Loews fault that people are too stupid to spay and neuter their animals. The hotel chain did a good thing by trying to create a stable and healthy feral cat community. They were good corporate citizens.

Until someone complained and Loews decided to get rid of the cats.

It's so stupid, really, that one marketing feature can spiral out of control. Instead of working with the community to find a solution, the hotel chain trapped the feral cats and dropped them off at a kill-shelter.

So much for an animal-friendly hotel chain owned by a holding company with a portfolio that includes offshore oil and gas drilling rigs, an interstate natural gas transmission pipeline system and property and casualty insurance companies.

As a marketing professional who plays in the world of social media and public relations, Loews couldn't have done a poorer job in managing this mess. Facebook groups and Twitter chats have formed. Other hotels and pet companies have tracked the #saveloewscats hashtag and started advertising their competitive products and services.

And Loews looks like a bunch of dicks to cat lovers. According to the Humane Society:

  • There are approximately 86.4 million owned cats in the United States
  • Thirty-three percent of U.S. households own at least one cat
  • Fifty-two percent of owners own more than one cat
  • On average, owners have two cats (2.2)
  • More female cats are owned than male cats (80 percent vs. 65 percent, respectively)
  • Cat owners spent an average of $219 on routine veterinary visits
  • Eighty-eight percent of owned cats are spayed or neutered

Every cat-loving American likes to stay at a fancy hotel and most of us will never set foot in the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel ever again.

I personally spent almost $50,000 in hotel expenses last year -- and that doesn't even represent what my company spends to send me on client visits. I know that I will take my money and stay elsewhere.

This isn't just about cats. It's about honesty, integrity and messaging. It's about living up to commitments you make as an organization.

It's about a brand promise.

How are you living up to yours?