The roads more travelled (new explorations of old places)

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Panera Bread
Panera Bread -- an experience consistent with Canyon Ranch.
Canyon Ranch
Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA

We’ve just returned from a New England driving vacation. In many places, there were new experiences — I’ve certainly never been to Stamford, Connecticut (or for that matter Connecticut). And there, to me, was a discovery of a relatively new chain-based fast food operation, Panera Bread, which markets itself on wholesome, natural ingredients (quite in line with part of the vacation experience; my first stay at Canyon Ranch, in Lenox, MA.)

Panera Bread
Panera Bread — an experience consistent with Canyon Ranch.

Yet, among the new, we experienced road trip traditions — the interstate highway system, roadside rest stops, and of course most of the places we ate or stayed at were either franchise or other national chains, or when the exception — visiting Vivian’s friend’s downtown independent bookstore in North Hampton, MA — they fit quite comfortably within other norms (the revitalized, old-style trendy college community downtowns where the chains simply don’t fit into the story.)

Travelling of course takes you to the world of brand security — franchises with established standards provide consistent reassurance; and my “adventures” into new experiences were generally into proven and established businesses. (Canyon Ranch has two main residential resort complex — the other is in Arizona — and has been around since the late 1970s. It breaks some traditional resort rules. There’s no tipping, at all, and no booze, though you are certainly permitted to drink in your own room with alcohol purchased off-site.)

I of course used new technologies and tools to get around. An inexpensive roaming plan through roammobility.com (which I learned through my network of Google Top Contributors) allowed me to apply the voice recognition technologies to find the relevant local chain store places. New, sort of, but not really risky.

All of these points return to the basic marketing challenge. It’s hard to break bonds and take risks, and change. And this explains in part why many AEC businesses are stuck in their same old, same old traditions and business practices, and why (rightfully) most successful businesses depend on repeat and referral business for the bulk of their revenue.

Sure, we can travel, explore and change, but we’ll generally seek security and safe havens in things we know. Vacations can open our minds to new possibilities, but equally, prove how much we seek the comforts of predictability and our homes.

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