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Snapsportz Revisited: The “Rome+Breakfast” of Terrain Park Marketing?

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I recently read Dan Ariely’s book, “Predictably Irrational”. It’s a fascinating compilation of experirments that show us how there is a pattern to the illogical manner we sometimes (okay, often) make decisions. One of my favorite examples dealt with choosing a hotel in Rome versus choosing a hotel in Paris.

The basic experiment went something like this. If given the choice between a nice hotel in Rome and a nice hotel in Paris, people don’t chose one more often than the other. It’s a 50-50 split. However, if you give a third option – nice hotel in Rome with free breakfast – with no comparison Paris is forgotten about, and between a hotel with or without breakfast, the decision suddenly becomes “easy”.

The takeaway is simple: we humans like to have something to compare to when we make a decision even if the difference makes us a very small part of the experience.

Snapsportz is something I touched on in an interview with founder Ben Kottke more than a year ago. You stick an RFID chip on your person, ride through a terrain park (or tubing hill, zipline, etc.), and RFID scanners trigger cameras as you ride that take photo-sequences of you doing tricks on the various features.

I, for one, love the idea. It takes on-mountain photography even one step further than Vail Resorts did with their free EpicMix photos last season. Rather than taking the same photos over and over again at the top of lifts, you get unique, action shots of you doing things you’re much more likely to show off to your friends and family.

Two Models
There are a couple models that exist for using this technology. The first is the amusement park style where you get off the “ride”, can see a watermarked photo, and then pay to download it.

The other is the free model. All photos that are taken are free for the subject to use and share. This is oversimplifying their system (that is actually becoming quite robust) but you get the idea. Both models feed social sharing but only the first generates revenue directly from the system.

How I’m Seeing It
I see a resort with Snapsportz much like the “Rome hotel and breakfast”. Like free breakfast, a photo of you doing a trick is a small part of the skiing experience, but it differentiates the resort and gives your skiers a comparison. Rather than being Resort A (Paris hotel) and Resort B (Rome hotel) where the reasons to go to both could be as identical as two hotels, Snapsportz helps people make a decision.

It’s not just Snapsportz, many add-ons fall into this category from the skier-perspective:

  • Cookies (Beaver Creek) or S’mores (Northstar) at the end of the day
  • EpicMix or a mobile app recording your day on the mountain
  • A unique bar or experience on the mountain or once you finish skiing

These add-ons, like so many other things in marketing, provide unique comparisons between two resorts that help us humans make sometimes irrational decisions that no focus group will ever pinpoint.

  • I think this is good advice. But it will only work if the resort places the differentiator up front. Recently I have been to dozens of resort sites, some with the epic mix, not one of them says, “here is why you will like us better.” I decide where I am going by going online to see what is happening at that resort. I go to FB, twitter and their website. Candidly, most resorts have awesome shots of someone taking in knee deep powder, or a family in front of the lift or at the top of it – and then links to purchase. Maybe they are saying it and I am not noticing it. If that is the case, its probably time to review copywriting styles and start testing out headlines and offers to see which ones work better. Until now, I never really knew what Epic Mix really was or how it worked. This article actually got me more excited about it than the Epic Mix website.

    • Great points, James. And interesting about not understanding what EpicMix was until now.

      I think a question we come to with your feedback is what type of people are landing on resort home pages. If the majority are at the point where they are comparing mountains, then absolutely these add-ons should take a more prominent role.

      If they aren’t at that point, however, then selling the core pieces of the experience make more sense to put front and center.

      For example, the reason Rome vs Paris is a hard choice is because of the parity between the Rome and Paris brands. If you say Paris vs Bucurest, the latter may have lots of great reasons to come but just adding breakfast won’t matter until your core marketing can convince the visitor that Bucurest is as great as Paris.

  • Kevin Forrest

    Its true…something that differentiates something just a little bit can really influence some people (like me). We all certainly love what is perceived as just a bit of additional value for no charge. The SlopeTracker is another cool add on that I think falls into this category.

    • Yeah, that’s an interesting tech that, in large part, has been replaced by mobile apps. Many resort apps now feature run tracking partly for the reason you mentioned.

      • Kevin Forrest

        Totally…the advent of GPS’s on almost everybody’s phone certainly have taken traditional GPSs like Garmin, Magellan, etc. out of the fight. I think that SlopeTracker could easily build a new market by offering tracking for kids/family members who don’t have phones so you could see them real time on the slopes and build and add on app for resorts and integrate it.

        How many of us have wanted find somebody to meet up for lunch or whatever but just can’t make it happen because of inability to find them, or lack of wanting of children to hang with their family.

        My little sister was skiing in the “ski-wee” program when she was little and just turned the arm band around and took off from her class. This tech might negate that problem too.

  • Karen

    Action photography may make me choose one resort over another for a particular day; however, getting virtual pins will not. I do have a personal goal of number of days per year and vertical per year; however, I have to aggregate the data from non-Vail resorts and use a mobile app.

    • Absolutely, Karen, and I’m in a similar boat with pins in that, for the most part, they really don’t do much for me. What’s crazy to me, though, is how many people I’ve talked to on the lift who love virtual pins and love EpicMix and are riding that lift in order to try to get one or reach some level. It surprises me every time i hear it, but hear it I do.

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