DM Firm Plans Co-op for Marriott Vacation Club

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Promotional direct marketing firm Sports & Entertainment Direct and Marriott Vacation Club International will start a cooperative program targeting time-share vacationers next year.


The program will contain product samples and direct response offers and is set to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Marriott Vacation Club as a perk for guests at the resort time-share condominiums, said Bob Perlstein, president of Sports & Entertainment Direct Inc., Marietta, GA.


Perlstein's firm specializes in sampling, branding and distribution through alternative media.


"Our focus is to take specific products and messages and distribute them to the right target at the right time," he said. "We call it 'atmosphere marketing,' and what better atmosphere to reach a consumer than when he or she is on vacation?"


Starting in January, about 45,000 monthly co-op packages will be distributed at Marriott Vacation Club's 36 domestic resorts. Resort locations include Newport Beach, CA; Park City, UT; Vail, CO; Branson, MO; Miami; Orlando, FL; Hilton Head Island, SC; Williamsburg, VA, and Boston.


Typical club guests are families who are college-educated professionals with an average household income of $125,000.


Packages will total about 550,000 for the year. Participants do not have to commit to the whole run but can test by quarter. Packages will include product samples and coupons as well as direct response offers. They will be placed in guest accommodations prior to check-in.


In such a time-share situation, all guests have in-unit kitchens but they are unlikely to bring groceries with them, Perlstein said.


"Most guests go out shopping shortly after they arrive and spend about $200-250 on food and other products for their stay," he said.


Though the samples and coupons are geared to get guests to go out and buy certain products at the store, Perlstein also sees the program as a huge opportunity for direct response offers.


"By putting free samples into the program, we find that people are more receptive to the direct response offers in it as well," he said.


In addition, he said that his firm has found through surveys that people on vacation are more apt to try things.


The Marriott co-op program will consist of about 10 offers per unit. It is not undecided whether offers will be packaged in boxes or bags, Perlstein said. Of course, Marriott has the right of approval for all inserts, he added. Competitive offers will not be placed in the same package.


Several types of snacks and a coffee or a tea have committed to the program so far, though he would not name specific marketers.


"From the direct response point of view, we are just starting to promote the program to direct marketers," he said.


However, Perlstein suggested upscale catalogs, book clubs and subscription offers as some that might do well.


"I think this is a great opportunity for a number of direct response marketers such as catalogers, investment offers and Wall Street Journal or New York Times subscriptions, to name a few," he said.


But Perlstein recommended doing more than just including a subscription card.


"We can fit in full-size catalogs and magazines," he said. "A subscription card is not as impressive as putting a sample in the package."


Pricing depends upon the size and weight of the insert and/or sample. Perlstein cited a range of $50/M to $200/M.


Two other components of the program include in-room television and guest surveys. Approved advertisers can get their messages broadcast on the resorts' in-room channels, which are available to guests throughout their stays. Marriott also will solicit feedback on the program through its guest survey done within two weeks of checkout.


Feedback pertaining to specific participants in the program will be shared in aggregate, he said.


The co-op program is set to run for a year but Perlstein hopes it will continue in 2005.


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