Honey, let’s scratch the Rancho Bernardo Inn off next Summer’s vacation list

There's clever marketing in a downtime and then there's pure desperation. The San Diego-based Rancho Bernardo Inn's recent pricing strategy would fit neatly into the latter category.

That's because the allegedly upscale resort is now offering a $19 per night 'survivor' package aimed at victims of the current recession.

August 18 - tents According to Reuters, down-on-their-luck consumers can still enjoy the resort's amenities as long at they bring along their own tent, flashlight, sleeping bags, toilet paper and insect repellent. For the $19, vacationers get to set up camp at one of the resort's lovely pools and enjoy all the usual frills sans the warmth and comfort of an actual room. One would also assume room (or tent) service wouldn't be included.

This is a terrible idea for any number of reasons. First, and most importantly, it undermines whatever image and reputation the Rancho Bernardo Inn has built up until now. Second, the $19 per night offer will attract, shall we say, a slightly less exclusive clientele. Third, the latter will scare off middle and upper-scale patrons who have either patronized the inn in the past or might consider doing so in the future. Like Mercedes, Cadillac and other luxury brands that have eroded their up-market brand image by slashing prices, the Rancho Bernardo will pay a heavy price down the road.

Moving forward, the Rancho Bernardo Inn will be forever known as 'tent city,’ the 'homeless hotel' or some other horrific moniker.

The four-star inn's assistant general manager calls it '…clever marketing in a downtime.' I call it brand suicide.

*Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea for this post.

5 thoughts on “Honey, let’s scratch the Rancho Bernardo Inn off next Summer’s vacation list

  1. Hey, I’m glad to hear it’s working out so well for you, Rancho Bernardo Inn virtual spokesperson. I’m not at all surprised that you’ve had tons of short-term bookings. My question/concern is what this will do to your long-term loyal clientele and brand identity. Having a tent city set up at poolside is not my idea of a four-star ‘resort.’ And how, in god’s name, do you attract upscale patrons again when the economy rebounds?

  2. Hi everyone! We are actually really grateful and amazingly surprised at the amount of packages booked. Also, the wide range of press coverage has been mind boggling. Food for thought. We didn’t know how our guests would react to this package. We’ve made as many rooms as possible available without having our entire maintenance and housekeeping staff quit on us! Keep the feedback coming. We’re happy for the dialogue.

  3. Thanks for the insight, Lunch. I’ve spent quite a few nights in tents on mountainsides around the world. It’s bearable, but certainly not comfortable. That aside, brands destroy their long-term equity by undermining the value proposition they’ve established up until that point. People buy a Mercedes or stay at a four-star hotel because it makes a statement about them and what they stand for. Cheapening the brand promise destroys the ‘statement’ which, in turn, will cause the core audience to go elsewhere for their upscale solutions providers.

  4. Here we go again….
    “Brand Value” doesn’t pay vendors, mortgages, employee salaries, healthcare costs, etc. Explain to me why someone would want to protect their “brand” if the result was that the business would ultimately collapse. We don’t know the financial stability of this company and what’s at stake…
    Perhaps Rancho Bernardo has plenty of land and the pool where “tent city” will be located is far enough from those high on life (and themselves) cruising around in their MBs and Caddys. Do we know where the pool is located on the grounds? Can we say with certainty that someone of considerable means wouldn’t enjoy time in a tent, under the stars? While I am certainly not upper-class, I’m happily in the middle and I sleep in a tent about 3-4 nights per year. If I lived closer to it, perhaps I would consider going to Bernard’s Ranch.
    Many people in this country gain wealth by being frugal, so you could argue this one till the cows come home (er, back to the ranch).

  5. Completely agree, Rep. I always find it interesting how easily companies are willing to squander their brand value in the interest of being kitchy or chasing a buck.