Razorfish Uncovers the Five-Star Experiences That Matter Most to Consumers

“What brands can learn from 1-star hotels with 5-star reviews” teaches us that the secret to unforgettable experiences is not about the bells and whistles, but the human connection.


March 28, 2024— Marketing transformation agency Razorfish published new insights on what really defines a standout brand beyond its visual identity or products. What brands can learn from one-star hotels with five-star reviews is the result of an experiment that includes three months of tracking and evaluating one- to two-star hotels and the unique features that earned them positive ratings from happy customers.

From reading thousands of reviews to traveling on-site to see firsthand what makes these establishments unique, the study shows how creating a system of heightened experiences can benefit brands beyond the hospitality industry.

“When embarking on this journey, we dared to ask, ‘Can a brand really win our hearts with only authenticity and genuine care?’ when the numbers were stacked against them. And the answer, simply put, is they can, and they did,” said Eddie Gonzalez, Chief Strategy Officer at Razorfish. “Our team of strategists experienced it for themselves, with a conclusion that experiences and brands are defined by memorable moments, not luxury. A simple act of kindness can go a long way.”

Following the experiment, Razorfish identified five actionable insights on how ordinary brands can elevate their offerings to earn stellar reviews that attract new legions of fans.

A reason to smile. Go out of your way to surprise and delight. Doing so shows empathy and an unwavering commitment to service, creating the perception that your brand will go above and beyond to make a customer’s experience as positive as possible.

Participation drives preference. People crave the opportunity to do and create. Allow them to engage and make your product their own.

Limitation turned into differentiation. What might be initially seen as a limitation can become the hottest commodity and an exclusive, curated experience. Turn restrictions into selling points.

The personal touch. Understand that customers are seeking more than just a product or service; they are looking for a meaningful connection that makes them feel valued, understood, and cared for.

Engage the senses. Focus on the specific details of your experience that allow for cross-sensory engagement, because an unforgettable sensory detail can elevate the experience.

“In an era of increased competition, consumer choice, and wavering loyalty, a brand’s success depends on the quality of experience it delivers,” said Gonzalez. “As a result, brands that bolster their investments in customer experiences, or focus on one or two experiential features, can win over discerning customers even on a limited budget.”

The full study, “What brands can learn from one-star hotels with five-star reviews” is available here.

Razorfish spent three months tracking small but impressive hotels, reading thousands of reviews to understand what made them unique. The agency sent a team of strategists to experience six of these hotels for themselves, which each had one to two stars, while averaging reviews with more than 4.8 stars. The hotels were in New York, Vermont, and Georgia.

Media Contacts:
Dan Yesenosky, Razorfish

Talia Firenze, SourceCode Communications

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