Sandals’ Marketing Muscle

Ken Shapiro There’s a billboard for Sandals Resorts on the route I take to and from my son’s pre-school. It shows Elmo and a smiling woman in the foreground and a beautiful aquamarine shoreline behind them. Elmo catches my son’s eye, while that blue surf draws me like a magnet. Take it from me, when you’

By: Ken Shapiro

There’s a billboard for Sandals Resorts on the route I take to and from my son’s pre-school. It shows Elmo and a smiling woman in the foreground and a beautiful aquamarine shoreline behind them. Elmo catches my son’s eye, while that blue surf draws me like a magnet. Take it from me, when you’re stuck in L.A. rush-hour traffic that beach looks mighty good.

After working on this issue’s cover story, “Selling Sandals” (page 12), I have a new appreciation for the effectiveness of that billboard. In the sidebar to the story, Mandy Chomat, senior VP of sales, says that Sandals spends $40 or $50 million a year on advertising, and he strongly suggests travel agents use that exposure to their advantage. He feels that if an agent doesn’t capitalize on the company’s ads and promote themselves as a seller of Sandals, they are letting all that advertising go to waste.

“If an agent doesn’t take advantage of that,” he said, “someone else will.”

It’s a good point coming from someone in an organization that knows a thing or two about reaching customers. For nearly 25 years now, Sandals has been on the cutting edge of innovative marketing, whether it’s creating Beaches to capture the family market; or teaming with Sesame Street to bring in families with younger children once school is back in session; or the company’s latest move, a partnership with wedding-consultant-to-the-stars Preston Bailey. Sandals is infused with an entrepreneurial spirit that has spread from the top down, beginning with founder Butch Stewart, a former air-conditioning salesman who has watched Sandals grow into the success it is today.

Besides taking a well-deserved look at an industry stalwart, I hope the Sandals profile is an inspiration to those agents with similar entrepreneurial inclinations, and as always, I hope it helps readers make more sales.

For my part, I wonder if I can open a travel agency just past that billboard.

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