I cringed when I read about the $11 million Christmas tree in the lobby of the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi. A marketing disaster, the tree was decorated with precious gems and gold from one of the hotel’s jewelry stores. After first publicizing the tree, the hotel attempted to distance itself – tough to do when the aforementioned object of ridicule sits in the lobby rotunda – by blaming it all on an overzealous jeweler. News organizations spread the story around the world and negative comments lit up the Internet like, well, a Christmas tree.
It goes back to a point that bears repeating: a very fine line – and a few letters – separates grandeur from gaudy, tasteful from tasteless. Someone must have thought the tree would be a great idea. But I’ll wager a string of rubies that someone else had their doubts. Two crucial elements in design and marketing are experience and instinct. If you wince when you hear a marketing pitch, take note. Trust your gut – before a global audience makes your stomach turn cartwheels.
Whether it’s a marketing campaign or a Christmas tree, all that glitters is not gold.