Saturday, October 25, 2008

Recap of Access Detroit

I have to admit that I cringed when I first heard that the kids at Detroit's version of Metromix were involved in the block party that would kick off the re-opening of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. I've had experience with them a few times before. Everything they've ever done can fit into one of three categories:
  1. Lame;
  2. Mismanaged; or
  3. Both.
I took comfort, however, in the fact that this was the re-opening of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. This was the most idiot-proof event of the year. There were so many people looking forward to this that almost anything they did would be a guaranteed success.

In retrospect, as I think back to my previous description of this being an "idiot-proof" event, I am reminded of the words of Mark Twain who observed, "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."

Yes, I'm afraid it's true. The kids from Metromix did manage to screw this one up. Without further ado, I give you my recap of the good, the bad and the random from the evening.

The Good
First, there's the fact that this happened at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. As far as I'm concerned, that counts for a couple of points in their favor right there.

More significantly, there's the fact that - by my unscientific eyeball estimate - there were approximately 600 people in attendance for this event. When one considers that this was almost entirely an outdoor event and that it was raining for the whole time, this is a significant accomplishment in and of itself.

Everyone who was involved with promoting this deserves a lot of credit. Kerry Doman and After 5 Detroit promoted it to their list; picking up 278 RSVPs through Facebook and God only knows how many through their main site and email list. The Friends of the Book-Cadillac Hotel plugged the event repeatedly on their listserv, which reached an additional 320 people.

I'm sure the kids at Metromix helped out in this regard, too. I'll give them credit for that.

As far as music goes, the bands were awesome.

The Killer Flamingos were rocking hard when I got back to the party after dinner. They mostly played cover songs, but were really good at it.

I was inside of Roast when Trick Trick was supposed to have taken the stage. I missed his entire performance, but I heard he was good as well.

I loved the Paxahau DJ Spinoff. The DJs were really, really good. I never caught the names of any of them, but they were really good.

I could have listened to them all night, that is if it weren't for things like needing to use the bathroom and stuff like that. (More on that below.)

The other thing about the event that was really good was that I finally got to go inside of Michael Symon's new restaurant, Roast. They weren't officially open, but they served drinks and provided the only bathroom at this event. (Again, more on that below.)

Since I didn't get a chance to sample any of his food, there's really only so much I can say about his place. I can say this, though. I loved the decor.

"Homey" isn't quite the right word that I would use to describe the place. It's more like "what I wish my home was like." It was very upscale, but still quite comfortable.

I was also impressed by the staff at Roast. They were very friendly and knowledgeable. Most surprisingly, I thought, was how well they functioned as a team. I expected a lot more opening day kinks then I actually saw considering that they still weren't officially open.

The fact that there were break dancers on Washington Blvd. was also a nice touch, in my opinion. It added to the block party feel of this event.

I also liked the fact that they gave away maps and People Mover tokens to provide people with at least some encouragement to explore downtown Detroit after the main event.

Finally, since this was a Metromix event there was lots of free stuff. The kids at Metromix are famous for their motto of "FREE! FREE! FREE!" This was pretty much to be expected.

Someone handed me a Bank of America collapsible Frisbee without asking if I wanted one. It went in the trash before I could take another 3 steps.

Cintron was hand as well. They had free cans of their new energy drink. I'm not a huge fan of "energy" drinks. I've never really gotten much energy out of drinking them and I've had so many that taste terrible that I've lost all interest in ever trying another one. Regardless, everyone that I talked to who tried it enjoyed it.

It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round.

Those were the good parts of the evening. Let's talk about the rest.

The Bad
The whole event was organized to "celebrate the completion of The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit Hotel and Residences," according to their web site. Doesn't it seem rather inappropriate then that no one was allowed to go into the Book Cadillac Hotel?

You know, the building whose completion we were there to celebrate?

This especially odd since, for the past two weeks, one has been able to walk right into the place and look around.

I know their focus was on the block party and they wanted to keep things focused on that. Still, it would have made a lot of sense to have at least a portion of the hotel open for folks to look at for at least a portion of the event.

This screw-up, of course, had another repercussion. Closing access to the hotel meant that access was closed to all of the toilets, save the one that was located in Roast. They didn't even have the foresight to get a couple of Porta-Johns for this "no bathroom" event of theirs.

Here's the problem that no one at Metromix ever saw coming: 600 people, with lots of drinks in their system + Only 1 toilet = Huge Problem.

If this thing was planned by people who actually knew what they were doing, they would have at least made the bathrooms accessible to the public. Even if they were determined to keep people from looking around inside of the hotel, they could have cordoned off most of the hotel and just have left access to the bathrooms.

Another problem that was related to this was the fact that the only bathroom, and most of the alcohol, was inside. The music and break dancers were outside. This left many party goers with the dilemma of which thing to they pursue. Alcohol and bathroom? Or music and dancers?

It would have been so much better if we could have done both - or at least moved between the two more efficiently. That could have been done, if the whole thing was planned better.

The epitome of lameness, though, came at 10:30 last night.

In all of the promotions, Metromix promised a "Surprise" at 10:30.

Do you want to know what this "surprise" was?

We got to see the Detroit Metro Visitors & Convention Bureau's logo projected onto the side of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel.

No, I'm not kidding. Their "surprise" really and truly was a logo.

I'm not making this up. And it wasn't even a new logo. It was the same logo that they've been using for a couple of years.

Even by Metromix standards, that was incredibly stupid and unforgivably lame. In fact, I would like to count the number of reasons why this was a really, really stupid idea.
  1. Looking at a static logo is boring. I can't make it any simpler than that. It's boring. No one really had any interest in it. They kept looking, expecting it to do something - but it didn't.
  2. Associating your brand or logo with something that's boring is bad. From a marketing stand point, the idea is to associate your logo and/or brand with something positive. Since no one gets excited about being bored, this was simply a bad idea. After all, there's a reason why Nike doesn't sponsor laundry folding competitions.
  3. It's anti-climatic. Towards the end of the event, it was time to focus everyone's attention on exploring all of the different bars around downtown. (Remember? The reason why folks got those maps and People Mover tokens?) In the entire history of marketing, no one has ever been persuaded to go check something out by nothing more than looking at a logo - even a logo that's projected onto the side of a building.
  4. It was possible to do so much more. This event targeted young adults. It would have been simple to round up a few celebrities that they would recognize. They could have made a video of those celebrities recounting their favorite thing about downtown Detroit. They could have shown clips from either of the Hollywood films that were shot inside of the Book Cadillac Hotel. Heck, they could've even shown any of their Visit Detroit commercials or that video contest winner from two summers ago.
  5. Did I mention that showing the logo was boring, anti-climatic and a detriment to Detroit's brand? Oh, yeah. I did. But it deserves repeating.
There was also the fact that, when it came time for folks to explore all that downtown Detroit has to offer, all they got was the aforementioned map and People Mover tokens as well as a list of bars that had specials. If you were a seasoned Detroiter, that's fine.

However, imagine if you will, you're new to downtown Detroit and someone simply handed you a list of 13 bars in the area. Wouldn't you such a list a tad intimidating?

I suppose that's why the overwhelming majority of visitors went to Bookies, which was the only bar on the list that one can actually see from the Book Cadillac Hotel. The majority of them, by the way, seemed to have stayed there all night.

So much for encouraging people to explore downtown Detroit.

It could have been so much better. They could've organized optional tours for small groups. They could've had volunteers who would answer questions or point people in the right direction. They could've set up information kiosks.

In short, they could have done a lot to encourage people to explore more bars and other sites. All that was needed was a team in place that knew what they were doing and was capable of executing. Instead, they had Metromix - the people who thought that staring at a wall was a really exciting way to spend a Friday evening.

On a related note, the Metromix kids will post photos from the event on their web site soon. They sent their "street team" around to all of the bars that were offering specials, passed out Metromix swag and snapped lots of photos that are supposed to end up on their site.

Those photos aren't up there as of this moment. When they are, please take a look at them and count how many people you see in those photos with red lanyards on.

Those lanyards distinguished people from that event from everyday bar patrons. I'd be willing to bet that, with the exception of Bookies, almost all of the people that were photographed didn't have a red lanyard on.

This, of course, means that instead of photographing someone who was a part of this Access Detroit event, they photographed a random bar patron who was in that particular bar on that particular evening anyway. They did this because not enough of the Access Detroit visitors ever made it to any of the other bars.

I shouldn't be too hard on them. This is Metromix that we're talking about. I suppose I should just be grateful that none of the bars on this list of theirs was in Albuquerque.

This is Metromix that we're talking about. They're always finding new ways to screw up.

I just wish they would stick with the Wild Woodies Ring Girl or WRIF Rock Girl contests. At least when they screw those things up, it doesn't make an entire city look bad in front of people who've never been here before.

The Random
I was in a couple of the bars when the Metromix "street team" came in to photograph "participants" of their event. After they snapped the photo and passed out their swag - shot glasses or beer cozies - I saw seven different people attempt to scratch the Metromix logo off the item or permanently cover it up with a sticker of some sort. Several others simply tossed it in the nearest trash can.

Each of them, of course, did it without any prompting from me or anyone else.

I can't help but feel a certain amount of self-satisfaction knowing that I'm not the only one in town who is getting irritated with these perpetual screw-ups.

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