Companies can brand themselves in many different regards. The proliferation of smart phones and tablet computers amongst consumers, combined with the increasing importance of staying "connected" while on on-the-go, makes it paramount for businesses to ensure customers associate Internet connectivity (at no charge) with their locations. Two industries the concept of being "Internet friendly" plays especially well for are hotels and restaurants.   

I've stayed in four different hotels so far this year (locations include Laguna Beach, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, and Toronto). Of those, three were part of major chains (Best Western, MGM, and Marriott) and one was lesser known (Millenium Hotel in Cincinnati). You can guess which one didn't have free Internet access. Thankfully I was in town on a weekend and didn't feel overwhelmingly compelled to sit at my laptop and catch up on e-mail, but had I been there during the work week, I would have been forced to pay for Internet access.

Needless to say, I won't look into staying at the Millenium next time I am in town. But the other three chains are also at fault: if any of them provide free Internet connectivity at every location, I left not knowing that (and therefore I have no particular reason to stay with either company next time I am on the road).

It was my drive to Cincinnati which really gave me the idea for this post though. After getting off the highway for lunch, I was confronted with the usual culinary options: McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendys. Those who know me know I would be happy at any location, but I picked McDonalds for one reason in particular. Since I was traveling on a Friday, I knew I wanted the opportunity to check my e-mail, and McDonalds was the only restaurant I knew for sure would have Internet access.

McDonalds got my $5 that day because they've branded themselves (through on-site promotional materials and advertisements) as being Internet friendly. Whether Burger King or Wendys offers the same service is irrelevant to me, because I've already found a traditional fast food restaurant that meets this requirement of mine (and the others don't have a compelling enough product for me to favor them in a similar situation).

Lesson for businesses: do not be the last in your local market or space to brand yourself as being Internet friendly!