I recently read an intriguing column, - The End of Mass Production, - by technology author and columnist Kevin Maney. I first met Maney several years ago when he was at USA Today, and have always enjoyed his columns and books.
The mass production of standardized products is a defining hallmark of the 20th century industrial economy, bringing high productivity and low costs to a wide variety of products, - from household appliances to cars. But, according to Maney, another mass-related concept became a hallmark of the second half of the 20th century, - the hotel chain. “Hotel chains grew out of a lack of information,” he explains.
“In the middle of last century, cars and highways made the world far more mobile. Many more people traveled to towns they didn’t know, and they needed places to sleep. They had no way to know which hotel or boarding house might be nice or offer amenities they wanted. Travel guides, like Mobil’s, popped up in the 1950s, but for the most part information remained scarce.”
“Chains took advantage of that data deficit. If you knew a Holiday Inn in one town, you knew the Holiday Inn in the next town would be roughly the same. The brand’s motto played off this: The best surprise is no surprise. The uniformity and comfort of a chain trumped the risk of an unknown, independent place.”