REPORT FROM THE U.S.—As hotel brands begin rolling out their 2013 marketing plans, many are considering more niche or targeted approaches.
At Marriott International, for instance, research showed a transition in the prototypical business traveler from a Caucasian male to a more diverse traveler. So the team began researching that transition and created a $5-million marketing campaign called “For You,” rolling it out in September 2012.
The campaign focuses on African-American, Hispanic and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, said Joanna Todd, VP of segment strategy at Marriott International.
“Part of my team’s role is to develop strategies against emerging customer segments that have a lot of profitability potential,” she said. “We’ve done stuff around sports and the multicultural space. This time we were looking at the frequent business travelers as transient revenue and saw the customer is changing.
“We said, ‘We need to put a message in front of that guest.’”
Todd said the campaign targets the next trend in travelers and incorporates elements that are critical to them, such as style and the perception of a brand. The messaging was tested among focus groups to make sure it stood out and to ensure what Marriott perceived business travelers looked for in a hotel was accurate.
The campaign ran through the end of 2012 and was featured in a combination of print and digital publications, such as the Washington Post, Bloomberg and The Economist.
“The tagline is: ‘For you, we’re Marriott,’” Todd said. “We felt it resonated with the customers—we were really trying to position the Marriott brand as welcoming.”
As the industry becomes more international and travelers increasingly move from one region of the world to another, hotel marketers also are realizing the benefits of targeting specific cultures.
On a recent webinar hosted by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, Barry Nakano, business developer for PacRim Marketing Group, said there are four key markets within Asia that U.S. hoteliers should target:
1) In China, personal incomes are rising and travel restrictions are falling, he said. “Chinese (travelers) love to shop and have the highest spending profile,” he said.
2) In Japan, the travel industry has fully rebounded from recent disasters. Japan, Nakano said, represents the best short-term return on investment for marketers of any of the Asian markets.
3) In South Korea, there are opportunities to reach student, family, wedding and corporate travelers. The U.S. initiated a visa waiver program with South Korea in 2008.
4) In Taiwan, travel is primarily leisure, although the business travel segment is growing. The U.S. initiated a visa waiver program with Taiwan in late 2012.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is “keenly interested” in marketing to the Asian traveler as a consumer, said Mike Taylor, director of public relations.
“We strongly feel our brand, hotels and positioning resonate well with them,” he said. “With China expected to soon overtake the U.S. as the largest corporate travel market and outbound travel from the Asia/Pacific region on the rise, we saw an opportunity to provide Chinese travelers with tailored and personalized offerings that cater to their specific needs.”
Taylor said Fairmont also is looking to interact with the Asian consumer online. The brand’s website now is available in “simplified Chinese” to make it easier for Chinese travelers to research and book their stays.
“Since many are socially active on the Web, we’ve also developed a presence on regional social media sites such as weibo and youku,” he said.
Todd said Marriott will use the core marketing metrics to measure success of its campaign, such as impressions and conversions on the digital side. She said the campaign already has realized a strong ROI on bookings.
“We’re also going to do some consumer feedback to ensure the messaging is coming through and is clear,” she said. “We’ll do some focus groups and ask where they saw the creative and whether the message is coming through.”
Todd said she’s proud of how the campaign came to life.
“At the end of day, the strategy is multi-pronged: media, sponsorships and partnerships,” she said. “We have poured through these campaigns so there’s a consistent message.
“So far, honestly, we’re really pleased,” she continued. “It’s a product of the work that went into it, and it’s something you’ll see Marriott continuing.”
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