Using emotion effectively in digital marketing
Using emotion effectively in digital marketing
24 FEBRUARY 2016 8:13 AM
Technology can help marketers make that all-important emotional connection with guests, according to speakers at HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Strategy Conference.
NEW YORK—Technology enables hoteliers to make what has become the all-important emotional connection with guests, according to speakers at the annual Digital Marketing Strategy Conference. The conference, which is organized by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, updated several hundred attendees on the latest trends in reaching customers digitally.
At a session called “Content marketing in hospitality: Storytelling with a conversion-minded approach,” Mariana Mechoso Safer, SVP of marketing for HeBS Digital, said a marketing message that really made an impression on her was Google’s “Dear Sophie” video about a father who uses the Web to share memories with his daughter as she grows up.
“I remember that video, and the question is how we get customers to remember us when it’s time to make a booking,” Mechoso Safer said. “We have to connect emotionally even though we are usually trying to reach somebody on the go and are aware that content can’t be overly intrusive.”
Tony Aslanian, who formerly served as director of marketing and revenue strategy for the Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando (which will become a Holiday Inn this spring), said that making that critical emotional connection is as much about the intended audience as it is about the content. 
“The influencers (at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort) were between 2 and 12 years old and the decision-makers were their moms,” he said. “We built a Kids’ Corner on the site where if the kids clicked they would get a page that included printout cards for Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. In general, the strategy was to engage emotionally with parents and their children.”
The goal, he said, was “to fulfill the aspiration of parents to be heroes to their kids,” and at the end of the day, it’s the parents doing the actual booking. 
When it comes to creating content that tugs on emotions, Aslanian advised marketers to “think of what you have to offer and build on that in a way that makes an emotional connection. If you’re near a beach, have a castle-building contest.”
The next step is extending the content journey in a way that keeps emotions at the focus—something often accomplished through personalized touches. 
“We did what was possible to incentivize people to sign up for specials and contests,” Aslanian said. “We also sent personalized birthday wishes. We had a form that could be filled out to help us continue the dialogue and help personalize the experience. Once a guest was booked we incentivized them to share their booking and experience on social media and then offered their friends and family deals. The results were amazing, all because of social sharing.”
“Photo advocacy is a big part of the post-stay part of our marketing,” Aslanian said. “We have their families and friends vote on their photos and it leads to a lot of viral messages.”
Speakers agreed that user-generated content is a great source of emotion-tugging storytelling because it’s told in the visitor’s own words. 
One example of a hotel that used user-generated content effectively was the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York, which launched an Instagram-based “Selfie in the City” campaign last year that offered a selfie stick, map and breakfast to guests who posted their photos on social media. Margaret Mastrogiacomo, senior director for HeBS Digital, which worked on the campaign, said, “it’s all about creating meaningful experiences with customers throughout their journeys. In devising the campaign, we went from targeting a vague stick figure customer to thinking of them as individuals and how they live through key moments on their trip. With ‘Selfie in the City’ we sought to join the emotional and functional and the results were very rewarding.”

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