One hundred years ago this month, Conrad Hilton bought the Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas. In 1925, the first Hilton Hotel debuted in Dallas. Today, there are 923,000 Hilton brand hotel rooms around the world.
I recently asked Hilton CMO Kellyn Smith Kenny to shed some light on the marketing strategies that support 17 different hotel brands in a competitive global market.
Paul Talbot: With more than a dozen brands in Hilton’s portfolio, how is marketing strategy structured? Are there elements of an overarching marketing strategy incorporated into each individual brand strategy?
Kellyn Smith Kenny: At Hilton, we have an enterprise marketing strategy, as well as individual brand marketing strategies to reach our customers and potential guests.
The enterprise marketing strategy speaks to the broad base of consumers who shop our portfolio of 17 brands across 113 countries, and our loyal customers who are members of Hilton Honors.
Simultaneously, our brand campaigns speak to specific consumer targets about individual brands. These efforts work together and build on one another to create a virtuous cycle.
Talbot: Marketing plans and campaigns specific to driving each individual brand strategy…what process is used to make sure that the messaging is distinctive and doesn’t inadvertently encroach on another brand’s position?
Smith Kenny: Strong consumer design targets, brand positioning and brand architecture are the keys to ensuring each brand is meeting a unique consumer need, and therefore stays within its “swim lane.”
Each marketing campaign is developed from these foundations, against a specific target consumer insight, which results in distinctive campaigns. Prior to launching a campaign, we rigorously research and refine our key message points to ensure they ladder to the individual brand’s positioning and they resonate with the design target segment.
Once a campaign is live, we measure the campaign’s efficacy and optimize our channel and message mix to deliver maximum impact.
Talbot: What do you do to make sure your marketing strategies support your business objectives?
Smith Kenny: All of our marketing strategies and campaigns are grounded in deep consumer insight and rich data. In September, we launched our global campaign “Expect Better, Expect Hilton” to build deeper relationships with our guests. Through extensive research we discovered that today’s travelers are confused about where to go to get the best price and the best perks when choosing a hotel.
We responded by creating Hilton’s Price Match Guarantee along with a series of awesome perks – like free WiFi, digital key and select-your-room when customers book at Hilton.com or through our app – then we launched our advertising campaign across social media, TV and radio that spoke directly to today’s traveler.
Talbot: What about global considerations? Is the promise of the Conrad brand the same in Cairo as it is in Chicago? Are nuances from region to region addressed in marketing strategy or is this more of an operational consideration?
Smith Kenny: Through exhaustive global consumer research, we discovered that the emotional needs of our guests are surprisingly universal, which means our brands need to be positioned universally as well. That said, there are definitely important local and cultural nuances that play a big role in how our brands meet the needs of our customers from one market to the next.
While what our company and our brands stand for at a higher level doesn’t change, the way we communicate our message and deliver on our promise to customers must be locally relevant.