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The marketing genius of the new breed of hotels

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In the competitive hotel industry, staying ahead of the game is key. The market is already awash with choices in hotels – it’s estimated that there are 123,000 hotel beds in London alone – so encouraging repeat business and avoiding a bad reputation is aim number one of even the most humble hotelier.

CitizenM calls itself a “new breed of hotels”. They are currently located in London, Glasgow and Amsterdam, opening soon in New York and Paris. This type of hotel joins similar concept hotel brands (Yotel, Base2Stay and Z Hotel) that are transforming the way people view hotels. The ease-of-use, value-for-money revolution that has swept through airlines in the last 20 years now looks to be taking over the hotel industry, albeit in a slightly more deluxe way.

Catering for the seasoned traveller, this new hotel model aims to provide “affordable luxury for the people”. You can book online, enjoy a speedy self check-in (the target is one minute, and just 30 seconds on check-out), have a variety of world foods available around the clock, watch free movies and be reassured by transparent pricing. There are even MoodPads that allow you to play with the technology in the room (blinds, temperature, TV, colour lighting and alarm themes).

Henry Kallan, the owner of HKHotels, bought into the power of social media and “humanising the brand” in 1988. He has revolutionised the use of hotel communal areas to encourage word of mouth recommendations amongst clients. All four of his hotels in New York make an entry in the Top Five list for New York City, according to Tripadvisor.

Kallan’s winning formula is simple: focus on what the customer wants. Added to this is the idea of utilising the hotel social areas to promote guest integration and provide space for business meetings. Providing homely spaces, a library of books, as well as complimentary wine and cheese of the evening has created a members club feel to the hotel experience.

Good hotels avoid being the white noise that bombards online customers. The boring blanket marketing of yesteryear, when it was deemed ok to place an ad once a month in the holiday supplement of a Sunday newspaper, is no clever use of the promotional budget today. 

Public Hotel in Chicago ran a name-based-promotion on August 11, with a comedian and film crew scouring the city for couples engaging in public displays of affection. Those filmed smooching received a gift certificate for the hotel. The stunt was promoted across the city on blogs and websites, and tweeted about concurrently on the day. The hotel is aimed at a younger clientele and, arguably, isn’t the most romantic hotel in Chicago. Either way, this is an innovative method of getting the city to rethink its preconceptions about the hotel.

Hotels also need to get smart with SEO, objective marketing and exploring the best distribution channels for their product or risk losing business. Be where the target customers are and be available in their preferred format, be it iPad, PC or Mobile. Hotels.com recently promoted Xtreme Booking 2, using famous stuntman Andy Bell to demonstrate how easy their mobile booking app is to navigate… by filming him making a booking, on his mobile, whilst taking part in the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.

Newer social media sites like Pinterest and Tumblr allow people to share their favourite things on the internet. The JustLuxe Hotel Collection are utilising this trend with a new strategy called “aesthetic distribution”. Their 1,700 partners provide the JustLuxe website with the most inspiring and beautiful images of their hotels, which are actively encouraged to be shared through Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter. In an age where copyright on images are sacrosanct, this is a forward thinking way of increasing online visibility without invasive advertising pop-ups. Wish you were here?

Dan Hagan specialises in brand management and social media strategy at a major hotel chain.

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