HSMAI SPECIAL REPORT: Innovation in Hospitality Advertising, Digital Marketing, and Public Relations

Every year, HSMAI’s Adrian Awards competition honors hospitality brands and agencies for creative excellence in advertising, digital marketing, and public relations. A relatively new addition to our program is the Innovation category, which spotlights work in all three areas that is doing something new, different, or both.

In this HSMAI Special Report — made possible with the support of HSMAI’s Organizational Member companies — you’ll find short profiles of Gold winners for Innovation from the 2019 Adrian Awards. Our hope is that they’ll inspire you not just with their imaginativeness and originality but with their frequently modest size and scope. You’ll see that innovation can happen at any level and any price, and often blurs the lines between traditional advertising, marketing, and PR.

Congratulations to all of our 2019 Adrian Award winners! It’s thanks to you that we keep finding new ways to tell the story of hospitality.

HSMAI Special Report_2019 Adrian Awards Innovation

Custom GIFs and Other Secrets of Hospitality Marketing Innovation

Custom GIFs and Other Secrets of Hospitality Marketing Innovation

Hospitality marketing has always been a fast-moving game. To help the industry stay ahead of the curve, HSMAI created an Innovation category in its Adrian Awards program, which honors creativity in hotel advertising, digital marketing, and public relations. A new HSMAI Special Report profiles this year’s Gold winners in this category, offering insights and best practices for hospitality marketing professionals at every level. Here are three — one each for advertising, digital marketing, and PR:

ADVERTISING: Pushing out a survey.

Partnering with AFAR travel media platform, the Aruba Tourism Authority surveyed visitors on what makes them happy — so it could make them happier and increase visitation, particularly among an affluent base in key U.S. markets. The Travel Happiness Survey launched with newsletters, emails, social media, and website takeovers. More than 15,000 people took the survey, the results of which were revealed on Afar.com and in AFAR magazine’s 10th-anniversary “Happiness Issue,” with an Aruba sponsorship print ad introducing the results spread.

The project exceeded benchmarks in many categories, including 30,000 page views, 15,000 entries, and five minutes or more spent on the survey page. Email blasts were 69 percent higher than the AFAR benchmark, while newsletters were 99 percent higher. A total of 12,000 emails were added to the Aruba database, and Aruba has used the survey results to better target visitors — and as a result, U.S. visitation is up by 9 to 10 percent in 2019, RevPAR is up 7.8 percent, and on-island spend is up 5 to 6 percent.

DIGITAL MARKETING: Having fun with social media.

In 2018, W Hotels partnered with GIPHY to create W-themed GIFs, reaction GIFs, and GIF stickers. Building off that work, in 2019, W and GIPHY created GIFs to drive awareness for Wake Up Call (WUC), a W Hotels music festival, and distributed them via GIPHY Search Keywords, Search Categories, and Trending Rotational placement — capitalizing on search terms related to “wakeup calls,” music, and key emotions related to WUC, namely excitement. W and GIPHY also engaged VIP festivalgoers by allowing them to produce their own personalized GIFs and GIF stickers at WUC.

W’s 133 GIFs have amassed 1.5 billion organic views across GIPHY and its API partners, including Instagram, Snapchat, FB Messenger, and iMessage. The campaign’s paid media component generated 27.3 million views of WUC-related GIFs and drove a 3.5-percent engagement rate on GIPHY Search (compared to W’s 1.89-percent benchmark), and a Nielsen Brand Lift Study showed lifts across all attributes.

PUBLIC RELATIONS: Making beautiful music.

Travel Michigan created Pure Sounds of Michigan, an ambient album, to showcase the sounds of Michigan through its state parks and inspire travel to these locations by highlighting diverse elements of the Wolverine State, including local artists. Produced with Assemble Sound, a Detroit-based media company, Pure Sounds of Michigan spawned three singles that were promoted via outlets including Billboard magazine and the website Stereogum, with paid audio ads on streaming platforms used to drive traffic to michigan.org.

After debuting at number nine on Billboard’s New Age chart, Pure Sounds of Michigan has been streamed/downloaded more than 88,000 times on Spotify and Soundcloud, while paid campaigns on Soundcloud, Pandora, and Spotify delivered more than 3 million impressions. More than 190 media placements led to an additional 10 million impressions, with social media posts producing another 4 million.

Download Innovation in Hospitality Advertising, Digital Marketing, and Public Relations, an HSMAI Special Report, here.

What’s Different About Revenue Management in Franchised Hotels?

The Lightning Round is a signature program at HSMAI’s ROC event — giving six revenue optimization leaders just six minutes and 40 seconds each to share a best practice, strategic insight, or big idea. At ROC 2019, Sharon Paine, vice president of revenue management for IHG, used her Lightning Round to ask and answer the question “What’s Different About Revenue Management in Franchised Hotels?”

KEY TAKEAWAY: One of the biggest challenges in working with franchises, according to Paine, is the many differences between individual hotels, from upscale to midsize, cities to small towns and suburbs. Because some properties rely on transient guests and last-minute bookings more than others, it can be difficult to forecast, which makes it even more important to get pricing right every single day. That means that revenue optimization professionals have to be resourceful, resilient and flexible. They also need great communication skills, and must be able to build good relationships with their different hotels. And finally, Paine said, they must deliver measurable and sustainable results that the owner can see in order to justify the cost of their job.

The Next Big Things in Hospitality Advertising, Digital Marketing, and Public Relations

The great thing about HSMAI’s Adrian Awards competition is that it operates on two different levels — both equally valuable. On one level, it honors individual hospitality companies, brands, creative agencies, and marketing and communications professionals for their work in designing and implementing innovative advertising, digital marketing, and public relations campaigns.

But on another level, the Adrian Awards offer something for the entire industry: inspiration. Every year, the program spotlights new trends in advertising, digital marketing, and PR that should be on the radar of every hospitality professional — along with best practices for leveraging those trends.

What are some of the trends illuminated by this year’s Adrians program? We asked the group of industry thought leaders who gathered at the New York Marriott Marquis earlier this month for Platinum Judging to share some of the big ideas and bold innovations that jumped out at them. Here’s what they had to say:

ADVERTISING

  1. Emotionally resonant imagery: “One of the common themes in many of the entries that were most striking for us was the emotional connection with the imagery itself — compelling pictures that brought the viewer to that destination in a meaningful and emotional way. In a category where we saw a whole host of entries, from paper brochures to 90-second TV spots, those that rose to the top were those that had the most compelling imagery that really created that connection.”
  2. Active engagement: “Another common thread that bound a lot of these campaigns together is the engagement aspect of them. They invited you to do something, to somehow interact with them, whereas for decades advertising was passively consumed. It was information bombardment. But today, all of these campaigns are stitched together through this common understanding that we want you to smile, we want you to raise your hand, we want you to write a story, we want you to bid some of your loyalty points. We want you to be involved and interacting and engaging with us.”
  3. Niche exclusivity: “The idea of, we’re not for everyone. I think that is also probably tied to the overtourism stuff that’s happening around the world. We see a lot of filters being put on work — like, ‘Sign this pledge if you want to come to our destination that says you will not do anything that will harm the environment.’ These types of things where the destinations and some of the properties are saying, ‘Here’s how we see the world. If you’re good with that, come. If not, I’m sure there’s something else for you.’”

DIGITAL MARKETING

  1. Social purpose: “We saw a number of instances of sustainability, diversity and inclusion, references to overcrowding, and a willingness to address issues head-on rather than sweep them under the rug. There are a number of things that are impacting travel today — whether it’s sustainability, political issues, environmental issues — and the ones that really stood out were the ones that actually addressed those, that actually spoke to the fact that, ‘Yes, we recognize that this is a reality and we’re prepared to talk about it, we’re prepared to have a point of view on it, we’re prepared to comment on it. We’re not running away from it. We are acknowledging that these things exist, and also, how do we make sure you have a great experience when you’re traveling given those realities?’”
  2. Expansive storytelling: “Placing travel within the context of the wider world. You can do that long-form or short-form. High-quality communications, high-quality storytelling, was really a theme here.”
  3. Greater expectations: “I don’t think we’ve seen as much innovation in the last year or two as we had seen in the prior years. Digital is maturing. Four, five years ago you could stand out with a cool execution or a cool technique that people had not seen before, even if your story was kind of flat. Now, all of the channels are getting more mature, all of the tools are getting more mature, and it’s harder to stand out that way, so you better have a good story to tell or else you’re going to get lost in the shuffle.”

PUBLIC RELATIONS

  1. Resilience and recovery: “We had quite a few entries that focused on recovery and rebuilding a destination, because there have been so many impactful natural disasters that have taken place over the past year or so. A lot of those stood out to us because of how the agency or the client handled it in a really smart way.”
  2. Variety of formats: “We’re seeing a lot of innovation in terms of how the message is being disseminated, whether it be through influencers, through digital, through audio — things that we hadn’t really looked at before. Not so many print features — it was much more dynamic.”
  3. Comprehensive ROI: “What we did not see as much are the estimated advertising values, which shows that public relations is looking at measurement in a much more comprehensive way and is understanding that ad values and PR are two different animals. There’s more and more education of the industry that that’s not really a valid analytic anymore.”

HSMAI’s 2019 Adrian Awards will be presented at the Adrian Awards Dinner Reception and Gala at the New York Marriott Marquis on Jan. 21. For additional information, visit here.

 

Sales Incentive Plan Metrics

Excerpted from HSMAI Special Report: Hotel Management Company Sales Incentive Plans, released by HSMAI and ZS to discover key findings in incentive compensation structure, metrics, revenue, goal attainment, and more. The report, which is made possible with the support of HSMAI Organizational Member companies, is designed to help hospitality leaders make informed decisions to maximize the design and success of incentive plans.

Access the Report

Advertising Best Practice — Following the ‘Golden Rule’

HSMAI’s 2019 Adrian Awards competition will honor creativity and innovation in hospitality advertising, digital marketing, and public relations at the Awards Gala January 21, 2020 at the New York Marriott Marquis. Until this year’s winners are unveiled, take some inspiration from one of last year’s Platinum winners: Marriott, whose “Golden Rule Campaign” was honored in the Advertising/Advertising Campaign/Complete Campaign-Consumer/Group Sales/Travel Trade category. (View all of last year’s Adrian-winning submissions here.)

BACKGROUND: Marriott recently doubled its portfolio size to include more than 30 brands. Throughout the expansion, Marriott has retained its core values — putting people first, pursuing excellence, embracing change, acting with integrity, and serving the world. In 2017, Marriott tested a new marketing approach that grouped the Courtyard, Fairfield, Four Points, and SpringHill Suites brands together to create a category offering within the portfolios. The goal was to market a single message across each of the four brands in the category, but the challenge was finding commonalities across four distinct brands.

RESEARCH: Marriott found inspiration in real letters that guests sent to hotel managers over the years that supported the idea of treating others with kindness. Researchers focused on the idea that Marriott was built on the foundation of taking care of people. As they researched how consumers would respond to this philosophy, they noticed that social media, technology, and the political climate were driving incivility in the world. Marriott decided it was the perfect time to present a message of kindness to the world and developed the #goldenrule campaign based on the impact of hotels delivering kindness, producing content inspired by real stories of hotel associates helping guests in ordinary and extraordinary ways.

THE CAMPAIGN: At Courtyard, Fairfield, Four Points, and SpringHill Suites, employees live by the Golden Rule of treating others the way they want to be treated. The message celebrates moments of kindness in the hotels, recognizes good deeds in the world, and serves as a reminder of the commitment these brands have to guests, allowing them to stand apart from other brands. The message stands to inspire, uplift, and connect people together.

By combining the marketing funds for the four bands, Marriott was able to reach a larger target audience, exceed what the individual brands could achieve on their own, and reinforce their affiliation with the Marriott portfolio to guests who would be receptive to learning about the different brands. The target audience was frequent business travelers who travel a minimum of three times annually, are married Millennials or Gen Xers, are tech savvy, and enjoy reading news online, watching sports, and staying up to date on the business world. They are people who want to have a productive trip and see travel as an opportunity for “me time.” These travelers seek hotels in the select service category, likely do not require full-service amenities, but expect and appreciate a warm experience with friendly service.

RESULTS: Ads during the campaign scored between 70 percent and 82 percent recall, a growth of 29 points compared to campaign pre-read. The campaign launched nationally across mass media channels, exceeding 1.27 billion impressions within the first six months. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said the campaign has a positive impact. The campaign also scored above average for appeal, uniqueness, and relevance, far exceeding the industry benchmarks in all categories — 91 percent for appeal (74 percent benchmark), 95 percent for uniqueness (75 percent benchmark), and 89 percent for relevance (69 percent benchmark). It also exceeded digital benchmarks, including 84 percent for video (74 percent benchmark) and .38 percent for display (.15 percent benchmark).

Digital Marketing Best Practice — ‘IcebergFinder.com Campaign’

HSMAI’s 2019 Adrian Awards competition will honor creativity and innovation in hospitality advertising, digital marketing, and public relations at the Awards Gala January 21, 2020 at the New York Marriott Marquis. Until this year’s winners are unveiled, take some inspiration from one of last year’s Platinum winners: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, whose “IcebergFinder.com Campaign” was honored in the Digital Marketing/Digital Campaign/Integrated Market Campaign for Consumers category. (View all of last year’s Adrian-winning submissions here.)

BACKGROUND: At the eastern-most edge of North America, there is a small area just off the Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) coast known as Iceberg Alley, where giant icebergs come down the shore every spring. Thousands of tourists come to visit each year, but with more than 18,000 miles of shoreline to explore, they need to know where to go. To help visitors find the icebergs in real time, NL Tourism created a responsive and fully interactive version of IcebergFinder.com.

RESEARCH: While the website already existed, NL Tourism improved its functionality, which increased the ability of travelers to witness the spectacle firsthand. The digital marketing campaign was designed to increase awareness of the website, encourage travelers to engage with the brand by sharing iceberg images, plotting view locations, and exploring the site, and make it easier for travelers to find out more about tourism operators located near the icebergs.

To draw in travelers in search of authentic experiences instead of just tourists, the campaign focused on attracting nonresidents of Canada over the age of 45, singles and couples with no children living at home, those with an above-average household income, and those who were university educated. The majority were in Ontario and considering travel to NL.

THE CAMPAIGN: Travelers, locals, and tourism operators take and upload photos of icebergs to IcebergFinder.com, and the location is plotted on a map in real time, highlighting prime-viewing locations. Visitors can browse photo galleries on the site and connect with nearby provincial tourism operators. Through the marketing campaign, paid display ads drove relevant traffic to the page, while social media highlighted assets from influencers to increase awareness. Weekly alerts were sent out through eNewsletters, promoting the number of icebergs each week.

RESULTS: Social media and eNewsletters increased awareness of the site and its enhanced functionality. More than 33,000 people engaged with Facebook posts during the campaign, and the eNewsletters boasted an open rate of 37 percent — far exceeding the tourism industry benchmark of 15.5 percent. More than 466,000 people interacted with the site, uploading 400 images during the campaign. In just two months, 45,000 people viewed the photo gallery, with an engagement rate of 732 percent. Meanwhile, provincial tourism operators received 5,000 referrals through the site.

Digital Marketing Best Practice — ‘IcebergFinder.com Campaign’

HSMAI’s 2019 Adrian Awards competition will honor creativity and innovation in hospitality advertising, digital marketing, and public relations at the Awards Gala January 21, 2020 at the New York Marriott Marquis. Until this year’s winners are unveiled, take some inspiration from one of last year’s Platinum winners: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, whose “IcebergFinder.com Campaign” was honored in the Digital Marketing/Digital Campaign/Integrated Market Campaign for Consumers category. (View all of last year’s Adrian-winning submissions here.)

BACKGROUND: At the eastern-most edge of North America, there is a small area just off the Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) coast known as Iceberg Alley, where giant icebergs come down the shore every spring. Thousands of tourists come to visit each year, but with more than 18,000 miles of shoreline to explore, they need to know where to go. To help visitors find the icebergs in real time, NL Tourism created a responsive and fully interactive version of IcebergFinder.com.

RESEARCH: While the website already existed, NL Tourism improved its functionality, which increased the ability of travelers to witness the spectacle firsthand. The digital marketing campaign was designed to increase awareness of the website, encourage travelers to engage with the brand by sharing iceberg images, plotting view locations, and exploring the site, and make it easier for travelers to find out more about tourism operators located near the icebergs.

To draw in travelers in search of authentic experiences instead of just tourists, the campaign focused on attracting nonresidents of Canada over the age of 45, singles and couples with no children living at home, those with an above-average household income, and those who were university educated. The majority were in Ontario and considering travel to NL.

THE CAMPAIGN: Travelers, locals, and tourism operators take and upload photos of icebergs to IcebergFinder.com, and the location is plotted on a map in real time, highlighting prime-viewing locations. Visitors can browse photo galleries on the site and connect with nearby provincial tourism operators. Through the marketing campaign, paid display ads drove relevant traffic to the page, while social media highlighted assets from influencers to increase awareness. Weekly alerts were sent out through eNewsletters, promoting the number of icebergs each week.

RESULTS: Social media and eNewsletters increased awareness of the site and its enhanced functionality. More than 33,000 people engaged with Facebook posts during the campaign, and the eNewsletters boasted an open rate of 37 percent — far exceeding the tourism industry benchmark of 15.5 percent. More than 466,000 people interacted with the site, uploading 400 images during the campaign. In just two months, 45,000 people viewed the photo gallery, with an engagement rate of 732 percent. Meanwhile, provincial tourism operators received 5,000 referrals through the site.

PR Best Practice — ‘Urban Glamping at the Beverly Wilshire’

HSMAI’s 2019 Adrian Awards competition will honor creativity and innovation in hospitality advertising, digital marketing, and public relations at the Awards Gala January 21, 2020 at the New York Marriott Marquis. Until this year’s winners are unveiled, take some inspiration from one of last year’s Platinum winners: C&R, whose “Urban Glamping at the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel” was honored in the Public Relations/PR Campaign/Experiential category. (View all of last year’s Adrian-winning submissions here.)

BACKGROUND: The Four Seasons tasked C&R with creating an out-of-the-box experience to bring light to the 90-year-old Beverly Wilshire in the heart of Beverly Hills. What was created was an urban glamping experience, the first of its kind available in Los Angeles. Prior to the activation of the urban glamping experience, the property’s Veranda Suite was a relatively unused space, despite previously being owned by actor Warren Beatty for more than 10 years.

THE CAMPAIGN: Guests are treated to a deluxe experience in the Veranda Suite, the only one on the property to reside on its own floor, and accessible by a wrought-iron and marble staircase. The unique studio-style suite features a 2,140-square-foot terrace with 270-degree views of the Hollywood Hills and Rodeo Drive.

As part of the campaign, the property’s Beverly Wilshire’s PR director set up a glamping tent and brought in items from Restoration Hardware and World Market to create a luxurious experience, complete with gold-coated s’mores. The package was targeted to specific groups, including national and international hotel guests, local staycation guests, and MICE groups. The goals were to garner fresh/young brand awareness and drive revenue. This was the first time the Beverly Wilshire hired an outside PR agency, and it strengthened C&R’s relationship with Four Seasons, securing the agency extra business from Four Seasons’ existing properties and new openings.

RESULTS: The Urban Glamping Suite originally was only supposed to be available for a quarter, but due to the success of the package, the experience has been expanded indefinitely. The hotel has made more than $215,000 in room revenue alone and an additional $20,000 in food-and-beverage revenue. The experience was covered on Forbes.com and in Food & Wine, and broadcast via AP News, which was picked up by more than 250 networks worldwide. Additional media placements include The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, and Architectural Digest. All together the total media impressions exceeded 200 million.

Advertising Best Practice — ‘Sterling K. Brown Advertising Series’

HSMAI’s 2019 Adrian Awards competition is now closed, and our judging process is getting underway — honoring creativity and innovation in hospitality advertising, digital marketing, and public relations. Meanwhile, take some inspiration from one of last year’s Platinum winners: Explore St. Louis, whose “Sterling K. Brown Advertising Series” was honored in the Advertising/Advertising Series/Television – Consumer category. (View all of last year’s Adrian-winning submissions here.)

BACKGROUND: Despite recent tourism development, urban inversion, a heavy tech scene, and world-class cultural assets, St. Louis has struggled with a negative or indifferent national perception. Qualitative research showed that perceptions among all demographics were neutral about the city, that many respondents were unaware of the off-the-beaten path experiences in the area, and that there was an opportunity to appeal to young travelers seeking authentic experiences instead of focusing on attracting families. It also indicated that St. Louis was often perceived as a “been there, done that” destination, with few return visitors and lack of interest among younger twentysomethings. Emmy Award–winning actor Sterling K. Brown of This Is Us helped showcase the vibrant and authentic experiences St. Louis has to offer, enhancing St. Louis’ image amongst all demographics while driving return visitation.


THE CAMPAIGN:
A native St. Louisan, Brown was a perfect fit for promoting the city in an honest and authentic way. The core message of Explore St. Louis’ “In the Know” ad campaign was that visitors are missing out when they don’t explore the lesser-known parts of St. Louis. It aimed to promote cool, authentic experiences such as neighborhoods, festivals, microbreweries, and live music. Brown offered the credibility only a native of the city can offer, elevated by his celebrity status.

RESULTS: More than 232,000 visitors checked out the campaign landing page, with an average view time of three minutes and 49 seconds. The campaign generated more than 4.5 million social-media impressions and 140,000 YouTube views, and increased overall website traffic by 16.4 percent, with an 18.5-percent jump in unique visitors, compared with the campaign period of the previous year.