Using Data to Build and Strengthen Community Connections

  |  January 5, 2012   |  Comments

How one brand proved that transparency and data can be a catalyst for deeper and more relevant conversations and experiences.

While data and collaborative filtering have been used successfully by brands for years to sell more products based on those who have made similar purchases, rarely have brands used data to showcase the interests of a community to build or strengthen a connection. Starwood Preferred Guests' (SPG) recent email "SPG and you…a year in review" is a great example of how things are changing and how transparency and data can be a catalyst for deeper and more relevant conversations and experiences.

At first glance it looked like so many typically emails received around the holidays from brands - a thank you to members for their loyalty throughout the year. But SPG's communication stood out once opened by providing an insider glimpse into the community's activities in the form of an infographic. The email included a graphical representation of member/community activity including:

  • SPG members at a glance in 2011 including those members who, by the looks of the numbers, are most certainly badge worthy:
    • The most countries visited - 22
    • The most SPG hotels visited by a member - 75
    • The most SPG points redeemed - 10,862
    • The most points earned - 19,670,583
    • Charitable contributions made by the members - 75 percent of members who donated Starpoints choosing the Red Cross followed by UNICEF with 25 percent
  • Highlights of SPG member experiences across the globe including top Foursquare check-in locations, top free-getaway, and top member card destinations in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and Australia.
  • Highlights from SPG's unique experiences including reward experiences redeemed by members - concerts, sports and events, and the most Starpoints redeemed for a music moment - 100,510, which included a meet-and-greet with Katy Perry.
  • Facebook highlights including the top discussions with the 62,000 who "liked" SPG.

By sharing its knowledge of the community and highlighting member benefits, charitable contributions, and activity highlights, SPG shared the knowledge it had about its community, normally reserved for internal constituents, externally with the members themselves. In doing so, SPG is raising the bar for all brands by showing how using data in a transparent way can motivate and inspire the community as well as strengthen the connection a brand can have with its members. However, the real test will be to watch where SPG will go from here. How will it evolve its communications, community efforts, and experiences in the years ahead? It seems to me the natural progression from here will be to build upon the efforts by dialing up member recognition and implementing badges for key activities to recognize its most active members. This of course will also serve to inspire and perhaps motivate others to travel more - and hopefully to use an SPG property. Finally, I would expect to see more relevant communications aligned to the community's interests and better community integration within marketing programs/efforts to build and acquire new members more aggressively. A great way to end 2011 and begin the new year. Keep up the good work SPG.


                                        Click here to download a pdf of this infographic


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Michael Della Penna

Michael Della Penna is a seasoned marketing professional with a long, proven track record of launching successful marketing, branding, and sales strategies for leading public and private companies. Most recently, Michael was the senior vice president of Emerging Channels at Responsys. His responsibilities included spearheading the overall strategic direction, partnerships, and solution offering across key emerging channels including social, mobile, and display for the company. Prior to Responsys, Michael founded SuiteDialog and Conversa Marketing, a full-service email and social CRM agency that helped brands ignite conversations and cultivate relationships with customers across the social web. Conversa Marketing, was acquired by StrongMail Systems in 2010. Before branching out on his own, Michael served as chief marketing officer for Epsilon, a leading provider of multichannel, data-driven marketing services. Michael's other key marketing leadership roles include CMO at Bigfoot Interactive, vice president of strategic development at CNET Networks, Inc., and vice president of marketing at ZDNet. Michael received a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from Hofstra University.

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