How Hilton balances digital and ‘traditional’ marketing

Hilton brand logo

At ClickZ Live New York, we spoke with Hilton Worldwide’s Melissa Walner about the brand’s digital spend balance and the challenges of infrequent interaction.

When it comes to the increasingly merging online and offline worlds, it can be difficult for a brand to ascertain how to split its budget between the two.

Founded nearly a century ago, Hilton Hotels & Resorts has decades of marketing experience. Therefore, the company’s traditional-digital balance is around 80/20 or even 90/10.

“Experimenting is very important so you always want to have a piece of the budget dedicated to it, but for me, it’s going to be a smaller place,” says ClickZ Live New York veteran Melissa Walner, director of global SEO at Hilton Worldwide. “For [my spend] specifically, I try to focus on the tried and true, the things we know for a fact keep the engine running for us.”

Being a legacy brand, it’s also important for Hilton to remain consistent across its more than 500 properties. That sounds challenging, given the fact that the hotel is heavily franchised. However, Hilton brought all its ecommerce and digital efforts in-house four years ago, so the brand is better able to guide the ship from its Washington area headquarters.

Another challenge Hilton faces is the fact that, like Best Western, the brand doesn’t see its customers too often. You may buy coffee twice a day, but how often do you stay in a hotel?

Social media allows Hilton to remain engaged with hotel guests, whether or not they’re guests at the moment. Hilton Suggests, a social listening program, helps a lot, according to Walner.

“We’ll provide tips on what’s a family-friendly restaurant in Los Angeles or what’s the best neighborhood in Dallas if you’re single,” she says. “It’s a way to keep the brand in front of them. We’re a hospitality company; it shows we’re hospitable whether you’re staying with us or not.”

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