Hilton's new ad campaign rollout last year clearly opened the company's eyes to reaching younger generations to build its leisure business.
Hilton will enact phase two of its “Expect Better, Expect Hilton” marketing campaign beginning next week, with a greater emphasis on social media than its previous advertising blitz last fall.
The hospitality giant is keen on targeting millennials and Generation Z travelers where they consume most of their media. New creative materials, once again featuring actress Anna Kendrick, are set to appear on Instagram and Snapchat stories, along with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Hilton also said television, online, and social media ads will continue to educate travelers about the benefits of booking direct and joining the Hilton Honors loyalty program — including price match guarantees with additional discounts and digital key currently available at about 76 percent of Hilton’s properties. However, social platforms will also be used to highlight Hilton’s 17 brands, such as Canopy, which offers free bikes to guests and is one of Hilton’s more pet-friendly offerings.
“The format of the campaign resonates with younger generations because it is direct and straight talking,” Kellyn Smith Kenny, Hilton’s chief marketing officer since 2017, told Skift. “The efficacy of these new channels help us attract new people into our Hilton Honors portfolio, and are incredible storytelling channels for us.”
According to internal Hilton company data, adults aged 18 to 34 have shown greater interest in staying at Hilton properties since the chain launched its first celebrity campaign last September. This has resulted in more web traffic to Hilton’s homepage, higher direct booking rates, and a 20 percent rise in Hilton Honors loyalty members to more than 94 million year over year.
Hilton chose not to disclose costs associated with its new ad campaign, but the level of investment this go around is in line with what Hilton did last year and other enterprise campaigns run historically, Kenny said. Costs on social media also easily topped last year’s expense total, though the company did not provide any specifics.
Hilton additionally shied away from breaking the bank on rolling out new ads during a nationally televised event. Phase one of “Expect Better, Expect Hilton” debuted during the 2018 Ryder Cup, while Hilton’s “Stop Clicking Around” campaign, guaranteeing the lowest prices for guests on its reservation channels, first aired during the 2016 Grammy’s.
“We do not want this to feel like a big launch, but instead like the continuation of a story,” Kenny said.
Hilton’s Current Relationship With OTAs
Despite Hilton’s recent history of pushing customers to bypass online travel agents when booking a Hilton stay, the hotel chain insists its relationship with third parties has never been better.
“We recognize that we do a ton of business through online travel agencies,” said Kenny. “They help us fill hotel rooms, and help us see what kind of customers we can attract. The campaign is about having a true emotional connection with customers, direct one to one contact.”
Hilton has seen a significant uptick in new guests who have not previously stayed with the brand over the past year, it said. Interest from customers who would normally book stays through third-party travel companies, such as Expedia and Booking.com, has also increased 10 percent, according to the company.
“We want to make sure that customers who book through a third party will have the best experience with us,” said Kenny. “Now having said that, the experience is more elevated with us when booking direct because we get to know you. If we don’t know who you are, we can’t enable those capabilities [perks].”
One of Hilton’s new ad spots is featured below:
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Photo credit: A still from one of Hilton's new ad spots featuring actress Anna Kendrick. Hilton