At W Hotels, Distribution Is Secondary To Quality Content

BaronVonFancyWIf the content is good, the distribution – paid, earned or otherwise – nearly takes care of itself, said Anthony Ingham, global brand leader at W Hotels & Resorts.

“We’ve steered away from peppering tactical ads in mass numbers across multiple channels,” Ingham said. “We start with the premise of trying to create the best content, and then we think about which channels will enable us to maximize the reach of that content.”

It’s a content-driven strategy that informs how the millennial-focused luxury hotel chain selects its platform partners.

“We’re starting to invest far more in partnerships that also help us actually create content,” Ingham said.

For instance, W Hotels first hooked up with Snapchat in October for a sponsored geofilter campaign that allowed users to overlay phrases like “Wish you were here” and “Current Situation” on top of images taken at W properties. According to Ingham, Snapchat told W that it was one of the most successful geofilter campaigns on the platform to date.

More recently, in early June, W launched a second Snapchat initiative, this one timed to mark the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, a continuation of W’s previous work with the Human Rights Campaign around LGBT rights.

W enlisted NYC-based multimedia artist Baron Von Fancy to create three pieces of original pop art that the hotel chain turned into geofilters on Snapchat. Using the filter near or in a W Hotel triggered a $1 donation to the HRC throughout the month of June.

But that doesn’t mean W has eschewed traditional paid media altogether.

“We do put media dollars behind batches of content through Facebook and Instagram or digital buys on networks of different sites,” Ingham said. “But we begin with the quality of the content first.”

W Hotels is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide with 49 hotels in more than 20 countries. W expects to open its 50th property in Goa, India, in September.

AdExchanger caught up with Ingham.

AdExchanger: How would you describe W’s brand ethos and your overall approach to advertising?

AnthonyInghamWHotelsANTHONY INGHAM: We like to talk about W as being a design-led lifestyle hotel, and that makes us quite different from our competitors, which are either smaller groups of independent boutique hotels that are quite localized in one market, or the more traditional luxury hotels, which are global but don’t have the same perspective as we so in terms of our programming and point of view.

The fact that we’re so different is great for us from a marketing perspective. Our goal is to push the boundaries of hospitality and develop lifestyle partnerships that lead to rich in-hotel experiences.

The mega-trend of millennial behavior has been a tailwind for us because of the emphasis we put on experience and authenticity. We also look to be quite provocative in both our design and our messaging.

How do you think about content creation?

We’re an experience-driven brand and we’ve been making a conscious move over the last several years to create experiential content. Our properties are highly photogenic and they lend themselves to the creation of interesting and visually attractive content. Unlike a lot of other modern consumer brands, we find ourselves with a surplus of good content.

What about paid distribution?

Our media agency [Razorfish] manages all of our media buys. They’re very strategic in figuring out our network buys across sites that align with the lifestyles and passions of our guests. There could be 200 or 300 sites in one network, and it’s being tweaked at least weekly depending on engagement.

In the so-called old world, we used to measure by click-through rate and click-to-book sites, but now we have a broader set of measures. Clearly anything that generates revenue is good, but we also look at things that indicate engagement, like how much time someone spends with a video – metrics that guide the way to help us channel funds to particular segments.

How does W approach data collection?

A lot of the data collection we do is around guest behavior on property to help us define the experience in our hotels, and we have a big global database that tracks guests to improve their experience for each stay.

Digital behavior tracking is separate from that. We of course track online behavior based on how consumers interact with our ads to build profiles and develop target audiences for W. We have about 20 million members of SPG [the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program] and we know quite a lot about them, both on property based on their buying behavior and how they behave online.

How do you use that information?

In a traditional ad-serving model, you might serve the most ads to your highest-value guests, but we’re consciously serving far fewer ads to our loyalty card members, for example. We’ve started to strategically adjust how we serve to all of our various segments based on their behavior.

Who is your core target?

Our core target audience is between about 28 and 40 and generally highly educated. They’re professional business people often working for big consulting firms and financial services companies like Deloitte, Accenture and Citibank. But our fastest growing segment of corporate travelers come from Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple.

They have high travel pattern jobs and although they might be on a corporate career path and spend more than 100 nights in hotels a year, they’re true millennials in the way that they think. When they travel they want a local experience and they don’t want to feel like they’re sacrificing life for work. That’s who we appeal to.

What is W up to on the mobile front?

We recently launched [a mobile-first lifestyle magazine called] The Angle, which is a platform for centralizing our content. It sits alongside our booking agent and information site.

We also invested quite a lot this year to update the W mobile app, which is essentially a music app. Rather than creating an app that helps people book rooms like other hotels do, ours is mixture of a news feed that links to stories on The Angle and streaming playlists curated by the music directors and DJs we work with at our hotels. It’s a free app and, unlike Spotify, it’s truly global. You can use it anywhere in the world.

 

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