InterContinental Makes Customers a Priority - Worldwide1 Jan, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
"The challenge with any loyalty program is marketing the intangible," says Ken Bott, Atlanta-based director of global consumer marketing and CRM at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). "The difference with IHG is that once you tap into the emotion of the travel industry, you can really come up with appealing and convincing ways to communicate offers."
Director of Global Consumer Marketing and CRM Ken Bott has helped the hotel brand to grow its loyalty member base through targeted, inventive and region-specific DR campaigns.
IHG's travel and hospitality brand is well-known by consumers, who book more than 160 million hotel stays a year at the company's properties. The United Kingdom-based company was founded in 1947 as the InterContinental Hotels Corp., and in 1988 made its first significant move into the international hotel industry by buying Holiday Inns Intl.
Today, IHG includes seven hotel brands: InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. Bott is in charge of customer communication plans and lifecycle marketing that touch customers in all regions where the brand exists — 4,000 properties in 100 countries. This includes creating large-scale ad campaigns from IHG's corporate side and working with regional members of the marketing team to create local campaigns.
IHG's global consumer marketing team is, from left to right, in the back row: Ryan Sagan, Cassandra Jeyaram, Ken Bott, Erin Hake, Joseph Wanandi; front row: Jennifer Crews, Sarah LaCourse, Laura Ellis, Jai Williams. Not pictured are Kevin Hickey and Tammy Gingrich.
From Domestic to International
Bott is no stranger to customer loyalty programs and has worked in the travel and hospitality industries since the mid-1980s. Before he joined the IHG team four-and-a-half years ago, Bott worked for both U.S. Airways and Continental Airlines on their customer loyalty programs. Bott admits that he is savvy enough to realize that some airline and IHG loyalty members travel more than him, and so they are valuable when it comes to creating marketing.
"We have a variety of ways we talk with our customers. Some get E-mails, videos, postcards, text messaging — it's based on how they consume media," he says.
Coming from the airlines, Bott had to transition from working at companies focused domestically to one with a global outlook. In other words, much of IHG's customer base lives in other countries, while with the airlines, consumers were more often Americans leaving the United States on travel.
IHG looks to its travel savvy online social community members to create incentives for other Priority Club members.
"This was a great step forward for me in learning the nuances and accelerating my marketing skills," says Bott. He had to learn privacy laws, mailing hurdles and standards, and other rulings that make marketing in other regions of the world unique. "For example, we figured out that when it comes to getting mail to the Middle East, it's easier to send our files to the Middle East for them to print and mail because of taxes, duties and the amount of time it takes for those things to transit through the system."
Bott points out that having addresses and mailings done correctly is vital to his work, as database health is his and IHG's livelihood. He could not be successful without the help of regional employees with local knowledge. He credits his marketing team, partnerships with local agencies and relationships with international mail shops.