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InterContinental Makes Customers a Priority - Worldwide

1 Jan, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response


Overcoming Obstacles


One of the challenges Bott has faced with marketing IHG is the large amount of noise in the marketplace. "We're trying to keep up and exceed," he says. "That's why we're tapping into the innovative — tapping into real-time — and asking people's consumption habits. It used to be that we would just use push communications, but now it's push and pull. Everything is crafted to put the customer more in control."

Although IHG's customers skew predominantly older, Bott knows that as the younger generation grows up, the company will have to do a better job of appealing to all age brackets to widen its customer base. Often this means embracing early adoption technology and diversifying into multiple channels that complement one another. "The burden will be on us, the marketers, because customers will want to be marketed to. Those companies that are receptive and can respond will be successful," says Bott.

As for setbacks, Bott says concerns can arise when the brand relies too much on technology. "You can come up with a way to test 32 segments within an E-mail campaign and if someone doesn't go through and see if it's rendering, it can jeopardize the privacy policy," he says.

IHG has had a few technical glitches that sent the wrong offers to the wrong people. The company will send out 200 million customer communications this year. Bott warns, "The devil is in the details when you have a volume like IHG."

Another challenge is provided by emerging markets around the world and IHG's ability to correctly send out mailings to these customers. The last thing IHG wants is to send a mailing to a foreign country and then get 5,000 pieces returned because they were not marked or addressed correctly. "It is emerging markets that don't have rules clearly defined yet," says Bott. "My advice to everyone is continue to test and learn, while trying to mitigate liability associated with those markets."

Bott considers his most successful campaign with IHG to be the start of the customer segmentation strategy in 2005. "We started utilizing customer personas to decide what kind of creative we would use, and how we would position the offer," he says.

For example, IHG's Points Enthusiasts is a group the marketing team sends offers to that center around a sense of urgency to the offer because this appeals to the group. Other groups include Globe Trotters and Weekend Leisure travelers — all are sent marketing messaging based on their needs. "Since implementing this program, it has given us a 10-percent incremental lift, on average, from the same mailings we were doing before," Bott adds. "Ten percent of 200 million communications — the results start to add up."

What are some of IHG's most interesting or "cool" campaigns, according to Bott? "Utilizing the community platforms and interactive media are my personal favorites," he says. "With online forums and communities, I can talk to [customers] on a daily basis, then turn around and use that information the next day."

Bott's also proud of the success of IHG's interactive videos, which have earned plenty of buzz. "With pictures and sound you can really put a holistic framework around what you're conveying as a value proposition and it can be in a fun, tongue-and-cheek fashion," says Bott.

He's especially proud of the Points Cloner video, part of the Priority Club Rewards E-magazine, which garnered the highest response rate from customers of any video that IHG has run in the past 18 months. Bott contends, "It makes me feel like I'm telling them exactly what I want them to get out of my message."

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