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In 2019, the use of influencers seems to have become an established marketing tool in many sectors. How about in the hotel business? Hospitality ON investigated practices at 3 different hotel groups, the American Marriott, the European ACCOR and the Chinese JinJiang, through its Radisson brand, to better understand the issues at hand.

In this article:

 

Intro: Vogue, Grazia, Margot, Clémence and the others... 

June 4, 2018. Deauville. Chanel organized a launch party for its three new 3 fragrances inspired by the travel world in the very city where designer Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in 1913. Among the guests were sector professionals, journalists, and also Belen, Margot and Clémence who are best known for their Instagram aliases  @belenhostalet, @youmakefashion et @clemence_allaire. Together the three of them had a total of 1.1 million followers on the favorite social network of 18-35 year olds. Each one has her own style and her own editorial line. Passionate about fashion, they claim their influencer status as a professional activity in and of its own. They invest time and money in it as would any service provider. The outcome is positive for Chanel upon return this trip for which travel from Paris was provided by the legendary Orient Express, several dozen very professional images generate very high audience and commitment scores.

Internet and millennials change the rules of the game 

For Chanel, as well as for other brands, working with influencers appears to be a necessity particularly when it comes to drawing the attention of the 18 - 35 year old age group. "Millennials", as they are called, because they grew up in the 2000s with the development of new uses for internet, are, in fact, extremely strategic for brands. Paradoxically, these newcomers on the work market already represent market shares that are to be won. Perceived as consumers and more attracted by new things than their predecessors at the same age, they invest in buying accommodations later and thus use their revenue for consumer goods. Their skills in using new communications tools also make them "opinion micro-leaders" or influencers of the next generations particularly with regard to new technologies. 

Access to information by millennials, and to a lesser extent by other generations, has changed considerably with the advent of internet and social media. According to the agency We are social, in 2017, the French spent more than 82 minutes daily on social networks. This time is time not spent in front of the television or listening to the radio. Moreover, advertising banners on the web are not highly appreciated and subject to competition from other advertisers. Instead, peer opinion is increasingly taken advantage of. In this regard, the hotel and travel sector was were avant-garde, being one of the first to be concerned with the success of TripAdvisor. In 2013, 9 out of 10 clients who reserved a hotel online studied reviews prior to booking. In 2019 this is no longer being measured as there is no doubt about it happening. Influencers also play a part in this tendency to place more and more trust in peers as a complement to advertising. One study by ObsConso published in 2018 thus revealed that 59% of 18 - 24 year olds dsicovered a product thanks to an influencer and 40% of 18 - 24 year olds trust influencers more than advertising

The Berry, a destination that has experimented with and validated the choice of influencers

Who would have said "I'm spending my holidays in the Berry this weekend" 10 years ago? No one, or not many, for the simple reason that before 2010, the Berry Province brand did not exist. That year, the tourist offices of the Cher and Indre departments decided to collaborate to revive this historical appellation, which still has a strong reputation and is marked by an entire rural imagination in the form of a destination brand. Such an innovative project draws others. In 2016, the staff of the 2 tourist offices offered to contact "Bestjobers", a couple of bloggers who were then very prominent in France, to organize a trip to the destination for them in exchange for an article about the Berry. This is the first time they had been contacted by a destination. Although they are not able to accurately measure the impact of this operation, tourist offices received very positive feedback and decided to bring back the couple of bloggers and to anchor this type of campaign over the long term. 

 

Since 2016, the use of bloggers has gone from occasional to being a regular marketing lever. Thus in 2018, fifteen influencers took to the streets of Bourges and Chateauroux and followed in the footsteps of Georges Sand.

Xavier Bachimont and Fanny Piederierre, who manage communications at the two offices, have learned to anticipate expectations, allow room for the creativity of their partners while writing precise guidelines regarding communications goals. According to Xavier Bachimont, the trend is therefore towards more targeting. In the first years, the choice of influencers was focused on travel influencers (WorldElse and Bruno Maltor and your World Tour, which are among the most popular in France with 41,000 and 183,000 followers respectively on Instagram as of the date of publication of this article). On the contrary, in 2018 and for the current year, the promotion agency targets more specialized communities and now works with influencers who do not present themselves as related to travel but rather to nature, lifestyle or culture.

ACCOR, the need to professionalize work through influencers 

Not all hotel professionals share marketers' enthusiasm for influencers. This is due to certain abuses, in particular excessive solicitations and indecent bargaining. The case of Dusit Thani speaks for itself. This 5* resort in the Maldives has made the number of requests by so-called "influencers" public: 6 requests per day and each time, one free night at the property was requested. Beyond these extreme cases, there are many more legitimate concerns and a need to formalize collaboration. 

Today, influence is not currently a profession, but it should be! ... and brands have a responsibility for this.

Tiphaine Hecketsweiler, Chief Communications Officer at Accor. 

ACCOR has taken the subject to heart to rationalize and make this new marketing lever more reliable. By publishing a collaboration charter in July 2018, with the participation of influencers, the hotel group is a pioneer across all sectors. This charter is only a working model but it makes it possible to lay the foundations for any relationship between advertisers/brands and influencers: 

  • the need for pertinence between a community and an editorial style on one hand and values and positioning on the other;
  • to formalize the relationship regarding the nature of the exchange (partnership involving hosting or remuneration), delay for publication...
Charte de collaboration entre ACCOR et les influenceurs
Collaboration charter presented by ACCOR in July 2018

These principles were expressed in Snap Eyes' campaign for the ibis family. Blogger and video artist Alex Vizeo, who regularly highlights urban destinations through authentic experiences and good tips, offered an immersive journey using Snapchat Spectacles eyewear in 3 European cities. This partnership was particularly coherent and in phase with the innovative identity and economic positioning of the ibis family. The process consisted of a takeover, a takeover of the brand's account. The videos published on the Snapchat account of the ibis family also offered followers the possibility to interact and ask the influencer to move to one place or another.  Alex Vizeo praises the freedom and resources at his disposal for this operation: "I really enjoyed working with ibis, because the brand understood everything about working with influencers (which is still rarely the case). After offering me this operation and sharing its objectives (to make the millennials talk about ibis), it gave me carte blanche!".

 

Outside the economy segment, the brand MGallery also regularly uses influencers. The approach is different because they are exclusive invitations to events that are published on social networks and blogs on the same principle as the example of Chanel in the introduction. The Sofitel and Pullman brands, which are more traditional in their positioning, are not yet promoting such collaborations. Is it a deliberate choice or a lack of opportunity? Could a more creative process in its execution be imagined for high-end brands or are these operations irrelevant to their brand image?

Marriott: a strategy with contents focused on video  

In In July 2014, the Marriott Group engaged David Beebe as Vice President Global Creative & Content Marketing. Through this recruitment, the American group sought to become an "inspirational" brand in tourism and travel in the same way as Red Bull in sports. For this former Disney ABC Television Group executive, the objective will now be to develop a content creation strategy by developing the future Marriott studio. This is a way to integrate influencers into in-house productions or even to create own influencers.

"With generation Y travelers, anything that resembles advertising makes them less likely to engage with a brand. On the other hand, content that adds value to their lives is something that encourages their commitment."

David Beebe, ex-VP Global Creative & Content Marketing

The creation of the Marriott studio goes beyond the mere question of influence marketing because it will also feed the Marriott TV channel available in hotels. However, the question remains central. David Beebe states as follows: "With generation Y travelers, anything that resembles advertising makes them less likely to engage with a brand. On the other hand, content that adds value to their lives is something that encourages their commitment. Many brands just recruit influencers through an agency and work only once with them. We actually want to build long-term relationships with our influencers and carry out many projects with them on multiple platforms. Five years later, there has been a significant evolution in content production with a range of web-series available on Youtube: :

  • "Inspiration from Marriott Hotels & TED", prospective contents concerning the world of travel 
  • #WhyIWander, immersive travel through virtual reality
  • short films: The Two Bellmen and French Kiss 

In 2017, however, David Beebe left Marriott. Since then, the ambitious content strategy pursued thus far seems to have come to a standstill. Did these internal productions offer insufficient returns on investment? Can internal production "replace" collaborations with influencers? While the American group launched its Marriott Bonvoy brand in January 2019 and now seems to allocate a significant share of its marketing budget to it (Manchester United sponsorship, for example), it will be interesting to see whether influence marketing is used in this context

Radisson is also interested in micro and nano-influencers on Instagram

It is possible to distinguish between 3 levels to qualify an influencer starting with how many subscribers they have on Instagram: 1 million, 10,000 and 1000. So, more than a million, we are talking about macro-influencers or "top-tail", then "mid-tail", and finally micro-influencers or "long-tail" for more than 1,000 followers. And most recently, it has even become possible to speak of "nano-influencers" for 1000 followers. Of course such quantitative benchmarks have no value when it comes to judging an influencer if you don't also simultaneously have the qualitative information concerning its editorial line, the targets and an idea of the profile of the community.

"Top-tail", "mid-tail", "long-tail", these expressions are borrowed from nature and originally apply to key words. Improving referencing with a "top-tail" keyword could be illustrated by seeking the best position in google results for the word hotel, for example. On the other hand, improving its referencing on a "long-tail" or long tail keyword in French, for example, would mean improving its position on a much more specific and less frequent search such as "hotel famille Toulon". And, indeed, the parallel is relevant. Because, as in the case of SEO, a brand can choose to work on the long tail, i.e. collaborate with influencers whose community is indeed smaller but also more specific. The principle being that the accumulation of collaborations with micro-influencers can be more fruitful than a single collaboration with a macro-influencer.

Radisson offers an illustration of possible collaborations with micro-influencers particularly on Instagram. The account @radissonblu is thus mostly fed by photos from influencers invited by the brand or by guests during a stay. In this regard, considerations regarding influence marketing also increasingly bears on the tools that can be implemented to motivate internauts to produce contents about a brand or a service.

 

Hôtels lifestyle and "instagrammability" 

Instagram with its 1 billion users worldwide appears to be the preferred social media of millennials, influencers and thus brands. The network is, par excellence, a network for the image, photo or vidéo with "stories", ephemeral mini-films inspired by the competitor Snapchat. A study carried out in Spring 2018 by Booking highlighted the fact that 32% of travelers adjusted their choice of accommodations according to its photogenic potential which, in this era of social media, has resulted in the neologism "instagrammability". 

At the heart of hotel, the new so-called "lifestyle" brands appear to have extended this customer demand and regard the need to optimise space and valorise design to improve the perception of clientele the way the new brand Tribe does e as a departure point.

Also read: Lifestyle brands, the seduction tactic of hotel groups #1 

Design lobby Nhow London
Interior of NHow London, expected to open summer 2019.

 

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