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Holiday Inn's all-digital campaign reaches new, existing customers via mobile

Hospitality chain Holiday Inn has launched its first digitally led multimedia campaign that uses the power of brand advocacy by sharing its guests' unique narratives in a series of mobile-optimized Web documentaries.

Through the Journey to Extraordinary campaign, the hotel brand has partnered with organizations including Tumblr, International New York Times, Mashable, Nonfiction Unlimited and MBAs Across America to leverage their photographic and storytelling capabilities to capture the extraordinary journeys of the brand?s many guests. With digital media messages, brands can speak one on one to consumers and have more targeted and efficient conversation. Traditional media is expensive and conversely nonspecific. Digital marketing is a cost-effective way to reach consumers organically.

?You may have noticed that trade and consumer publications are getting lighter and lighter in terms of content, and some are moving away from print and going all digital,? said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners.

?People aren?t reading traditional print material anymore and in effect that channel of advertising is becoming ineffective from cost standpoint.?

?Eventually all print will go away,? he said.

Universal appeal
The first series highlight explores the story of Scott Rigsby, a double-amputee who was told by doctors at the age of eighteen that he would never run again. Not only did Scott prove the doctors wrong, he went on to become a marathoner, tri-athlete, world record holder, author and motivational speaker.

A Panama City Holiday Inn location played an important role in his story, keeping Scott from homelessness, and the 3:30 snippit focuses on his recovery while staying at the hotel and his friendship with franchise owner Julie Hilton.

A brand?s relationship between its image and value is being increasingly determined by brand advocates, which means that the future of a brand is subject to its community and perceived values.

Whereas companies once controlled who and what appeared in its advertisements, the rise of social media and user-generated content allows fans and followers to determine a brand?s image without consent. And when visitors engage on a social media page, they see followers that chose a brand and perhaps not the models or celebrities selected. Because of this people may associate social followers as a reflection of the values of said brand.

With this campaign Holiday Inn guides the values of its community by recognizing the importance of connections that it blends with marketing to sell services which appear as an organic conversation and makes the hotelier meaningful to its fans.

New content will be rolling out throughout summer and fall 2014 added weekly via the brand?s Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter pages, as well as on YouTube.

New approaches
Holiday Inn takes a smart approach with this strategy of brand advocacy as it is a refresher to what most hoteliers such as Marriott are focusing on: appealing to the next generation of travelers.

Big players and spenders in the industry are spending millions on elaborate marketing campaigns that draw heavily on pop culture and social media.

Best Western recently renewed a second installation of an augmented reality campaign that is partnered with Disney Channel to enable guests to interact with a life-sized cutout of Zendaya, the star of a new Disney Channel original movie, and share their pictures on social.

Aside from the digital and smart-connected innovations Marriot developed this year, its ?Travel Brilliantly" campaign, was notorious for pushing exclusive commercial content to mobile devices, Web sites such as Hulu and Mashable and during shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Hotel brands are increasingly trying to appeal to Gen X and Y who stay constantly connected through social media, and have a growing clout as consumers.

Their lifetime value is higher based on their many years of travel which lie ahead of them, and they feel more entitled than their Baby Boomer parents to travel.

While the use of social is a clear bid for targeting the younger traveler, Holiday Inn has chosen to focus on eliciting emotional response from viewers which creates stronger brand affinity and favor. The campaign presents a tasteful balance of appealing to all ages in its digital dissemination and reality-based messaging, which consumers increasingly gravitate towards.

Emotional engagement is the key to content marketing success. People discover and share information, videos, pictures and other types of media constantly. Eliciting an emotional response is an essential element of all successful viral content marketing campaigns as it is human nature that people want to share the experiences that stir their emotions by communicating them to others.

When people develop strong, deep feelings around an experience or message, social sharing becomes impulsive.

?The content makes the message real, and is a much more authentic voice than a celebrity and the content is relatable for everyday people who are staying at Holiday Inn,? Mr. Naumann said.

?It personalizes the brand.?

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York