​Why IHG Hotels & Resorts is making a play for the pandemic-fatigued guest

Hotel chain is poised to capture the weary, holiday-ready customer with its new campaign proposition to give people the permission to rest the way they want

Over the past two years, we’ve all been doing everything for ourselves. But there’s something of an anti-DIY movement now happening, according to IHG Hotels & Resorts VP for masterbrand strategy and brand awareness, Connor Smith.

“People are ready to be taken care of again,” he told CMO. “The past three years have been hard; we’ve all been asked to care for ourselves and each other in ways we never thought possible. People are telling us they want to be taken care of, have their beds made, their cocktails shaken and their breakfasts made.”

Having reached the firm belief people want to be taken care of now more than ever, the hotel group is ready to oblige.

IHG’s new brand campaign, ‘Guest How You Guest’, aims to amplify true-to-life travel moments and showcase the freedom guests have to be cared for as they truly are. The global campaign is the most extensive media campaign investment IHG has ever made. Some 1500 different assets have been developed to run across TV, magazines, out-of-home, online and social, allowing it to be data-driven and targeted in the approach.

With such a large campaign universe, the hotel group thinks it can deliver on the goal of the right message to the right person at the right time, anywhere around the word.

“Guest How You Guest is reminding the world what it means to be a guest – it isn’t the high-gloss, filtered moments – it’s a celebration of true-to-life travel moments,” Smith explained. “It's our rallying cry, inviting guests to come as they are and be cared for as true individuals. We’re real people taking care of real people, and we want our guests to know they have the freedom to be their true self at our hotels, whatever that looks like.”

It seems to be resonating, with guests responding to the invitation to be cared for however they want. “It's not a one-size-fits-all approach, rather we're showing the diverse, real beauty of our hotel experiences,” Smith added.

The campaign was designed to be thought provoking and bold. IHG used fashion photographer, Meredith Jenks, who had never shot hospitality and is best known for her photography in the fashion and editorial world, to give the creative a more human fingerprint. Visual showcase bright, beautiful human moments shot in IHG hotels, leading with the open-ended tagline of ‘Guest How you Guest’, Smith said the aim is to invite people to imagine how they might experience a guest stay.

Messaging in this campaign is also about leaning into telling the IHG story, with the goal of building IHG Hotels & Resorts as a household name so guests connect the dots between the 17 brands and 6000+ destinations.

“While each brand is distinctive and famous for different things, they’re all connected by our approach to ‘True Hospitality for Good’. I view IHG as the surname, and each of our brands as an individual part of our family,” Smith said.

“It was important to us too, that this sprit moved throughout the guest’s entire experience. ‘Meet How You Meet’ and ‘Dine How You Dine’ are really inviting, fun extensions of the campaign encouraging guests to embrace IHG beyond pure accommodation.”

Reworking loyalty with the same ethos

This spirit of individuality and flexibility, Connor explained, is mirrored in IHG’s rewards program.

 “An insight inspiring our loyalty program and campaign is consumers want to be able to choose their own paths and create experiences that work for them,” Smith continued. This is reflected in the hotel group’s loyalty program, IHG One Rewards, with features such as Milestone Rewards, which lets guests choose how they want to be rewarded.

“This element of choice shows through in the campaign creative as we highlight different types of travellers being cared for in the different ways that matter most to them,” he added.

Revamping the guest app is another element of transforming the guest experience. Guests can find rates, book a room, track reward points and manage their stays.

“We’ve made sure to create a design with members in mind, resulting in an app that provides a smooth and intuitive experience for all customers, giving them more control and greater personal choice,” Smith said.  

Embracing diversity with a global customer base

Connor explained one of the biggest learnings and opportunities with IHG’s new campaign is showcasing inclusive and diverse travellers in its marketing.

“Traditionally, there hasn’t been a lot of diversity in the hotel and travel marketing space, and this has been a real whitespace for us,” he said. The Guest How You Guest campaign was developed with this ethos in mind “helping us to change the narrative around what it means to be cared for and welcomed as a guest”. 

The campaign and its work to improve platforms and apps has also demonstrated the importance of striking the balance between human connection and technology. “We know it’s important to celebrate the human connection between our hotels and our guests, but we also know guests want and expect a seamless world in the palm of their hands,” Smith said.

“We move carefully between showcasing the human and the technology, understanding today’s consumers are mobile-first and wanting to be in control of their experience.”

As IHG looks ahead, the hotel group has its eye on partnerships, expected to play an important role as it looks for new, strategic ways to reward and engage its loyalty members.

“While we’ve made leaps and bounds in helping consumers to better understand the breadth of IHG’s portfolio, I know educating our guests on the benefits of our loyalty program and the stories that connect our brands under the IHG masterbrand will continue to be a priority into 2023,” Smith said.

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