Communication with travel rewards club customers has historically been a pretty dull, static affair.
Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) wanted to transform its "status quo" HTML e-newsletter sent to Priority Club Rewards (PCR) members into an e-magazine with video content.
"An interactive platform [allows us to get] clear, concise messages across, [and it's] different [from] the way competitors talk to our customers," says Ken Bott, director of global consumer marketing for IHG.
Adds IQ Interactive CEO Tony Quin, "If you put a more engaging communications vehicle on the Web and make sure content is relevant, people respond well."
The team decided the first issue would highlight the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands' partnerships with Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the NASCAR Busch Series. Video would be used to tell stories of individual PCR members who had enjoyed exclusive experiences related to those partners.
"This interactive platform allows us to highlight relationships we have [in a way] that's easily consumable," Bott explains. "If you tell [stories] like this [in written form], it doesn't really resonate."
IQ Interactive account supervisor Melissa Dreyer says building an emotional connection was key.
Quin adds, "Broadband makes possible the tools that can get the emotional side of a story across."
The inaugural issue of the e-magazine, titled "The Field of Play," featured four videos and was sent to more than 2 million PCR member e-mail subscribers. The videos, including one about a family who was able to attend the MLB 2006 All-Star Game, showed real people and were unscripted.
The videos were a compelling hook and allowed members to visualize what it might be like to win access to an event that could fulfill one of their dreams.
Additional content was aimed at improving awareness of program benefits, recognizing Elite members, and encouraging participation in the PCR action site where members could get everything from sports tickets, jerseys, and balls to a pro-am spot on a PGA tournament.
"Easily within the first week, we met ROI objectives 10-to-1," Bott says. "We made our money back with incremental revenue within the week."
The open rate was three times higher than average (IHG sends more than 100 million communications materials per year). Average view time was three minutes.
"[It cost] 8 cents a person for that - think how efficient that is [compared with] three minutes of advertising on TV," Quin says.
Of those who opened the e-mail, 29% passed it along, resulting in nearly a quarter of a million more viewers. Quin says that number could be higher, as the team can only track forwards from the "forward to a friend" function.
"Our members forwarded it on to nonmembers because it was so engaging," Bott notes.
The e-magazine will be sent twice a year for now, and it will expand into the global market next year with regionally specific content. Future content, however, won't necessarily focus on sports.
"Messaging has to be flexible," Bott says. "Anything travel-related could be a component of the story."
PR team: Intercontinental Hotels Group and IQ Interactive (both of Atlanta)
Campaign: E-magazine interactive newsletter launch
Duration: February to May 2007
Budget: About $150,000
This effort was a great mix of entertainment and function. It was prudent to come out of the chute with the ties to professional sports - it's broadly appealing, while offering the opportunity to tell personal stories. By using interesting stories and having good production value, the videos help consumers see and imagine ways in which a product or service could be made personally applicable. Additional content is presented in a non-obtrusive, easy-to-navigate way.
As long as the videos continue to be well produced and to tell fresh, engaging stories, this vehicle should prove productive.