CMO Q&A: Verchele Wiggins, Holiday Inn Family Brands

Verchele Wiggins, Holiday Inn Family Brands' VP of global brand management, talks to Lindsay Stein about the company's next evolution.

Verchele Wiggins, Holiday Inn Family Brands' VP of global brand management, talks to Lindsay Stein about the company's next evolution.

What is your main marketing goal heading into 2012?
A lot of our competitors speak to consumers in a much more functional way in terms of the benefits they provide. That's certainly something important to us, but it's the emotional approach we take that consumers tell us makes them more comfortable and makes them choose Holiday Inn.

We want to provide a great guest experience. We believe we can do that with the emotional connection we build through our communication, as well as through our guest experience.

The Stay You campaign, which launched in 2010, will be an important platform for the brand in 2012. Stay You is an ongoing campaign, so we'll continue to evolve it, build in critical insights, stay fresh and up to speed with what consumers want from our brand, and talk to them in a way that's relevant.

Stay You is our largest global ad campaign for the brand and it was based off of a strong communications platform that was validated around the globe, so you'll see everything from our social media efforts to paid media and messages through own-channels reflecting the Stay You message.

Tell us about Holiday Inn's Social Hub.
We are in the process of developing the next evolution of the Holiday Inn brand, which is called “Social Hub.” We just completed the billion-dollar relaunch of the Holiday Inn brand and we're embarking on the next phase, which is about leveraging the way people live their lives through a combination of research, trends, and competitive environments.

The Social Hub is about integrating all the public spaces in the hotels – our lobbies, restaurants, and bars. We're basically breaking down the barriers between all the public spaces so that guests can flow between those areas and eat, drink, and relax in a way that's comfortable to them. We think it's important and our guests have told us it's important. We're in test with that concept right now.

We're formally calling it the “Hub at Holiday Inn.” Social Hub is the concept name. It's up and running at our Holiday Inn Gwinnett Center outside of Atlanta and it's going well. We'll have two more test hotels coming on board late Q1/early Q2 2012.

Does social media play into your marketing tactics?
With Social Hub this year, we used social media to support the launch of our test hotel. We actually used social media to kick off the concept. We had a campaign called “Stay Social,” where we asked consumers around the country to share their favorite stories on the Holiday Inn Facebook page and the winner won a stay at the Hub at Holiday Inn.

We partnered with StoryCorps, a nonprofit that provides Americans with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their stories, to kick off “Stay Social.” We also had a Hub at Holiday Inn Facebook app and Twitter as a part of the account.

Discuss your role as VP of global brand management.
What I'm responsible for is setting the strategy for the Holiday Inn family, which includes Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resorts, and Holiday Inn Club Vacations. Our primary role as a global brand group is to define the brand DNA, define our guest journey stage by stage, and utilize our brand equity and brand performance metrics to really determine what our objectives are both annually and long term. We're 3,300 hotels strong in about 70 countries, however, there's still an opportunity to grow our brand.

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