CMO Q&A: Eric Pearson, CMO, InterContinental Hotel Group

Eric Pearson of InterContinental Hotel Group talks to Alexandra Bruell about global travel crises, social media, and mobile marketing.

What hospitality trends are impacting your marketing?

Pearson: The past 19 months have been some of the toughest on record for the industry, with big changes in consumer behavior and many business travelers pulling back. Consumers are much more sophisticated in terms of shopping and much more value-conscious.

What role do social media and technology play in your strategy?

Pearson: Social marketing is so big that we work with our hotels on etiquette and how to respond. Technology allows us to aggregate reviews across many different websites to provide hotels with information specific to them. Teams work on content for Facebook to provide consumers with relevant information about the brand they're interested in. Social marketing is becoming even more integrated and more important.

What can be learned from crises, such as the volcanic ash scare, that impact the travel and hospitality industries?

Pearson: It had an immediate global impact, though many outlets treated it as a regional issue. In any crisis, the keys are the nature of communication, our technology, and internet that's immediately available. People don't realize global commerce's impact.

Have you boosted corporate communications resources as a result?

Pearson: Yes. We have a global management crisis process that kicks in every time we have a crisis, along with a global team that gets together and decides how to manage it in real time. With technology and the internet, it's pervasive.

How do you see the company's marketing approach shifting in the near future?

Pearson: We relaunched an iTunes application for our priority club rewards four weeks ago. We're now seventh on the iTunes app store with more than 35,000 downloads and we'll do over a million dollars a month in revenue with mobile.

Social marketing continues to accelerate. We're exploring how to do that without being intrusive to clients who don't want to be inundated with marketing messages. Continued growth will depend on more precision-based marketing where you're really being more targeted with customers.

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