CMO Q&A: John Greenleaf, Doubletree by Hilton (Extended)

John Greenleaf, VP, global brand marketing for DoubleTree by Hilton, talks to Lindsay Stein about the importance of the little things

How prominent is social media in your PR and marketing?
We have a very aggressive social media program. It's through social media that we were able to tailor the program we put in place this summer. We use Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. We were one of the first hotel brands involved in Pinterest.

We're eager to try new technologies and new channels so we can evaluate them in their early stages and take best advantage of them if we find some merit.

How did the Little Things Project begin?
In 2011, the Cookie CAREavan program went to 50 US cities to announce the relaunch of DoubleTree by Hilton. We did that by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the signature DoubleTree by Hilton chocolate-chip cookie and telling people we were the brand where the little things mean everything.

We developed the [cookie truck] primarily to generate a media presence for the relaunch, but we had some wonderful things happen along the way. We had sweepstakes attached to it that generated 10,459 entries and enrollment in the Hilton HHonors program increased by 18.4%.

What is the Project?
We took what we learned from CAREavan and the idea of the "little things," the little touches or added benefits that can differentiate a successful trip from an unsuccessful one.

The Project is what we call a pop-up and we are putting them in high-traffic areas. It's a large customized canopy under which we are delivering "little things" that have been related to us via social media research.

What we're offering in approximately 50 cities is a tech bar, which gives people the ability to charge computers or phones. We're also offering free Wi-Fi and our cookie.

Where are you seeing the most growth globally?
From 2008 to 2012, we went from zero to 16 UK hotels. We're growing quickly in China and have four hotels in Turkey, with a fifth to open this year.

We opened our first international hotel in 2008. We'll be in 28 countries by the end of the year. It is very rapid growth. 

What makes DoubleTree's marketing tactics unique?
We look at our business through three lenses: growth, products, and service. We believe we're the fastest-growing brand in the category. We have opened about 100 hotels between 2011 and 2012, which is pretty remarkable.

What we really embrace as a brand is the uniqueness about the physical product – the hotels we have as part of our brand. There's no sameness hotel to hotel. That's something many travelers find very attractive when they're traveling – the consistency of what makes their hotel stay predictable and comfortable, but the uniqueness of the hotel product.

The third piece is our service philosophy, which is really exemplified with the Little Things Project. We focus on taking care of our guests, each other, and the community.

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