There has been a great deal of advancements and changes in the marketing communication ecosystem for the luxury brands in different industries over the past five decades. The marketing communication ecosystem for the brands that have existed within the past five decades is no longer the same as it was ten or twenty years ago (Keller, 2009). The key indicators for the changes in the marketing communication environment include the internet and technology since they have been the fundamental drivers and alternators of how the world communicates and interacts (Keller, 2009). However, luxury brands have extensively benefitted from the new emerging markets which have been as a result of the changes in the marketing communication environment. For instance, luxury brands whose businesses are product-based have expanded their operations from the local level to international level by exploring the e-commerce platforms, likewise, luxury brands in the tourism and luxury hospitality industries have also experienced change in the communication marketing environment and most of the luxury hotel brands have expanded their ways of marketing communication to encompass internet-based marketing communication via social media platforms (Donna, 2013).
The apparent study intends to assess different aspects of marketing communication in the luxury hospitality industry. Specifically, this paper will assess the marketing communication aspects of Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. which is one of the top luxury brands in the luxury hospitality industry. The rationale behind assessing Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. among other luxuries brands in the luxury hospitality industry is that unlike most of the luxury brands in this industry, Hilton Worldwide Inc. is not only a top brand but has also existed and experienced the ongoing transitions in the marketing communication environment but have floppily acted accordingly to the changes that comes with the emerging luxury markets (Dudovskiy, 2016). For instance, the marketing communication strategy of the company is extensively still based on the traditional ways of marketing such as use of television channels and prints (John, 2016).
The key areas that this study will assess include marketing communication, the media used, and the digital strategy, and digital presence of the Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. The outcome and recommendations from this study is mainly subjected to assist high level managers of the luxury brands in the luxury hospitality industry to improve and construct the image and credentials of the luxury brands that they head as well as help them in the development and sustainment of the luxury brand’s dreams. This study takes note that not every expensive brand in the hospitality industry is a luxury brand and the recommendations that it generates is not limited to the luxury brand’s managers but can also be applied and used by the managers of other expensive brands which are not luxury brands.
The means of communicating luxury has rapidly changed and still continues to change as new technological ways of communication are being invented (Donna, 2013). Unlike twenty or thirty years ago when only a few media channels were available to choose from when making advertisement plans, today there are numerous media channels to choose from when it comes to communication. Marketing communication has broaden its horizon beyond television and radio, to social channels, content approaches, voices of major leaders, as well as luxury brand’s own platforms (Srisiriwongchai, 2014). This change in marketing communication of luxury has been largely driven by the changes in consumer behavior as well as the audience for the luxury products and services as an outcome of the technological advancements. For example, for many years, luxury brands have been reticent for the few rich , but today, these brands have widen their reservations to include all consumers as long as they can afford the luxury services and products (Srisiriwongchai, 2014). As a result, some of the luxury brands have been obliged to explore beyond television, print, outdoor, and radio channels to platforms where there are influxes of consumers (Srisiriwongchai, 2014). Universally, the media landscape for marketing communication in the luxury industry has shifted from radio, television, print, and cinemas to digital and internet-based means of marketing communication.
Hilton Worldwide Holding Inc. is a luxury brand in the luxury hospitality industry operating globally and mainly provides hotel and booking services (Youn, 2013). It has over 500 hotels and resorts in 85 different countries prevalent in six different continents. It has been ranked as the world’s largest luxury hotel and the highest growing luxury hotel company in the world. Since it was founded in 1919 by Conrad Hilton, its owner-base has increased and comprised of over 10,000 owners from which over 50 per_cent have been recurring owners (Youn, 2013). The brand is subdivided into 13 different sub-luxury brands which focus on different customer segments. These brands include Waldorf Astroia, Conrad, Canopy, Hilton Hotel and Resort, Curio, Double Tree, Hilton Garden Inn, Hompton, Tru, Home2, Homeswood suites, Embassy Suites, and Hilton Grand Location. (Youn, 2013) Generally, it mainly serves an customers looking to experience luxury vacations as well as international business people and diplomats (Youn, 2013).
Even though there are many advancements in the marketing communication segment in almost all the luxury industries including the luxury hospitality industry as a result of the technological progressions, but Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. still largely employs the traditional marketing communication strategies in communicating luxury to its targeted customer audience (Chen, 2011). The brand’s marketing communication incorporate print with sales promotion, media advertisement, public relations, direct marketing, and events to communicate its luxury to the targeted customer segments. Hilton Worldwide Holding Inc. has applied these strategies in the prior decades even before the inventions of new marketing tools such as social media. The company communicates its marketing messages to its customers via a set of precise elements of marketing promotional strategies such as marketing in magazines and newspapers particularly in those newspapers and magazines with superior and professional levels of management such as Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Forbes, Financial Times, and The Economist (John, 2016). Additionally, the marketing communication of Hilton Hotel and Resort which is a segment brand of the entire Hilton Holding is mainly done and facilitated through broadcast marketing in chosen television channels. For instance in the United Kingdom and Canada, Global Television channels has been used for marketing communication by the Hilton Hotel and Resort brand for many years.
Apart from the use of print and television channels, Hilton broadly uses sales promotion in marketing communication particularly inform of discount vouchers and Hilton-Honors (H-Honor) loyalty programs which include such offers as free internet access, late check out, and digital check ins, when they intend to make an introduced service popular as well as increase their revenue base (John, 2016). It is significant to note that although Hilton benefits from these sales promotions by increasing the volumes of generated revenues, but it risks compromising its brand value in a manner that the sales promotion and the likelihood of utilizing the brand services become cheaper rendering the exclusivity of the brand worthless (Chen, 2011). Moreover, sales promotion only offers benefits that are short-term and hence this constituent of marketing communication is best employed infrequently.
With respect to the marketing mix concept (the 4Ps) particularly the promotion element of the concept, the brand mainly employs the media and prints in marketing communication (John, 2016). The insight of this strategy is that the brand’s customers accesses the information regarding the services as well as the patterns and offers provided by the Hotel and Resort brand of the company available in prints or advertised in the media especially in television channels (John, 2016). Furthermore, the company uses its hotel magazine which comprehensively displays the picture of the services and offers available and provided by the hotel during certain seasons (Scott, 2015). Apart from the media and prints, the company also uses its website but slightly to convey information concerning its services to its targeted audience. However, latest reports have pointed out that the brand has started exploring new avenues for marketing communication such as social campaigns through its website (Chen, 2011).
While Hilton Hotel and resort still relies heavily on traditional means of advertisement for marketing communication, new ways for marketing communication have emerged creating opportunities that can be explored by luxury brands such as Hilton Hotel and Resort (Dudovskiy, 2016). Social media is an area that has been overlooked by this brand and yet rich with potential new customers. Most luxury brands in other industries are tending to adopt digital strategies and maintain their digital presence to communicate with their customers. For instance, in the luxury motor industry, luxury sports car brands such as Lamborghini are constantly using digital platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and their websites to communicate their new products as well as new information about their products to their customers through their commercial videos (Keller, 2009). In addition, the reputation, image, and credentials of brands that largely employ digital platforms for marketing communication are boosted by the online ratings provided by the consumers and customers of their products and services online since they are able to communicate interactively with them. Numerous research studies has revealed that luxury consumers are significantly influenced by the digital media especially the social media platforms as well as the brand’s website since these platforms provide immediate response to their interests on the luxury services and products (Srisiriwongchai, 2014). Other researches has also found that a large population of the contemporary world spends over a quarter of their time online especially on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and part of this population are potential audience of luxury products and services which is an implication that luxury brands whose digital presence are inconsistent should review their marketing strategies and integrate digital plans into their initial strategies (Donna, 2013).
With regards to the findings of a study by Keller (2009) on building strong brands in the contemporary marketing communication online, it is evident that most luxury consumers of today learn more about luxury services and products through digital channels and social media platforms. For Hilton Hotel and Resort brand as well as other brands of Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. to improve its marketing communication, it needs to shift much of its focus from the traditional ways of marketing communication to the modern ways of marketing communication (Donna, 2013). Specifically, it should devise and implement effective digital strategies that guarantee their customers the brand’s digital presence at any given time. Their web platform should be improved from being static and just informational to being interactive such that the company can respond directly to any query raised by its customers (Donna, 2013). Focusing more on digital presence and improvement of marketing communication via digital platforms will not only enhance marketing communication of the brand, but also improves its imagery and judgment. In addition, the brand stands a high chance to reach out to more luxury end users when marketed via digital platforms than on prints and advertisement media such as television channels.
From the above analysis of the marketing communication strategy implemented by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. particularly employed by the Hilton Hotel and Resort brand, it is evident that Hilton Hotel has been successful and the majority of its approach to marketing communication has earned the brand an aggressive rim in the global luxury hospitality market. Nevertheless, there are various enhancements that can be instigated in the apparent status of the hotel and resort brand so that it cannot only improve its marketing communication strategy but also enhance its brand’s imagery and identifications. Below are four recommendations that the hotel and resort brand should consider focusing on as way of improving its marketing communication strategy and fostering its digital presence and imagery.
As much as sticking to the traditional marketing communication strategies have assisted the hotel in covering a considerate potion of the global luxury market, integrating innovativeness in the traditional marketing communication approach is essential in maintaining not only the hotel’s competitiveness in the industry, but also its coverage of the large portion of the market. Incorporating technological aspects in their marketing communication approach will also help the hotel to efficiently manage its customers’ demands and needs since most of its customers are already incorporating technological aspects in their daily lives as well as in their search for luxury hotel services. Although Hilton hotel and resort brand operates globally in over 80 countries, but with the ongoing globalization, the luxury hotel industry is expanding rapidly and new luxury hotel brands are expanding accordingly with the innovations that make the ongoing globalization possible. In order for the brand to maintain its market position in the global luxury hotel market, employment of progressive innovations in all its operations including marketing communication strategy is key significant requirement, otherwise the hotel stands a chance of losing its market stance to other luxury hotel brands (Scott, 2015).
For example, Hilton Hotel and Resort has technologically invested and employed new innovations in some of its essential services such as room booking services where the technology is incorporated in the company’s web portal and does critical tasks such as regular updating of the room information. This has boosted the efficiency of the booking services offered by the hotel (Gazdik, 2016). Integrating such innovations in the marketing communication strategies is bound to improve the apparent ways of communicating to customers and thereby improve the customer satisfaction level. The decisive goal is to improve the brand’s luxury imagery and identification while at the same time meets and respond efficiently to the customers’ requests and needs.
In a study conducted by Bastein and Kapferer (2012), it is proposed that the internet can result into opportunities to introduce new potential customers to luxury brands. Online presence of a luxury brand targets a diverse audience and this is significant for the luxury brands that operate globally such as the Hilton Hotel and Resort brand (Dudovskiy, 2016). Consistent presence of Hilton Hotel and Resort brand in the internet will play a significant role in generating and improving customer’s experience with the brand while at the same time draws new potential customers thereby improving the image of the brand based on the online ratings given to the brand by their customers. In addition, the brand should integrate its marketing communication strategy in the internet and social media since these tools are significant in strengthening customer engagement and relationship with the brand. Reinforcing the relationship between customers and the brand via social media will not only improve the efficiency of marketing communication for the Hilton Hotel and Resort brand, but also improves the imagery of brands as well as their identification. For instance, creating brand contents that builds a perspective, illustrative images with emotional effects, and explicit videos with exceptional sound content that conveys contextual information about the brand regarding its services, history, and roots which puts its targeted audience in as well while ensuring the availability of such contents in not only its website but also in social networking sites draws more potential customers to brand and helps it reach more targeted audience than when traditional means of marketing communication are implemented independently (Hennigs & Klarmann, 2012).
The communication environment has grown tougher with the new technological inventions that are taking over from the traditional means of marketing communication (Srisiriwongchai, 2014). The media ecosystem has changed drastically over the recent years with conventional advertising media such as radio, television, magazines, as well as newspapers losing their clench on luxury consumers (Srisiriwongchai, 2014). There is a lot of uncertainty whether information communicated by a luxury brand to its consumers via a particular media channel will possibly reach numerous targeted audiences due to the destructions created by the variety of media channels and platforms today. For instance, a luxury brand such as Hilton Hotel and Resort can decide to communicate to its consumers certain critical information about their services via a television channel or newspaper with a conception that the television channel or the newspaper is viewed or read by a large percentage of the population while the reality is that a large percentage of their consumer do not view or read the chosen television channel or newspaper leading to only a few consumers receiving the information.
Hence, with the apparent swift diffusion of the powerful internet connection, multipurpose smart phones that can access the internet and have computer applications stored and used in them, as well as very powerful advertisement video recorders, Hilton Hotel and Resort should explore and have its own marketing communication platform that can easily be accessed by its customers, possibly have a mobile application that not only enable easy access of marketing content but also incorporates all its services such as booking services in a single and easily accessible platform.
As much as there are transitions from the traditional means of marketing communication to the modern means of communication, luxury brands such as Hilton should be careful not to abolish the traditional marketing principles completely when they decide to embrace the emerging innovations of marketing communication. This is because not all consumers change in accordance with the innovations of marketing communications means, some luxury consumers are still relying on newspapers and magazines for information such as luxury related information from the luxury hospitality industry (Scott, 2015).
However, writers, researchers, and important speakers have assert that inbound marketing communication is the future citing social media as the game exchanger in the marketing sector, but examples from some luxury brands in other luxury industries have proven otherwise (Gazdik, 2016). Traditional Live television broadcasting is still here to stay and most people are not applying the available means to skips advertisements on television. Some brands such as Pepsi that transferred all its resources from the traditional television advertisement to social media advertisement have dropped from their initial market position. The fact is that not every marketing strategy is always perfect for every service and purpose (Scott, 2015). As such, Hilton Hotel and Resort should incorporate digital strategies and traditional marketing principles. For instance, the company should find means to implement marketing communication via television ads integrated with social media.
This study has analyzed and evaluated the marketing communication strategy of Hilton Hotel and Resort based, and from the analysis, it has identified the shortcomings in the strategy that is apparently employed by the company in marketing communication in this digital era. As such the study has suggested four comprehensive recommendations that the study can employ to achieve a maximal potential in marketing communication to its customers. The company has not explored the digital innovation and strengthen its existence in the digital world but however has still maintained its market position, imagery, and identification in the global market of luxury hospitality industry. In conclusion, implementation of digital strategies incorporated with traditional strategies of marketing communication will certainly improve the general marketing communication of the company and as a result enhance its imagery as well as identification as luxury brand in the luxury hospitality industry.
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