It was a simpler time. People used to book vacations months in advance, after researching where to go, planning travel routes, and booking hotels. Then the world changed, first slowly then very quickly.
Now, of course, with mobile technology, people can book a vacation halfway around the world with just a few taps—and they can be checking into the hotel in a matter of days. Eric Lent, senior vice president of global marketing, upscale brands, with InterContinental Hotels Group, says the compressed time between booking and leaving for a vacation makes brand equity more important than ever in converting sales: people are more likely to book with a brand that they already know or that comes highly recommended. But for marketers, proving to the CEO and board how brand equity drives sales is something like a dark art.
Welcome to the growing dilemma for marketing leaders all over, whether at major hotel firms or tiny start-ups: deciding between shooting for easy-to-price short-term gains from marketing programs and pushing for longer projects to build long- term brand exposure and recognition. Experts worry that in this fast-paced “show- me” era, one side is winning over the other. “CEOs often want to see how every dollar they spend on marketing results in a dollar made,” says Ann Vogl, a principal in Korn Ferry’s Marketing Officers practice.
The problem is partly that the abundance of tracking data and analytical sophistication make the impact of performance marketing easy to measure. Marketers can easily show how many people clicked on a banner ad in a newsletter that took them to a landing page for a special sale offer that resulted in a purchase. Conversely, metrics like net promoter score and awareness, which are critical to measuring customer experience and brand, sound like a foreign language to many CEOs and boards. Put another way, it’s a lot harder to correlate an organization’s reputation or values with room bookings.
But neglecting brand marketing can have serious consequences for long-term strategic growth: for instance, negatively affecting customer loyalty and experience. To be sure, among the many challenges Chief Marketing Officers face today, striking a balance between performance and brand marketing—and convincing the CEO and board of the value of both—is at the top of the list. “Brand dollars are needed to drive performance and vice versa, otherwise both will experience diminishing returns,” says Lent, whose company’s hotels and resorts include Regent, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn.