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IHG campaign unites two brands to give guests closer connections

ATLANTA—InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is joining together the forces of its two biggest brands with the hopes of fostering stronger, more personal connections. Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express have launched a unified global marketing campaign to relay a strong message: Be there for each other.

The “We’re there” campaign is taking a different approach from many digital marketing initiatives—it’s somewhat anti-digital in fact. The campaign aims to stress the importance of in-person communication and global and authentic connections.

Launched in June, the campaign was born out of a curiosity for reasons why people travel in the first place.

“What we found is that the reason people travel is rarely about the location,” said Heather Balsley, SVP, global marketing, mainstream brands, IHG. “It’s almost always about people they’re going to see, whether that’s friends, family or colleagues. This campaign focuses on what Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express have always firmly placed at their core: our belief that travel should be accessible to all to enable real human connections—because we know those meaningful personal and professional moments can only happen when you travel to be there in person.”

Balsley said that the ubiquity of the two brands helped to spark the campaign as well. With nearly 4,000 locations globally, they hold the largest footprint of the IHG brands, giving way to the tagline: “We’re there, so you can be too.”

“This idea of being there for our travelers to enable them to be there in person for the people and moments that matter is deeply rooted in the brands’ legacy,” she said.

The multiyear campaign includes TV, cinema, mobile, social, digital and in-hotel advertising. In addition, the brands will each release two advertisements individually, focused on a single brand message. “We’re working in close partnership with Google, Twitter and Facebook to run a dynamic, multifaceted social plan,” Balsley added.

“We’re there” has also launched across radio, digital and social media in the U.K. and digital and social media in Canada, Mexico, Central and South America. According to Balsley, the campaign has plans to launch in Greater China in Q4 of this year.

“For the last six years, we’ve marketed each brand with a separate advertising campaign to highlight their distinct offerings and build the strength of each brand—that was right for where each brand was in its life cycle, the competitive environment at the time and the media landscape at that moment,” Balsley said. “With ‘We’re there,’ we have an opportunity to build on the collective strength of our brands, their status as industry icons, our authenticity and unrivaled scale and to continue to build deeper connections with guests.”

For IHG, bringing the two powerhouse brands together was necessary for a campaign of this nature, especially in today’s digital climate—the human component is lost no matter how much technology connects people.

“You can’t hug or kiss through FaceTime. You can’t shake hands over a video conference or read body language on a phone call. That’s why our role in connecting people has never been more important and why we see an opportunity for Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express to stand for something much bigger,” Balsley said.

Guests are encouraged to use the hashtag #BeThereIRL (“Be There in Real Life”) to share their in-person connections online, creating a collective of travelers’ best moments across the brands. According to Balsley, IHG will reveal additional ways to involve guests in the coming weeks.

“Nearly everyone has a memory that’s tied to a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express stay, and we’ve uncovered some truly amazing stories of the role these brands have played in global travel across the decades,” she said.

Balsley noted that Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express are also the biggest drivers in overall performance for IHG, but each remains distinct in its own right. This—bolstered by their combined footprint—strengthens this type of branding campaign.

“The power of this campaign is that it brings more emotion and meaning to each brand while continuing to show the differences between them,” Balsley said. “Our initial campaign research showed that bringing the brands together, side by side, allows us to highlight the different occasions for using each brand, depending on the needs of the traveler for that particular trip.”

For example, Balsley explained that the campaign could highlight a free Express Start breakfast at a Holiday Inn Express property for an on-the-go guest, while a bar at a Holiday Inn hotel could serve a guest who may want to enjoy after-work drinks among colleagues.

IHG originally presented the marketing campaign to owners at its 2019 IHG Americas Investors and Leadership Conference in Las Vegas back in May, citing positive feedback.

“Owners, GMs and colleagues were excited to see IHG continue to advertise these iconic brands in a major way in the U.S.—including on TV and in cinema—and to see them show up in a new, emotionally resonant way,” Balsley said.

She also said that the company is now conducting consumer testing to see the campaign’s influence on brand perception and how it’s driving hotel stays among consumers.

“Kemmons Wilson founded Holiday Inn to connect people through travel—he believed building a trusted, global travel brand could bring families closer, business colleagues closer and the world closer,” she said. “The campaign highlights the brands’ initial purpose: to be a place where everyone is welcome, and guests can focus on spending quality time with others, helping to make the world a little bit smaller.” HB


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