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Founded in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, InterContinental Hotels Group plc, also known as IHG Hotels & Resorts, is a British international hospitality corporation with its headquarters in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England. It is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index of leading global companies.
Holiday Inn's parent company is IHG Hotels & Resorts, which stands for “InterContinental Hotels Group PLC” (Fernandes, 2021). Holiday Inn is among the most well-known hotel brands in the world, with a worldwide presence. Everything starts here: the experience, the excellence, the service, the spirit, and so on. It all starts here. In the last seventy years, Holiday Inn has welcomed travellers to a world of comfort, exceptional service, quality accommodations, and unique experiences in some of the most beautiful settings on the planet. Holiday Inn has more than 2000 hotels on 6 continents around the world (Edo Sudarsana, 2021).
The aims of the report are to critically evaluate the concept of experiential marketing, its theory, the critical role of the theory, the advantages and disadvantages, imperativeness and the application of the theory to the renowned hotel to assess the weakness of the company. A set of recommendations thus can be evaluated to further form a communication plan which would facilitate the customers. In accordance with the objectives, the communication strategy will offer responses and suggestions for efficient ways to enable clients to encounter the hospitality corporate identity before, during and after their visit. In section two a communication plan will be elaborated to grasp a better understanding of the subject matter.
As per, Schmitt, the pioneer of “experiential marketing”, the experiential marketing framework consists of 2 components:
(Source: Soliha et al., 2021)
The concept of experiential marketing is tactical and founded on experiences, not just on individual experiential activities. Experiential marketing is the process of identifying and profitably satisfying customer needs and aspirations through two-way communications that bring brand personalities to life and add value to the target audience. It aids in the creation of memorable involvements and emotions for customers. According to the “International Experiential Marketing Association”, it enables people to engage and interact in sensory ways with companies, products, and services. It is a “communication approach” that primarily elicits responses from customers being a comprehensive method to the customer/brand connection. A growing number of firms are pursuing these strategies, emphasizing the “importance of passions, emotional sentiments, experiences, intelligence and feelings in consumer-brand relationships (Urdea and Constantin, 2021). Experiential marketing aids to complete physical environment and operational processes for its customers to experience.
All of these definitions regarding experiential marketing imply that experiential marketing is primarily concerned with emotions, feelings, and senses, and is less concerned with cognition and human objectives. Schmitt uses the term experiential economy to describe Pine and Gilmore's experience economy. It demonstrates the interchangeability of those terms and nouns. Experiential marketing is the strategy of discovering and financially addressing consumer requirements and ambitions through two-way interactions that bring the brand image to life and provide value to the target audience. In some respects, social media and the internet have made it possible for businesses to promote to their customers (Wang et al., 2021). These marketing strategies, on the other hand, lack the communication and relationship necessary to leave a lasting impact on a consumer. Experiential marketing is a type of marketing approach that connects the consumer and produces memorable real-world experiences. This style of marketing concentrates on bringing the brand to life for the consumer.
For instance, X is a company that sells EnergyX energy beverages. To persuade consumers to try the product, they attend sporting activities with a brightly coloured truck with outgoing sales representatives who distribute free EnergyX to consumers exiting the event (Shieh and Lai, 2017). Additionally, they distribute enticements to attract consumers to purchase the goods in the future. This method of marketing enables the consumer to test the goods personally and creates an experience they will never forget.
The Critical Role of Experiential Marketing
With so many goods and services available, businesses must sell in a way that captures consumers' attention and stays with them. Experiential marketing establishes a personal connection with consumers, allowing them to recall the product or service. Experiential marketing is much more than a billboard or television commercial. It caters to the consumer's emotional side. Additionally, experiential marketing is frequently a live event in which the consumer can participate (Wiedmann et al., 2018). In the case of X's EnergyX, the client has the opportunity to interact with the product. Additionally, this style of marketing appeals to the consumer on numerous levels, which distinguishes it from traditional marketing.
When X's crew distributes the energy drink, for instance, the consumer may see how it looks, feels, and tastes. This degree of involvement is not possible with a commercial or billboard. Finally, people who have a positive experience with a product and service are more likely to share it on social media.
With experiential marketing aiming to create one-of-a-kind and memorable encounters, the strategy complements social media marketing perfectly. Notable memories are easily shared on social media as a result of the norm. Through the use of specialised hashtags, firms implementing an experiential marketing strategy can have their events widely shared (Abadi, Nursyamsi and Syamsuddin, 2020). Simultaneously, social media gives critical measurements and figures for experiential marketers to evaluate their performance. For example, variations in the number of likes a campaign receives might be a useful predictor of brand awareness changes.
Brands demonstrate their genuineness to current and prospective customers through experiential marketing. Consumers form significant connections and shift their impressions of a brand as a result of human-to-human engagement with brand ambassadors. To bolster this, research has revealed that more than sixty-five percent of consumers believe live events are more effective at helping them understand a product than other forms of marketing. Simultaneously, following an immersive marketing event, more than 70% of consumers can be regular clients (O Dettori, 2019). This metric indicates the efficacy of the marketing approach in affecting company reputation and consumer attitudes.
With growing digitization in marketing, more than 91 percent of high-performing organisations place a high premium on live events and intend to significantly expand their event marketing expenses. Given that over 98 percent of consumers are compelled to purchase a brand's items following an interactive marketing event, marketers can benefit from a huge increase in hot leads. Additionally, brands can use the data gathered at such activities to remarket to participants. This enhances the value that a brand’s marketing budget generates.
With a huge number of attendees, it is difficult to predict their reactions. In part, the inability of an audience to comprehend the thing being promoted is to a fault.
Simultaneously, associating individuals' experiences with their sentiments toward a brand can be a challenging endeavour. In this environment, if a campaign lacks to grab their imagination, potential buyers may feel left out (Dettori, 2019). This results in a decrease in the return on a brand's marketing budget.
Engagement marketers require competent human labour to develop systems that capture consumers' interests. However, without sufficient funding, employing intellects to develop fail-safe live-marketing models is an uphill fight (Wiedmann et al., 2018). Ultimately, this obstacle may jeopardise the success of a campaign.
Companies must take strategic efforts to differentiate themselves in the rising service sector competition. Providing a great client experience, particularly in the hotel industry will likely become the primary objective of managers to increase the revenue. Experiential marketing aids in this largely. The purpose is accomplished by establishing the relationship between customer happiness and perceived value, as well as their impact on behaviour intention (Abadi, Nursyamsi and Syamsuddin, 2020). Sensory experience has a substantial impact on customers’ perceived value, customer satisfaction is mostly influenced by guests’ sense experiences. Experiential marketing may result in increased behaviour intention only when consumer pleasure is improved. The outcome identifies the primary features of each variable in terms of customer happiness, perceived value, and behaviour intention, which would be used to improve the service they give. That could be offered in both tangible and intangible forms to facilitate application.
As experiential marketing is perhaps the most contemporary marketing approach, many businesses have shifted away from traditional advantages and functions marketing toward experiential marketing (Urdea and Constantin, 2021). Marketing in the hospitality industry also has become seamless and a lot easier with the advent of experiential marketing.
Holiday Innis one of the world's best-recognized hotel brands, with over 1,200 hotels worldwide. Holiday Inn was one of the first foreign hotel chains to open in China in 1984. The Holiday Inn brand caters to both business and leisure guests, offering amenities such as restaurants, room service, swimming pools, exercise centres, and comfy lounges. Its casual environment and services, such as meeting and conference amenities, Kids Eat and Stay Free programs, and KidSuites rooms, have helped establish the Holiday Inn brand’s accomplishment (Wang et al.., 2021). But lately, several complaints have come against this hotel as they could not keep pace with the changing world’s demands which affected the core of the business and hence the revenue. Holiday Inn is a member of the InterContinental Hotels Group PLC (IHG).
Figure: InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) global revenue 2010–2020, by brand
Source: (Lock, 2021)
The graph presented above vividly describes that the revenue of the owner company of IHG has significantly declined in 2020 with all its brands. The graph provided a bigger perspective to scrutinize Holiday Inn’s deterioration from its root.
Experiential marketing enables individuals to create unforgettable brand experiences for prospects and customers (Soliha et al.., 2021). As a result, customers become more attached to and invested in the offering as a result of these brand-related encounters and brands benefit from greater recognition and revenue. Social media, content marketing, and mobile technology are all growing and interacting, creating an ideal setting for experiential marketing.
There are the five key qualities of experiential marketing -
Experiential marketing's objective is to provide consumers with lasting impressions that they want to communicate with others regarding their experiences with a company which would ultimately result in brand loyalty. This is not about advertising a product; rather, this allows consumers to envision and experience what their lives might be like if they use it.
The potential customers can be benefitted using relevant sites. For this reason, it is critical to use social media and content marketing strategies that are relevant to the prospects' current location and activities (Urdea and Constantin, 2021). For marketers, this involves knowing their buyer persona in social media as well as the marketing persona.
Potential customers form emotional bonds with the products and services as they interact with the brands. These companies, therefore, get supplementary purchase-related data that extends beyond a marketing-defined explanation of the advantages.
Perhaps foremost a crucial marketing standpoint, prospects and customers enthusiastically share their experiences with the product or service, and they share the experiences both offline and online (Wiedmann et al., 2018). In a world where people trust advertising, the credibility will be boosted by the words of the consumers.
Consumers' ability to personalize and share their consumer experiences is growing as more people own and utilise mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. While doing so, consumers can obtain more product information, take pictures and videos, interact with friends and family, and share their thoughts on social media with the rest of the world (Clark, 2020).
In light of this, it is hardly surprising that the ephemeral social media smartphone apps such as; Instagram has become so popular, allowing users to share photos and videos to their contacts instantly.
Recent guest feedback for Holiday Inn has been less than favourable. Numerous guests have evaluated the experience with the hotel as poor, ordinary, or horrible. Indeed, the majority of reviewers described their experience as negative. As a result, the hotel should work even harder to improve visitor satisfaction. Holiday Inn UK was hacked in April 2017, impacting 1,200 of its franchisees (Clark, 2020).
Figure2: Holiday Inn
Source: (Parker, 2016)
The hackers take the card number, expiration date, and verification code from guests' cards as soon as payment has been made at the front office desk. This reveals a significant flaw and Holiday Inn's vulnerability to information technology security threats (Barnes, 2021). Holiday Inns in northern England, specifically Birmingham, have been forced to close temporarily leading to a shortage of cleanliness requirements discovered by safety and health inspectors.
In this regard, applying the features of experiential marketing to Holiday Inn, it could be said that, Holiday inn has a lot to include and adapt for paving its path to reach success. It is evident that from the discussion regarding the incompetency of Holiday inn, it can be assessed that the hotel must-
(Sources: Dettori, 2019; Shieh and Lai, 2017)
From the recommendation segment discussed in section two, several objects could be minutely assessed-
To address these objectives, the company must fabricate a communication plan to achieve the desired success. In order to effectively plan marketing communications, it is necessary to construct plans in a methodical and step-by-step manner that incorporates components of all other types of plans. Marketing communication planning can be divided into two categories: strategic planning and business planning. In this regard, the RACE model will be the most helpful to derive the desired outcomes (Lüdeke?Freund, 2020).
In the forthcoming segment, the race model will be meticulously illustrated for comprehending the subject matter precisely.
Figure 3: RACE model
Source: (Chaffey, 2020)
The RACE MODEL could be used to aid in the development of strategic public relations that is an effective communication plan. RACE stands for Reach, Act, Convert and Engage, and it is an abbreviation that stands for these four components. REACH is a key element in the planning stages of any marketing strategy, especially in the early stages.
Intended audience, demography, what those audiences want, how they prefer to communicate, and where they go for information are all important factors to know when developing a public relations strategy in the early stages. This could include television, newspapers, periodicals, social media, and other forms of media. The subsequent phase is ACT. A comprehensive plan is established that defines what information should be communicated and the most effective methods of communicating that information to the intended audiences (Fedoryshyna et al., 2021).
When a company has a truly tactical strategy, communication is aligned not just with the aims of the public relations strategy, but also with the fundamental values of the company, mission, and vision. The CONVERT step is the third phase in the RACE concept. In this phase, one will be responsible for distributing the content and information generated in the action plan to the most appropriate and effective media venues. Media contacts and contact lists could be extremely helpful resources in this step, as they can assist in efficiently disseminating information.
ENGAGE is the final phase in the process (Aversa et al., 2021). It is critical to measure and assess the achievements of the public relations strategy to ensure that it is effective. Calculating the return on investment (ROI) is a useful approach to check the success of the strategy. In order to do so, the company must track all of the press coverage produced by the campaign, determine a monetary value for that coverage, and compare the financial impact of the PR (personal relationship) to the costs associated with obtaining that coverage.
When designing a strategic public relations plan and an effective communication plan, the RACE model might be a useful guide. It is vital to remember, however, that public relations are a dynamic system. It necessitates constant concentration and attention. It is essential that all four steps of the RACE model are carried out continuously and concurrently in order to achieve optimum results.
· Taking high-quality photographs of the products or services provided by Holiday Inn is an excellent place to begin. Pinterest and Instagram are heavily image-driven platforms. Similarly, they may create their own photographs (complete with text overlay) using a site such as Canva or PicMonkey. Google+ is another underutilised tool; it has the potential to boost the content's ranking in Google search.
· Additionally, by joining and connecting with Google+ communities, they can broaden their target audience. For posting advertising content, the most likely sites are Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.
· Utilizing Instagram and Twitter hashtags can increase their advantage.
· Discounts, promotions, freebies, and helpful advice—all of these are ways to attract customers.
· Conducting contests, promotions, and giveaways are other effective strategies for reaching customers on social media. By providing something useful and instructive on the social media channels, Holiday Inn can attract a larger audience—do not solely promote the product.
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· On social media, major businesses occasionally share “throwback” or “behind the scenes” photographs and anecdotes. Additionally, they provide consumer anecdotes. This is one of the most effective methods to engage customers on social media: by sharing their thoughts and experiences directly.
· Additionally, on the internet channels, Holiday Inn can interact with the social media followers with behind-the-scenes or “throwback” photographs or anecdotes. It will add dimension to the business's journey.
· Inviting existing customers and friends to spread the word about the content can also facilitate Holiday Inn. Additionally, inviting the audience to be connected to them by hitting “like” or “follow” is critical to developing fresh methods of reaching clients on social media (Dilami, Hosseini and Ahmadi, 2021).
· Distribution channels establish a link between hoteliers and their markets. Distribution channels enable forward-thinking hoteliers to connect with markets they cannot reach on their own. For example, Trivago draws travellers who are interested in price comparisons, whereas HotelTonight targets mobile tourists on the go. By collaborating with indirect channels such as these, Holiday Inn can strategically increase target segments.
· While cost is a significant consideration when choosing distribution methods, it should not be the sole one.
· Additionally, Holiday Inn must improve its capacity to embrace the business during times of strong demand, and its ability to give market and competitors with proper gratification.
· They must maximize the value of services delivered through indirect channels.
· Increase market share through indirect channels by acquiring clients from competitors.
· Holiday Inn may encounter a variety of competing sets across a variety of channels and would need to design tactics for each channel in order to compete effectively.
· Holiday Inn should bear contemplations when developing and implementing a distribution strategy (DeBerry-Spence et al., 2020).
· With the advent of the internet, Holiday Inn is able to utilise new channels such as brand.com, online travel agencies, and search engines. These will aid in customer pulling.
· This is undoubtedly the most critical phase in the process since it ensures that Holiday Inn’s prospects become better.
· This may be booking a hotel, booking a table, or enrolling on special deals via the email list, depending on the business.
· The goal is that the conversion should add commercial value to the organisation (Rekola, 2021).
· This is a lengthy procedure that establishes the customer relationship (Hanafiah and Prasetya, 2021).
· Using social media, newsletters, and paid advertising to keep the customers engaged is critical for generating repeat business, brand advocacy, and client endorsements and recommendations.
In a nutshell, it can be said that this report in its preceding sections vividly analysed the subject matter of experiential marketing theory that by using this theory marketing efforts can be more diverse. This allows brands and businesses to move beyond the standard paradigm of visual advertising. The ability to differentiate products, voices, and identities through customer-focused experiences provides brands with an opportunity to do so. In section one, the relevance of the theory, its purpose, advantages, disadvantages – every aspect was minutely analysed to comprehend the core matter vividly. A set of recommendations was also presented for achieving better results.
In section two of the report, the RACE model was chosen as the frame to weave the communication plan. A vivid description of the model and its significance was meticulously assessed for comprehending the in-depth understanding of the RACE to implement in the context of Holiday Inn to fabricate the appropriate communication plan. A set of goals were derived from the recommendation for Holiday inn to succeed, pull more customers and enhance its revenue. With the utilization of the RACE model a vivid discussion of the diverse aspects of reach, act, convert and engage was minutely assessed for achieving a proper understanding of the communication plan.
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