We can appreciate Conrad’s desire to be innovative in its approach to content marketing, as well as providing both useful service and inspiration for its guests. But we question whether these attempts have any actual staying power or impact.
Called Conrad 1/3/5, it was built around the development of local travel itineraries for 1-, 3-, and 5-hour timeframes in destinations from around the world and each of those travel guides would live on a separate site, StayInspired.com.
Not only would Conrad 1/3/5 be an invaluable resource for travelers and guests but its establishment would help Hilton further distinguish the brand from its other sister brand in the luxury space, Waldorf Astoria.
“It’s really part of a very innovative way of providing a way for hotels to be part of the journey rather than just the destination where you stay or sleep,” Stuart Foster, former VP of marketing for Hilton’s Luxury Brands told Skift in September. (Foster has since been appointed VP of Global Brand Marketing for the Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, and Curio – A Collection by Hilton brands.) “We’re positioning Conrad as a facilitator for a much more inspired stay and it’s more about your journey and experience in and around the hotel, not just when you’re in the hotel.”
And this year, Conrad Hotels took its content from StayInspired.com translating it to Instagram and, at the newly opened Conrad Chicago, it even offered the content of those guides in VR form.
Foster said what prompted Conrad to take that content and bring it to Instagram was simple: to make it that much more accessible to travelers.
“The challenge with [having all the content on a site like StayInspired.com] is when you create any kind of site, you have to spend money driving people to that website,” Foster said. “Sites that sit out there don’t get enough organic traffic to get an ROI (return on investment), but we’re not as much interested in ROI as giving investments to our guests.”
Looking at the Similar Web traffic statistics for StayInspired.com, Foster’s comments ring true. In September 2016, the site had a peak of about 35,000 total visits but as of November, the total site visits dwindled to 9,000.
“The reason we’ve now extended into Instagram is actually very simple,” Foster continued. “It’s where our guests are.”
Indeed, Instagram continues to be one of the biggest social media platforms for disseminating travel content and travel inspiration. Most recently, it was reported that Instagram has more than 600 million users worldwide and, as we’ve seen from the rise of travel content accounts like Beautiful Hotels and Beautiful Destinations and its peers, the social media tool has become an incredibly popular way for people to plan as well as document their own travels. And now with Instagram’s new “save” feature, users can bookmark their favorite posts to assemble their own personal travel guides for future reference, too.
But as it did with StayInspired.com, Conrad decided to launch a separate Instagram account just for its 1/3/5 itineraries. Whereas the main Conrad Hotels Instagram account (@conradhotels) has about 31,200 followers, the @conradhotels135 account, which launched in May, has only 624 followers.
When Skift asked Foster why Conrad Hotels decided to house this content in a separate Instagram account, he said, “If we were to put it into the normal Conrad Hotels account, the content would get intermingled with the user-generated content and all the other content we are putting out there. The @conradhotels account is for news, information, interaction with our guests and their user-generated content. The @conradhotels135 account is only for our 1/3/5 experiences. We’re not even that interested in people following it. We don’t have that many followers. It’s a place you go to in order to connect to 1/3/5. You’re accessing it. It’s not daily new content.”
Looking at the @conradhotels135 account on Instagram, you can somewhat understand Foster’s argument. Aesthetically, housing all of those itineraries as Conrad does in that separate account is very beautiful and it makes logistical sense. The information for each of the itineraries is also fairly detailed and visually stunning.
Another feature available on both of Conrad Hotels’ two Instagram accounts is the ability to book a room, using Curalate’s Like2Buy application, which is featured in a link. Clicking on the Like2Buy link on the @ConradHotels135 account, the user is linked to the Stay Inspired website featuring that particular destination and itinerary where they can “book a room” or contact a concierge.
But again, it’s questionable whether the 1/3/5 campaign is being compromised yet again here on Instagram because, well, not enough people are actually seeing it, or using it. This isn’t a conundrum limited exclusively to Conrad Hotels, either.
As Mark Higginson, co-founder and director of Out to Sea, a U.K.-based digital marketing agency for creative brands, wrote in a column for Econsultancy: “Before a piece of marketing can have a chance of persuading anyone of anything it needs to be seen.” In his article, Higginson pointed out how challenging it’s been for Marriott Content Studio to gain a large following for its magazine and short films.
In October, to coincide with the opening of the Conrad Chicago, Conrad Hotels expanded the usage of its 1/3/5 content to virtual reality. It debuted a complimentary VR Concierge that has 360 video of authentic Chicago experiences so guests can experience them first before heading out to explore the city in person. The VR equipment is located at the hotel’s concierge desk. One of the videos, for example, lets guests see the view 1,000 feet above ground from Chicago’s The John Hancock Building in VR.
If Conrad Hotels wants its 1/3/5 campaign to succeed as a vehicle for creating brand awareness, generating repeat business, and engaging travelers with curated content, it will need to do more to promote its separate Instagram account to do so in an effective way to achieve those goals. As is using the VR experience in Chicago to only promote experiences in Chicago; why not also promote the hotels’ other locations and destinations around the world?
Being innovative and taking advantage of advancements in technology are always desirable, but those efforts don’t go very far without much of an audience.