American Express Database Has Elite Names for Preferred Hotels

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Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is targeting top American Express cardholders with a direct mail and print campaign promoting its RSVP Elite Retreats program.


Preferred Hotels sent direct mail to 30,000 American Express Platinum cardholders in late June. The centerpiece was a $100 AmenityCheque good for use during a two-night or longer stay at participating Preferred Hotels properties from July 1 through March 31, 2003.


Preferred operates 114 hotels and resorts, including Sandy Lane on Barbados; The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV; and Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Though all properties are independently owned and operated, Preferred had a 90 percent participation rate in this program.


The program aimed to "stimulate trial, increase market share, cross-sell our properties and increase repeat business," said Nora Gainer, director of marketing programs at Preferred Hotels.


Cardholder names used were of people in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, the markets that generate most of Preferred's business, and all "had an experience with Preferred, some more than others," she said.


Preferred then sourced American Express' databases by two major criteria: cardholders who stayed at a Preferred hotel in the past 12 months but spent more time at competing luxury brands, and cardholders who were loyal Preferred guests. The two groups were split about evenly in size.


"With these two criteria, and American Express' data intelligence, our objective of stimulating trial and increasing usage was achieved," Gainer said.


Bookings for the RSVP Elite Retreats must come through Preferred's toll-free reservation number or the Platinum Travel Service or Centurion Travel Service. Guests who wish to view individual hotel properties can visit Preferred's site at www.preferredhotels.com and link to the selected property.


Preferred also is working with American Express on print advertising. It began ads promoting Elite Retreats in the July/August issue of Departures, a magazine published by American Express Publishing exclusively for American Express Platinum and Centurion Card holders.


Ads will continue in the September, October, November/December and January/February issues. Each will highlight properties in a different region: the West Coast, Midwest, East Coast, Europe and Northeast. The Northeast was highlighted in the July/August issue.


"We would have liked the region and the direct mail piece to be simultaneous, but [American Express] does not let you do that," Gainer said. "When you get your names, they all go out."


This campaign follows a smaller direct marketing effort with American Express promoting the RSVP Northeast Retreats program for 10 properties in that region. It included an ad insertion in the April issue of Travel and Leisure Magazine, published by American Express Publishing, and a 20,000-piece direct mail campaign promoting the program.


For the direct mail, half of the names were supplied by Travel and Leisure, and the rest by proprietary databases of the participating hotels and resorts, and they included past guests and repeat past guests.


"That was the first time any of the hotels shared their proprietary databases," Gainer said. The response rate was about 3 percent, and Preferred expects about the same rate for the June mailing.


After the April campaign in the Northeast, which also included the AmenityCheque, Preferred suggested the larger campaign, Gainer said.


"We went to American Express and explained to them that we are marketing to very affluent consumers that get lots of offers, so we have to do something that will stimulate and motivate behavior," she said. "Unless you do something that is truly valuable, it doesn't move market, and we established that the AmenityCheque is definitely something that moves market."


These latest campaigns continue a long business relationship between Preferred and American Express.


"We've always used American Express as a channel to segment the affluent travel because they have very good data," she said. "The difference between Visa and American Express, for example, is that Visa doesn't have any customers per se: their customers are member banks who issue their cards; whereas American Express has a direct-to-consumer model."


Edel Partners, Chicago, handled creative for the program.


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