InterContinental Hotels launches campaign against Hilton loyalty changes

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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) launched a campaign for its Priority Club Rewards (PCR) on February 3 drawing attention to recent changes to competitor Hilton's HHonors loyalty program. It incorporates direct mail, e-mail and Web marketing to members of both programs.

Effective January 15, Hilton raised the amount of points needed to redeem a free night at various hotels. According to Reuters, the increase is about 20%.

The effort, called the “Luckiest Loser” competition, targets PCR members who are also enrolled in HHonors. The ads drive users to priorityclub.com/luckiestloser, where they are urged to enter their HHonors membership number and points balance.

The consumer who is the “luckiest loser” – he or she who has the most HHonors points – will win 2 million Priority Club points. The top 20,000 “lucky losers” will each get up to 20% of their current HHonors balance in Priority Club points, up to 20,000 points. Consumers will also receive 1,000 points for entering.

The average free night with Priority Club costs between 15,000 and 20,000 points, said Don Berg, VP of loyalty programs at IHG.

“We want to raise awareness of the adjustments Hilton made, which enhances our opportunity for business, as well as to gain market share,” said Berg. He added the campaign's main priority is customer retention - it only targets existing members - but a byproduct may be to gain new members.

Berg said about half of IHG's 47 million members also belong to HHonors. Hilton's program has more than 25 million members.

IHG developed the effort, which will run until the end of this month, after it contacted 300 PCR members in the US and UK to get reaction to Hilton's program changes.

The campaign's creative, shown on its microsite, depicts a before-and-after dramatization of the changes Hilton made. The before picture shows a family on the beach on day five of its vacation, the after shows a frustrated man working at a desk, essentially depicting that the fifth night is no longer free.

Other creative shows feet on a scale and asks, “Lose something?” depicting the value of Hilton's points decreasing.

“This is an unprecedented direct marketing campaign for us,” Berg said. “Usually, our messaging says ‘Stay more, get more.' This isn't about that at all. Now we're saying, “We recognize that you're angry, and we want to help you out.'”

Calls and e-mails to Hilton seeking comment were not immediately returned.

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