According to Hilton Chief Marketing Officer Mark Weinstein, the hotel’s “For the Stay” marketing platform is Hilton’s version of Nike’s iconic “Just Do It” campaign.
The hotel company’s first global marketing platform, “Hilton. For the Stay,” launched last July. Since then, the brand has run TV ads voiced by actor Catherine O’Hara, humorous spots starring Paris Hilton and even a 10-minute — yes, 10-minute — TikTok.
“For the Stay” is here to, well, stay — for “eternity,” if you ask Weinstein. As the platform enters its second year, Weinstein sat down with Hotel Dive to discuss the inspiration behind the latest campaigns, the challenges and rewards of working with TikTok influencers and where the hotel company’s marketing is headed in 2024.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
HOTEL DIVE: When “Hilton. For the Stay” launched, you said that the hospitality landscape had become so crowded that hotel marketing campaigns were a “sea of similarity.” What did you mean by that?
MARK WEINSTEIN: Marketing travel is probably the easiest category in the world. Marketing a travel brand is probably the hardest. Beautiful sunsets and getting to go somewhere and be inspired almost sells itself, right? It's the empty beaches with nobody else there, and the chairs by the pool and watching the sunset. It's the rooftop bar where it's you and your loved ones by yourselves. And that's just not reality, so there's a hollowness to it. [It’s] asking customers to suspend disbelief.
Marketing travel is probably the easiest category in the world. Marketing a travel brand is probably the hardest.
If [hotel companies] are all saying the same thing, and all have the same message, we’re advertising travel — we're not advertising our unique role in travel. And yet, we do have a unique role in travel. We're not a travel company. We're not responsible for how you get to us. We're not responsible for the destination. What we are responsible for is when you get to that destination.
How does "For the Stay" address this?
If you look at our paid advertising, we're often showing a travel tension. We're acknowledging that we know that it's not always smooth traveling. But when you get to the hotel, Hilton is the antidote to the world that's on the go. It’s the antidote to the crazy.
So I think that's what's been missing from the storyline. There is a reality to travel. When you go to the most crowded destinations on the planet, and you're trying to get that must-have selfie, that's not always as smooth sailing as people make it out to be in the advertising. I can't control that, but what I can control is a warm chocolate chip cookie when you come back to the DoubleTree. I don't think you should pretend that the world has rose-tinted glasses all the time. But the moments that we can help create or enable, [those are] moments of joy.
Hilton found TikTok success with a rare 10-minute video on the platform. How do you adapt your marketing for TikTok? And why 10 minutes?
@hilton Unexpected & amazing things can happen when you stay, and we want you to stay with us for 10 minutes. Yup, we made a 10-minute TikTok AND we’re giving away 10M Hilton Honors Points + more. #HiltonStayFor10 #HiltonForTheStay ♬ Hilton’s 10-Minute Stay - Hilton
What's really uncomfortable as a brand initially, but is really powerful, is letting other people tell our story. As a brand marketer, that's a little scary — to lose control over what's being said about you. But there's nothing more authentic than somebody else telling the story of their stay. I believe in our product, and I believe in our team members, so losing a lot of control for a lot more authenticity is the right tradeoff.
We knew we had to be on the world's fastest-growing social media platform, and yet something was bothering us. It's a platform that's inherently on the go. People are watching, I think on average, less than 22 seconds of a piece of content. So when [TikTok] announced [videos] could go up to 10 minutes, we thought, could you use the world's best on-the-go platform to talk about the idea that life is too on-the-go? That we should stay and be rewarded for staying?
Losing a lot of control for a lot more authenticity is the right tradeoff.
We saw tremendous engagement with [the video]. We kind of went meta. Everybody can tell we're in on the joke. We love this idea of taking this platform that was literally built for short attention spans and reminding people that powerful things can happen when you choose to stay.
"For the Stay" has a parallel platform, “Every Job Makes the Stay,” geared toward attracting team members. Can marketing help alleviate hotels’ ongoing staffing issues?
I think what really makes us different and why a stay at Hilton matters is its incredible team members. We have 460,000 people we're really proud of, and nobody's talking about them. So we said, wait a minute, why is it that? On the one hand, our consumer marketing was out there telling people that it's about the destination, and not the hotel. But why is it about the hotel? Well, it's about the hotel because of the people. So the throughline was pretty obvious to us.
I think one thing that gets under-spoken about in our industry is that any job you can conceive, we have somewhere in this industry. If you want to be a tax accountant, we've got tax accountants in the hospitality industry. If you want to be a marine biologist, we have marine biologists that work in our hotels. And so why not take your passion for whatever it is and combine it with hospitality, the most powerful optimism engine in the world?
According to Hilton’s 2024 trends report, travelers’ top priority for the upcoming year is rest and relaxation. What does Hilton mean by “rest and relaxation,” and how do you plan to market that?
We do obsess over — and you're going to see more from us obsessing over — a good night's sleep. We've got in our luxury brands Frette sheets, and we’ve got an initiative to replace a lot of the towels. Our Conrad brand has pillow menus, so we can choose what's best to help you sleep that night. Our Tempo brand did a lot of work with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global to study how to make [good sleep] part of the core offering, and to design the right room experience for that.
It's not so much about us telling you how to rest and relax; it’s about us making that possible in our hotels. Some of that's product. Some of that's design. Some of that’s service.
The “For the Stay” platform is in year two now. What plans do you have for the platform’s future?
This is our platform for eternity, or certainly as long as I'm able to help steer it. It's our “Just Do It.” It's our “Think Different.”
The [current] main area of focus is trying to find the right partners, storytellers and creators to help tell our story through their authentic lens. So you’ll increasingly see us enabling others to tell their version of a Hilton stay. What does it look like to stay at Hilton in their eyes? And equally, what does it mean for somebody who's traveling with a dog all the time to stay in our hotels, or with a family of five to stay in our hotels?
You're going to see us work with both creators with millions of followers all the way down to people with tens of thousands. But we want to enable people to tell their authentic Hilton stay story — our creators, our guests and ultimately our team members.