Starwood Hotels and Resorts has made B2B into B2B2C and maybe back again to B with its biggest loyalty program ever. If it sounds confusing, it really isn't. The premise of the new iteration of its 15-year-old Starwood Preferred Guest program, SPG Pro, is that there's no good reason to keep a firewall between business and leisure loyalty programs, when it comes to rewarding people who plan a company’s conferences, meetings, and events, and decide where to hold them.
The new program, launching this fall, gives meeting and travel professionals SPG elite status. That includes upgrades and Starpoints for business booked at one of Starwood’s 1,200 or so global properties. And any SPG member who books a group stay gets Starpoints and status based on the business they influence, even if they aren't travel or organizational people.
Christie Hicks, SVP, Starwood Sales Organization, said at a New York press event that Starwood loyalty programs drive 50% occupancy and that B2B accounts for 70% of Starwood’s overall room revenue around corporate travel, meetings and events and leisure and wholesale travel. She said the top 1% of accounts drives 40% of Starwood’s B2B revenue.
The company is backing the program with a $30 million campaign -- which, per Chris Holdren, global SVP for Starwood Preferred Guest and digital, is its biggest B2B push for Starwood ever. The campaign’s creative eschews the standard approach for these kinds of campaigns: shots of rooms and meeting assets with actors standing in as meeting participants, doing mannequin poses shaking hands, talking in lobbies, and watching presentations.
Instead, the creative shows real client-facing Starwood executives and managers, and the client travel planners and event managers with whom they work to make events happen at Starwood venues. The shots are slugged with the name and title of the Starwood folks and clients appearing. The work is by New York-based lifestyle and travel photographer Jim Franco. One ad shows a music industry event planner scouting a suite at the St. Regis New York for a VIP function; another shows a planner for a tech giant visiting the W Hoboken.
Holdren tells Marketing Daily that the campaign includes a first-ever media buy with LinkedIn, targeting the travel and meeting-planning vertical. There are also Facebook ads and promoted posts; a YouTube playlist featuring the SPG Pro launch video; and the hashtag #spgpro.
A new Web site has video content explaining the program, more of Franco’s photos of Starwood people, client testimonials, and an interactive “slider” calculator that lets users find out what the rewards are based on annual meeting spend, room nights booked, annual spend with Starwood and nights the planner stays at Starwood personally each year.