The hospitality domain is a large part of modern economics, including hotels, resorts, various services, and other products that a customer can gain. Many hotels become major brands and even expand their working field to the global level, building facilities in different countries and providing hospitality services to people worldwide. Therefore, managing such a large business chain requires implementing robust marketing strategies to ensure the company’s effectiveness in terms of customer service quality, financial profits, and other significant elements.
This paper compares two specific multinational hotel chains, namely Hilton and Best Western, addressing their current and former marketing strategies, sustainability, green messaging, and the influence of coronavirus on the companies’ activity. These brands have been chosen for this study because they represent major hotel chains that operate in more than a hundred countries worldwide. Thus, Hilton and Best Western are perfect samples for studying marketing strategies within the hospitality industry.
Historical Background: Hilton
The first multinational hotel chain to be analyzed in this paper regarding marketing strategies and marketing mix is Hilton Worldwide Holdings or Hilton for short. The company is the second-largest in hospitality services, following only Marriott (Fortune, 2021). The Hilton hotel chain started its activity in 1919 when Conrad Hilton purchased the Mobley Hotel in Texas; then, the first Hilton Hotel opened in Dallas, further expanding to the large worldwide organization known today (Talbot, 2019). Nowadays, Hilton Worldwide Holdings includes many major brands, such as Waldorf Astoria, Tru, Conrad, Canopy, Doubletree, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, and Hilton itself (Fortune, 2021).
Such an array of various brands implies a complex structure of the organizational marketing strategy. The CMO of Hilton, Kellyn Smith Kenny, claims that the company has an extensive enterprise marketing strategy and individual strategies of separate marketing brands (Talbot, 2019). However, the company has not always been an international business chain, meaning that it has changed at large and in terms of marketing throughout the years of its existence.
Changes in the marketing strategy are usually explained by many reasons, such as the state of the current business environment or the company’s goals. It is clear that the more the company exists, the more tasks and issues it has to confront, adjusting the marketing strategy as necessary. In the case of Hilton Worldwide Holdings, which is more than a hundred years old, many changes have been implemented to achieve the highest possible level of business efficiency. For instance, the balanced scoreboard (BSC) model was applied at the end of the twentieth century to produce and implement more effective operational strategies (Kim, Barber, and Kim, 2019).
Researchers define the model as “an instrument for interpreting an organization’s mission and operation objectives into more tangible and achievable goals” (Kim, Barber, and Kim, 2019, p. 7). The Hilton hotel chain has successfully implemented BSC in its activity, and it has helped the company improve its long-term and short-term marketing strategies (Kim, Barber, and Kim, 2019). Thus, the model has significantly influenced the organization’s business activity, including its marketing strategies.
Historical Background: Best Western
The second multinational hotel chain to be analyzed in this study is BWH Hotel Group, or Best Western for short. The company was founded in 1946 by Merile Key Guertin and turned into a worldwide chain of hospitality services after the acquisition of another famous brand, WorldHotels Collection (BWH Hotel Group, 2021). There are 18 different brands under the Best Western management, and the largest ones are World Hotels Collection, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, and SureStay Hotel Group (BWH Hotel Group, 2021). The company provides hospitality services in more than a hundred countries, using around 4,700 hotel facilities worldwide (BWH Hotel Group, 2021).
Similar to Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Best Western has experienced various changes, including the ones related to the company’s marketing strategy. Researchers claim that, as a large organization in the hospitality industry, Best Western “faces a progression of vital difficulties while confronting exceptional worldwide rivalry and the changing socioeconomics of the worldwide condition” (MBA Skool Team, 2019, para. 19). Therefore, adjusting the marketing strategy has always been essential in terms of business efficiency.
One of the most significant alterations related to Best Western’s marketing strategy is associated with the company’s expansion in terms of branding. According to BWH Hotel Group (2021), the company uses a significant amount of its resources to protect the unique identities of each particular brand under BWH management. In other words, Best Western has accumulated many different brands in one large enterprise to achieve a high rate of diversity in terms of service provision.
Current Market Positions of Hilton and Best Western
Discussing the current market positions of both multinational hotel chains is vital to assess the effectiveness of the marketing strategies applied within each company. First, Hilton Worldwide Holdings is a large company with almost 10 billion dollars of market capitalization, while its stock price is currently at a high rate, with a cost of almost 150 dollars per stock (Yahoo Finance, 2021b). Based on the results of the last fiscal year, Hilton’s total revenues are almost 9,5 billion dollars and growing (Fortune, 2021). However, there is no information in open access regarding the marketing position of BWH Hotel Group, which is why the corresponding comparison between the two hotel chains cannot be conducted.
Current Marketing Strategies of Hilton
The first company to be analyzed in terms of its current marketing strategy in this paper is Hilton Worldwide Holdings. Firstly, one of the most significant elements of the company’s marketing methods is the communication between the corporate brands and the specific target scope of consumers (Talbot, 2019). Such an attitude allows Hilton and its separate brands to be more precise in exploring the consumers’ needs, helping to satisfy customers and achieve high marketing efficiency. The former CMO of Hilton, Kellyn Smith Kenny, says that the key features of the company’s marketing strategy are strong consumer-designed targets, the positioning of different brands, and the unique architecture of each brand (Talbot, 2019).
Hilton implements the rich amount of data they possess to receive deep consumer insight, and all the elements of their marketing campaign, including radio, TV, and social media, speak directly to the customer (Talbot, 2019). In other words, the marketing strategy of Hilton Worldwide Holdings is strongly consumer-oriented, aiming to achieve the highest possible quality of services and positive feedback.
Current Marketing Strategies of Best Western
Compared to Hilton, BWH Hotel Group has a more complex marketing strategy in terms of priorities and business goals. According to MBA Skool Team (2019), the company uses the marketing mix framework covering the 4Ps: product, place, promotion, and price. The product strategy of Best Western implies exploiting a large number of different facilities related to the hotel industry with internal services, such as dining rooms, spas, gyms, and more (MBA Skool Team, 2019).
The company constantly analyzes the current market to establish justifiable (and profitable) prices for products and services, while its distribution covers many large countries USA or Canada, and expands (MBA Skool Team, 2019). In addition, Best Western uses a major advertising strategy that covers various media channels such as TV, magazines, and social media and involves many public events, traveling shows, and conferences (MBA Skool Team, 2019). Overall, the marketing strategy of BWH Hotel Group is oriented on specific business-related sections instead of direct consumer orientation, which is why there is a significant difference between Best Western and Hilton.
The effectiveness of marketing strategies for the corresponding comparison can be traced through social media. For instance, according to Leung, Bai, and Erdem (2017), the number of Facebook followers of Best Western is four times larger compared to Hilton. Social media is vital for marketing since it allows companies to create unique content, setting themselves apart from the competition in the industry (DeYeso, 2019). Although Best Western’s strategy is not as client-oriented as Hilton’s, it is more efficient on social media.
Green messaging is a significant element of any business today since people address ecological problems and help solve them. Moreover, the so-called environmental friendliness often helps attract potential customers (Ierko and Rudyk, 2020). However, Tasci (2017) claims that environmental friendliness is not highly important for customers within the hospitality domain. Both hotel chains under discussion have their own environmental programs to take care of nature (Huuhka, 2018; Ierko and Rudyk, 2020). Nonetheless, it is impossible to evaluate whether the companies attempt to help the environment or gain customers’ love.
Marketing Conditions Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The coronavirus outbreak has significantly influenced the hospitality industry. The primary reasons for that are travel restrictions and social distancing orders (Davahli et al., 2020). However, many companies have decided to use different strategies instead of rejecting customers (Milojevic and Katsadze, 2020). Both companies under discussion have reacted immediately, trying to ease the pandemic conditions and become more accessible for travelers. For instance, Best Western has equipped its housekeeping workers with special equipment, and Hilton implemented a digital app for contactless check-ins and check-outs (Shin and Kang, 2020; Linxi, 2021). The corresponding decisions have been exceptionally efficient regarding the companies’ sustainability, as it is one of the most significant business aspects nowadays.
Overall, the marketing strategies of Hilton Worldwide Holdings and BWH Hotel Group are different in many respects, though both companies have similar strategies in terms of green messaging and sustainability during the pandemic. In general, Hilton’s marketing strategy is more customer-oriented, while Best Western tends to pay more attention to separate marketing elements, such as pricing and promotion.
There is no information on the current market position of Best Western and its stock price, meaning that it is impossible to compare the actual effectiveness of the marketing strategies under discussion. Hilton Worldwide Holdings and BWH Hotel Group have specific programs related to environmental friendliness and have adjusted their marketing strategies to the conditions of coronavirus. Despite the differences identified between the hotel chains, they are both large and successful companies that operate worldwide, meaning that they have solid and efficient marketing strategies.
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