Inspired Marketers: How Holiday Inn Express® Stayed Smart

April 25, 2016

The Holiday Inn Express® brand, part of the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), has created some great marketing over the years. In fact, with its advertising the Holiday Inn Express brand achieved what so many companies aspire to; they introduced a new catchphrase into popular culture — “No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!”

This iconic Stay Smart® campaign helped the Holiday Inn Express brand grow from just three hotels in 1991 to more than 2,400 today. “Over the years, the campaign has done such a nice job of helping us to weave our brand into culture in a very relevant way,” said Seth Freeman, Brand Marketing Director for Holiday Inn Express®, The Americas, IHG.

What makes the Stay Smart campaign even more remarkable is how the Holiday Inn Express brand, aided by its lead agencies, Ogilvy & Mather and Mindshare, adapted the campaign to the digital age. The story of how the Holiday Inn Express brand accomplished this feat is chronicled in a new ebook, “Inspired Marketers: How Holiday Inn Express® Stayed Smart.

A key element of bringing the Stay Smart campaign’s power to digital was to continue leveraging humor which it did with actor and comedian Rob Riggle. “I think that’s in our DNA: the comedic approach,” said Jason Aspes, Executive Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather.

Another aspect was how the Holiday Inn Express brand seized the opportunity digital offered to reach their target guests, called Smart Travelers, a group that is increasingly online and mobile. “They consume a voracious amount of content throughout the day,” said James Simon, Director of Strategic Planning at Mindshare. “They are socially forward, and we knew that they were heavy mobile users.”

To reach this target audience, the Holiday Inn Express brand used a heavier mix of digital and social media networks, such as Buzzfeed and LinkedIn. Using playful online videos that feature Riggle, the Holiday Inn Express brand has been able to break through to reach the audience the company wanted. 

Digital marketing has helped the brand boost its online awareness by 8 percentage points and its consideration intent by 5 percentage points. Additionally, the Holiday Inn Express brand’s presence in the top three preferences rose by 4 percentage points. And on LinkedIn, the Holiday Inn Express brand used comedic videos to beat LinkedIn Sponsored Updates engagement rate benchmarks by 45 percent. “We love LinkedIn and the partnership we have, and we’re looking forward to doing more,” Freeman said.

To get the full story of how the brand brought the effectiveness of the Stay Smart campaign to digital and social, download the new ebook, “Inspired Marketers: How Holiday Inn Express® Stayed Smart” today.