Hilton Grand Vacations is offering exclusive experiences – like intimate concerts from entertainers like LeAnn Rimes and Joey Fatone as well as hospitality suites at events like last month’s Formula 1 Heineken Silver Grand Prix in Las Vegas – to boost brand awareness and broaden its appeal. In doing so, the timeshare company is aiming to shift the perception of its brand to exude more of an experiential feel.
“We want the owners and members to really feel like they’re part of a club,” said Gordon Gurnik, COO of Hilton Grand Vacations, of the push to offer more experiences. “We wanted them to feel like, as part of the ownership, not only do they get the great resort and rooms but something they couldn’t get any other place than what they have with us. We see these private events and experiences as a way to up the game.”
Hilton Grand Vacations isn’t alone in its experiential pitch, as major marketers have recognized the draw of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for consumers given the reduction of travel during the height of the pandemic. As previously reported by Digiday, Hilton’s hotel brand has also been pitching experiences to sway consumers as travel has rebounded. As Hilton Grand Vacations looks to continue to grow its membership – it counts over half a million members, per Gurnik – it will not only offer events to members and prospective members but use said events to create organic content on its social media channels.
“We see these as an opportunity to move into broader marketing formats for the brand and do some brand building, especially in social channels,” said Gurnik of the effort. “One of the great things about experiences and the properties, they show well on social channels.”
It’s unclear how much Hilton Grand Vacations is spending to advertise its experiential push — Gurnik declined to share specific figures. That said, Gurnik did note that its investment in experiences for club members, as well as the work the brand is doing to create content, is “probably three or four times what we were doing a year ago,” he said. “As travel has really come back you can reinvest in these channels.”
During the first quarter of 2023, Hilton Grand Vacations spent $216,933 on media placements, per Vivvix including paid social data from Pathmatics, which also found that the company spent $664,979 on media in 2022, up from $34,523 in 2021.
Using experiences to try to stand out and appeal to new consumers makes sense to Metaforce co-founder and brand consultant Allen Adamson. However, Adamson noted that given consumers often less-than-positive perceptions of what a timeshare is “they’re fighting a headwind.”
“The notion of a timeshare for many younger consumers has a fair degree of negativity,” said Adamson. “[They] want flexibility and tend to be more spontaneous. Going to the same place every year might not align with their sensibilities and lifestyle … You have to move beyond product because there are no more relevant product differentiations. Whether this experience is enough to get them over the hurdle remains to be seen.”
Gurnik pointed out that Hilton Grand Vacations has “always had a lot of flexibility in our system. It’s a points-based system and [members] always have the ability to convert to Hilton Honors and stay at Hilton Hotels.”
Overall, he added, this effort “is to reposition the brand to be more than just a stay.”
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